It was inevitable there’d be comparisons with this year’s other royal wedding in Windsor.
But while Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle bought the town to a standstill in May, there was the feeling that the more low-key atmosphere for his cousin Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s nuptials was actually quite welcome.
Yes, there were still the die-hard royal fans in Union Jack outfits, who’d put up bunting around the section of security barrier where they’d staked their claim to a prime viewing spot. Even before the sun rose on Friday, people were sat out in camping chairs, sipping much-needed coffee from flasks and takeaway cups.
And yes, there was a huge police presence, as you’d expect for an event with thousands of members of the public attending – but the crowds were rather thinner on the ground than they had been in May.
And while some spoke of an “electric” party atmosphere at the Sussexes’ wedding, this was more of a sedate affair. One onlooker said she’d use the word “calm” to sum up the atmosphere.
So it was more like a family event perhaps – albeit with a smattering of A-list guests – than a state occasion.
After all, Princess Eugenie grew up just down the road and – as the Dean of St George’s Chapel, David Conner, said – she regards it as her parish church. To her, this was the equivalent of getting married at the church nearest to her mum and dad’s place, with the local vicar doing the honours.
Well-wisher Gemma Morgan, who’d travelled from Hereford to watch the newlyweds process through the streets in a carriage, noted: “I was speaking to someone who runs a shop here, who was telling us this wedding feels more like a community event than Harry’s did – it’s really relaxed and friendly.”
In a very British touch, the goody bags distributed to the guests who watched proceedings inside the grounds – having won their spot in a public ballot – contained a biodegradable emergency rain poncho (as well as a giant chocolate coin, a fridge magnet and a can of water, rather than a bottle, as Eugenie had stipulated it was to be a plastic-free wedding).
There was a nice nod to some Princess Eugenie’s charity work too. The cloth bags, emblazoned with the newly-weds’ initials and wedding date, were made by women and girls from the Women’s Interlink Foundation, an Indian charity which she supports.
There were representatives too from other charities she works with, such as the Teenage Cancer Trust, whose nurses were among those invited to the castle to be part of the big day.
Despite the expected rain, it stayed dry (so no need for that poncho) with the gusting winds more of a concern for the guests desperately holding onto their hats as they made their way into the chapel.
The dry weather was appreciated by the crowds just outside the grand Henry VIII gates of the castle, who settled for following the service on their phones because it was going on just on the other side of the walls.
Some of them burst into a rousing God Save the Queen when the anthem was played at the end of the wedding – others readied their cameras and phones in anticipation of seeing the newlyweds.
The sun came out in time for them to glimpse the happy couple and church bells were ringing – and then suddenly there was a cry of “They’re here!”
The cheers were the polite, good-natured sort rather than being deafening, as flags and hands were waved in the direction of the bride and groom (who gamely waved back).
“You look stunning!” shouted one person, above the applause and cries of congratulations. Most people were beaming but some looked emotional – and then, the moment was over. The crowds hung around for a bit, with some whispering “Was that it?” – hoping, perhaps, to see some of the other royals. But although brief, most said it was worth the wait.
Margaret Feneck, 80, from Coff’s Harbour, Australia, who made the trip to Windsor especially during her holiday to Europe, said: “She was stunning, wasn’t she? She was on our side of the street – and I was waving too hard I forgot to take a picture.”
But fellow Australian Babs Tahana, from Perth, said: “She was beautiful – but I had thought there might be more people here.
“I wanted to come though as I might not see another royal wedding.”
Another well-wisher described the atmosphere as “flat” but added: “It’s still nice to be a part of it – we’re local and we like to join in with things like this.”
By early afternoon, the town had returned to normal, with security barriers taken away and just the bunting, the odd discarded flag and the remaining film cameras a reminder that anything had gone on.
For the happy couple, it has been just as extraordinary and magical as anyone else’s wedding day is – but after the brief hubbub, for Windsor, and the people who’d headed to its streets, it was back to being another ordinary day.