LONDON – There was silence along the Long Walk in Windsor as thousands of well-wishers listened to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say their vows — then the crowd erupted into cheers and popped prosecco corks as they were declared husband and wife.
Crowds of colorful royal enthusiasts from around the world flocked to the historic British town west of London on Saturday, many of them gathering on the tree-lined avenue leading up to the castle.
People from as far afield as Canada, Australia and the Philippines waved Union Jack flags, donned tiaras, royal T-shirts hats and scarves, cheering and dancing as they watched the ceremony on big screens.
“She looks beautiful — it’s a timeless dress,” said Denise Show, 46, from southeast England, as Markle emerged in a white sculpted gown with a long veil stretching out behind her.
When the choir in St. George’s Chapel sang “Stand by Me,” the crowds outside joined in. The Long Walk was transformed into a sea of Union Jack flags when the national anthem played.
“It’s like a dream,” said Theodora Torres, 71, who came from Los Angeles with her husband.
Harry and Meghan drew huge cheers when they went past in an open-topped horse-drawn carriage after the wedding, escorted by soldiers in gleaming ceremonial uniforms.
Three royal fans in their 50s in wedding dresses waited for the prince at the castle gates, with signs on their backs saying: “Harry I’m here.”
“My husband knows I’m here but he doesn’t know what I’m wearing,” joked Lorraine Rains, 57, from St. Helens in northwest England.
Karen Long of Texas said she felt compelled to come to Britain for the big occasion given Markle’s American nationality.
“I feel like she is one of us!” she said. “We all wanted to be a princess, we thought we couldn’t and there she is, breaking all the barriers.”
Two Canadians wore maple leaf onesies, while others were clad from head to foot in the British and American flags as a town crier barked out a congratulatory message.
“We have traveled a long way for a very, very exciting event,” said Jessica Kirsopp, a 31-year-old child care worker from Australia.
“It’s something that is probably not going to happen for a little bit, until (Prince Harry’s young nephew Prince) George gets married or there’s another coronation.”
Some of the most fanatical supporters camped for days, seeking to secure the best spots to watch the happy couple ride by.
“I know it is going to sound very creepy but I would love to touch them — just shake their hand,” said Kristen Henry, 34, a radio host who had traveled from Australia.
Armed police, sniffer dogs and airport-style security scanners were deployed throughout the town, while huge barriers were hauled into place to prevent a vehicle attack.
Police patrolling the parade route Saturday were applauded by crowds, as snipers took up positions on numerous roofs.
Adele McNally, 67, one of the “royal ambassadors,” volunteers drawn from the local community to assist spectators, said she was happy to miss out on seeing the ceremony and procession in order to help.
“Being a part of it will be lovely,” she said. “It’s what being British is all about.”
One of the largest cheers from the crowds came when Prince Charles stepped forward to accompany Markle down the aisle, after her own father Thomas pulled out due to ill health.
However, she made part of the journey through the church on her own — something many in the crowd applauded.
“I think that shows she is a strong independent woman and it puts (a) great message across,” said student Mary Grimes, 19.
There were also audible sighs when the big screen focused on Markle’s mother Doria Ragland, who was visibly moved by the ceremony.