On this day in 2011, Great Britain’s Prince William marries his longtime girlfriend Catherine Elizabeth “Kate” Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London. Some 1,900 guests attended the ceremony, while another 1 million spectators lined the streets of London and an estimated 2 billion people around the world watched on television.
The 29-year-old bride and 28-year-old groom, second in line (behind his father) to the throne, met in 2001 as students at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. Middleton, the eldest of three children, was raised in the English village of Bucklebury. Her parents, former flight attendants, became millionaires running a successful party-supply business. Middleton majored in art history at St. Andrews and went on to do a stint as an accessories buyer for a British clothing chain. Prince William, the elder of two sons born to Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, embarked on a military career after college, eventually becoming a helicopter search-and-rescue pilot with the Royal Air Force (RAF). His parent’s lavish 1981 wedding was a media sensation witnessed by a global television estimated as high as 750 million; however, in December 1992, it was announced the couple was separating. The couple, who publicly admitted to infidelities during their marriage, officially divorced in 1996. Diana died in a car crash in Paris the following year.
After dating for eight years, William and Kate became engaged in October 2010 while vacationing in Kenya, Africa. Their engagement was publicly announced the following month, on November 16, ending years of media speculation about whether they ever would tie the knot—and immediately kicking off a new wave of speculation about the wedding details, including the guest list and the bride’s dress.
At their Friday morning marriage ceremony on April 29, the bride wore a gown designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, a British fashion house, while the groom donned the scarlet tunic of an Irish Guards officer. Middleton’s younger sister, Pippa, served as maid of honor, while William’s brother, Prince Harry, was best man. The nuptials were presided over by the archbishop of Canterbury, with world leaders and celebrities including Elton John and David and Victoria Beckham in attendance. After the ceremony, the newlyweds kissed twice on a Buckingham Palace balcony before hundreds of thousands of cheering fans. Overhead, RAF planes made a ceremonial flyby. An afternoon reception at the palace presided over by Queen Elizabeth for some 650 guests followed, and that evening, Prince Charles hosted a dinner dance at the palace for 300 people.
The couple, who once married became the duke and duchess of Cambridge, honeymooned in the Seychelles, before returning to Wales, where William resumed his duties as a helicopter pilot.
On July 22, 2013, the duchess gave birth to the couple’s first child, George, who is third in line to the throne.