- Associated Press - Friday, April 29, 2011

LONDON (AP) - It was a Who’s Who of royalty, power and fame: David and Victoria Beckham, Elton John, royalty from across the world, prime ministers from across the realm and the cream of British nobility were among the nearly 2,000 guests inside Westminster Abbey for Friday’s royal wedding.

Olympic swimming legend Ian Thorpe was among the first to arrive. Soccer star Beckham, hair slicked back, looked solemn in the great medieval building, with wife Victoria, a dark dress hiding her baby bump, at his side.

Chelsy Davy, Prince Harry’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, was watching as the prince stood with his brother at the altar. Tabloids have speculated endlessly about the state of her relationship with the younger royal _ and her invitation to the abbey was seen as a sign the pair were still close.

Other guests: Actor Rowan Atkinson, a friend of Prince Charles best known for his “Mr. Bean” act, Guy Ritchie, director of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” photographer Mario Testino, who snapped the official engagement shots, and singer Joss Stone, who performed at a tribute concert for William’s mother in 2007.

Elton John, who sang a version of “Candle in the Wind” at Princess Diana’s funeral, was not in his usual eye-grabbing style: He wore a morning coat and (relatively) discreet lavender tie. He was in some ways the exception: For the three hours ahead of the start of the ceremony, the abbey was the place to mingle, see, be seen, and show off.

There were hats and fascinators by the bucketful _ Ritchie’s girlfriend Jacqui Ainsley sported a big black piece of headgear that looked like an ebony radar dish. Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie _ daughters of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson _ had nearly vertical hats that looked liked sculptures had been drilled into their heads.

Socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson arrived decked out in royal blue: dress, hat, and heels, the color offset by the brilliant black-and-crimson of the Catholic cardinals invited to the wedding _ Cardinal Sean Brady’s attendance was a first for an Irish churchman in his position.

The guests came in silver minibuses, Bentleys, and an antique Rolls Royce. They walked down a huge red carpet thrown out in front of Westminster abbey, which turned the entrance to the medieval church into a kind of royal catwalk show.

Many of Europe’s crowned heads of state paused to pose for the cameras. There was Prince Albert of Monaco and his fiancee, Charlene Wittstock, both in gray; there was Swedish Crown Princess Victoria, dressed in peach, and Prince Daniel, his hair swept back over a stylish pair of spectacles; there were Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima _ the latter in a high-waisted scalloped dress and nude-colored heels.

Some of the royals came in military regalia, each with various configurations of epaulettes, braids, sashes and medals. Diplomats from more than 180 different countries rounded out the ceremony with suits, turbans and robes. Britain’s top politicians joined the party _ Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the opposition Ed Miliband were among the senior politicians there.

There were what might be called more ordinary folk as well, drawn from Middleton’s village of Bucklebury or the 27 members of Prince William’s search-and-rescue unit, which the royal invited en masse.

Celebs, sports stars and other invitees wandered the aisles, chatting amiably and shaking hands.

The chatter began dying away as Princes William and Harry arrived for the ceremony. They were followed by their father, Prince Charles, who arrived at the abbey in a claret-colored royal Rolls-Royce along with his wife Camilla.

The duchess of Cornwall wore an Anna Valentine champagne silk dress with a matching hand-embroidered coat. The couple got big cheers, but it was Kate’s sister, Pippa, who nearly stole the show, dressed in an ivory, formfitting Sarah Burton gown. She led the pageboys and flowergirls into the abbey, and then returned to help carry her sister’s train into the abbey.

Even with the ceremony over, and many of the guests gone, some of the excitement seems to be lingering at Westminster.

A television caught a church official cartwheeling between the abandoned chairs, drawing amused comments from announcers and replays on national television. The abbey confirmed that the cartwheeler was a verger _ the name given to a church official such as an usher or a sacristan.

It did not reveal his identity but said in a statement that he, “like all of us, was very pleased the service had gone according to plan, and was expressing his exuberance.”

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