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Prince William Weds Kate Middleton

Prince William Marries Kate Middleton
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(WATCH: Highlights from the ceremony)

Britain's Prince William has married his longtime girlfriend, Kate Middleton, in a lavish ceremony watched by two billion people across the planet.

The couple exchanged vows at London's Westminster Abbey before 1,900 guests including fellow royals, various luminaries and dignitaries from around the world.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Church of England, led the biggest royal wedding in decades.

Middleton wore a simple, long-sleeved, ivory dress with lace created by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton. The 28-year-old William, second in line to the throne, wore the red uniform of the British Army's Irish Guards infantry unit.

Hundreds of thousands of fans cheered and waved Union Jack flags as the newlyweds traveled in an open-topped carriage from the abbey to Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth's London residence, following the service.

The couple then appeared on the palace's balcony and kissed -- twice -- before the crowd.

The ceremonies were broadcast on huge television screens at Trafalgar Square and streamed live on YouTube.

An estimated 600,000 tourists have flocked to the British capital for the big event, many of them from abroad, reflecting enduring fascination with the royal family despite a series of scandals and divorces that have rocked the British monarchy in past decades.
The couple met at university

William's own parents divorced in 1996. His mother, Diana, died a year later aged 36 in a car crash in Paris.

'Global Enthusiasm'

British Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed the global enthusiasm for the wedding.

"It is lovely we have people from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, a huge numbers of people here all having a good time," Cameron said.

Die-hard fans have been camped out, some of them for days, outside Westminster Abbey.

This student, Nina, flew to London from the United States especially for the wedding: "My flight landed and I took a bus straight here."

Jennifer, an 11-year-old fan, arrived outside the abbey early on April 29 in the hope of getting a front-row view of the royal couple: "If everyone moves forward then I might run to the front, see if I can get a front view."

Joanna Shinn, a middle-aged royal fan, says the mood in London is festive: "People talk to you all over. As we were walking in, lorry drivers, taxi drivers waving and hooting. So yes, it's lovely. I think it's what we need."

More than 5,000 street parties will be held across Britain to celebrate the wedding, according to tradition. The government has declared a national holiday.

Royal biographer Hugo Vickers says the wedding has captivated the public because it appears, unlike a number of previous royal marriages, to be the result of a genuine love story.

"They met at university, they both have a degree, they both graduated on the same day. And they've got to know each other gradually over a long period of time," Vickers says.

"I think on the whole, the people are happier at the thought that this is a free choice than if it has been an arranged marriage."

William's image as a more outgoing figure than his father, Prince Charles, and Middleton's nonaristocratic background account for much of the couple's popularity.

The 29-year-old Middleton is the first "commoner" to marry a prince in close line to the throne in over 350 years.

The palace has announced that Queen Elizabeth, William's grandmother, has made her grandson duke of Cambridge to mark his wedding, meaning his bride will be known as the duchess of Cambridge on her marriage.

with agency reports and contribution from RFE/RL's Russian Service