Sunday 31 July 2011

Queen Elizabeth's grandaughter Zara Phillips weds Mike Tindall

Kevin McKenna finds happy faces – and even a few union flags – as he joins the crowds to see Edinburgh's own royal wedding

 Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall wedding
Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall after their wedding ceremony at Canongate Kirk. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

 The bride, as ever, looked radiant in a beautiful little off-the-shoulder number and the groom looked simply delighted. Then a white stretch limo pulled up and disgorged the ushers and a gaggle of bridesmaids, all pink and giggly. A lone piper greeted them at the door of the MacDonald Hotel then guests who had been sipping beers and Bacardis at the cafes on Holyrood Road followed them.

It was the wedding day of local couple Paul and Sharon, and they didn't seem in the least fazed by the thousands heading in the other direction for the union of a royal and a rugby star in the Canongate.

The Edinburgh Evening News had predicted a crowd of only 2,000, but there looked to be at least double that gathered 10-deep in the Edinburgh sunshine and stretching most of the way up the Royal Mile.

Earlier, I had sought to secure one of the little commemorative union flags that most people in the crowd seemed to be sporting. For this was Edinburgh's Old Town – perhaps the only place in Scotland where you can wave the red, white and blue without making an exhibition of yourself.

In the days before the wedding of the Princess Royal's daughter, some had tried to induce outrage at the cost of the event to the public purse. They had chosen the wrong target, though. Anne is Scotland's favourite royal and seems cast in our image and likeness. She doesn't seem to brook any nonsense and you can imagine her helping the servants bring the coal in of a winter night. Besides, she's patron of the Scottish Rugby Union and attends all Scotland's matches in a tartan skirt.

Zara herself seems a fresh and sonsie young woman who has emulated her mother as a world-ranking equestrian. The occasion had a down-to-earth feel – even, dare I say it, couthie. Two of Mike Tindall's ushers were family members while three came from his rugby background. One was Peter Phillips, Zara's brother. The groom's brother, Ian, was also among their number. And there was also a little human touch becoming of Anne: as she watched the couple set off for Holyroodhouse she firmly linked arms with Tindall's elderly father, Phil.

The choice of the Canongate Kirk as the venue for the nuptials struck some as unusual and iconoclastic, but it wasn't really. This 17th-century chapel, one of the most handsome in the city and commissioned by James VII, is the parish church of the Palace of Holyroodhouse and of the Scottish parliament. Indeed, did the Queen not worship there just the other week? She was also welcomed to this church 59 years ago, not long before her coronation.

In the Canongate kirkyard, perhaps one of the most beautiful urban resting places in Scotland, lie the remains of David Rizzio who loved a queen once then paid for it with his life. There, too, are the bones of Robert Fergusson, a great Scottish poet who inspired Robert Burns, and the philosopher Adam Smith is interred just ahead of him. One of the best views in Edinburgh lies just beyond
The spirit of another, whose remains do not lie in the Canongate, nevertheless haunts the Royal Mile.

Before his life of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell wrote his Edinburgh Journals based on his nocturnal adventures in this most historic of streets. This was 18th-century Scotland's Sunset Strip and housed many of the capital's shebeens and whorehouses.

Boswell, it seemed, visited every one. He would have chuckled at the procession of Daimlers ferrying the entire top tier of Britain's aristocracy to a church he once sashayed past while royally inebriated.

I digress. Across the road, Caroline and Lesley from Kirkcaldy were enjoying their day in the sunshine. Like many others in the throng, they would not regard themselves as great supporters of the royal family, but when the Queen whisked by with a wave, there were tears. "She's a lovely woman, I hope she enjoys her granddaughter's wedding," said one.

Thomas was there with three young children, his bronzed features belonging to someone who works outside for a living. Did he not resent the reputed £500,000 cost of the occasion? "Not a bit of it," he said. "This is the Queen's parish and she does a lot for this country. I wouldnae begrudge her a penny."

It had just gone four o'clock when Zara and her new husband emerged from their nuptials. Everyone cheered. Soon she would arrive back at Holyroodhouse and be serenaded by the Royal Scots Association pipe band. As a sidenote, though, she will not take her husband's name and become Mrs Tindall. Zara Phillips it was, and still is.

"Who do you think made the dress?" asked Lesley. I told her it looked suspiciously to me like a Stewart Parvin number, having seen the couturier's triumphant 2010 show at London's White Gallery. She regarded me with renewed suspicion. "Are you havin' a laugh?"

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