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Elizabeth marries amid Westminster splendor as all England cheers

By
Robert Musel

WESTMINSTER ABBEY -- Princess Elizabeth today spoke a tremulous "I will" in ancient Westminster Abbey and with those words the future queen of Britain became the wife of the newly-created Duke Edinburgh.

Speaking before the great of Britain's empire, the handful of monarchs who still reign, and the ambassadors of foreign lands, Elizabeth gave to Philip Mountbatten her pledge "to love, cherish and to obey, till death do us part."

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Like her illustrious great-great grandmother, Victoria, Princess Elizabeth promised to obey because she wished to solemnize her marriage as a woman rather than as the future queen of Britain.

When the ceremony was over and the young couple entered the fabulous glass coach for their ceremonial progress back to Buckingham palace, Philip seized Elizabeth's hand and squeeze it as she smiled back at him.

Despite postwar austerity and slate-colored skies it was the most brilliant occasion Britain had known since the days before the war.

The young couple spoke their vows in the sanctuary of Westminster in whispers so low they were inaudible even over the loudspeaker.

Elizabeth's words were tremulous, quick and eager. Those of Philip Mountbatten -- only last night created Duke of Edinburgh by his then father-in-law to-be -- were low but firm.

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The ceremony was carried through with clock-like precision.

Within the abbey, Elizabeth, radiant in her glittering wedding gown, was the center of all eyes. Like many brides before her she had a little trouble with its fabulous 15-foot train.

Once it snagged briefly on a huge candelabra but the princess' little page boys, Prince Michael of Kent and Prince William of Gloucester managed to free it.

Philip, obviously nervous as any bridegroom, watched the train anxiously as the couple made their progress out of the abbey.

The carillon of Westminster Abbey rang out in the joyous tones of "God Save the King" as the ceremony was completed and the royal processions started back to Buckingham palace, where the wedding breakfast was held.

For the first time the royal wedding ceremony was carried to every part of the British empire as well as to the United States by radio. Television and movie cameras recorded the occasion.

The ceremony lasted one hour -- an hour of breathtaking beauty and pageantry within the storied walls of Westminster Abbey.

Twenty-seven kings, queens and princes and princesses of the ruling houses of Europe, all the ambassadors accredited to the court of St. James, statesmen and the great of many lands were present.

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And among the throng of 2,500 in the vast cathedral were humbler folk invited to represent millions in the homeland and beyond the seas who could not be there in person.

In ceremony only a few hours before the wedding, King George created Elizabeth's bridegroom, Duke of Edinburgh, Baron Greenwich and Earl of Merioneth, investing him with the title "His Royal Highness" and granting him Britain's highest honor, the Order of the Garter.

The king established a precedent by permitting lounge suits in the abbey, but almost every guest bought or rented morning clothes.

The women were resplendent in jewels, mink and sable, serene in the knowledge that whatever else might befall Britain, here at least was the social event of the century.

As coal-black cavalry horses clattered up to the abbey, the giant Grenadier guardsmen gave the royal salute.

From within the abbey came a fanfare of trumpets, trombones and drums especially composed for the ceremony by master of the king's music, Sir Arnold Bax, and played by the royal music students in gold and blue uniforms.

At that signal the princess stepped through the great west door of the 900-year-old church into the dazzling brilliance of television and newsreel light.

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The cascades of pearl and crystal embroidery on her ivory satin gown blazed and sparkled.

Until today the gown had been possibly the empire's poorest-kept secret. It is a magnificent creation, gleaning satin embroidered with glittering crystals and pearls.

The neck-line is heart-shaped with long tight sleeves, a fitted bodice, pointed waistline and a full ground-length skirt.

Garlands of white roses are embroidered on the gown in raised pearls, ears of corn, symbols of fertility, in crystals and drop pearls, tulle star flowers and orange blossoms appliquéd to the satin and bordered with seed pearls and crystals.

A pretty girl, far prettier than her photographs, the princess radiated real beauty. On the arm of her father, in his admiral's uniform, she walked slowly and proudly down the 100 yards of the abbey's red-carpeted nave.

At the head of the procession was borne the gorgeous gold and amethyst cross of Westminster presented by Rodman Wanamaker of Philadelphia, Pa., in 1922.

Then came the master of the king's household and after him eight king's scholars in long green surplices. Next were the choristers of the abbey in scarlet and white and then the children of the Chapels Royal in scarlet and white.

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Directly preceding the king and princess walked the dean of Westminster in cloth of gold.

Westminster Abbey is built like a huge cross. The great west door is its base. At the point where the church throws its arms abroad begins the sanctuary.

There, Mountbatten in naval dress uniform wearing the sword that belonged to his bride's grandfather, King George V, joined the princess.

Together they mounted four steps of the sanctuary and knelt on pillows on the fifth -- where the present king and queen knelt when they were married in the abbey in 1923, and where William the Conqueror knelt in 1066 to be crowned king of England.

Before the altar were the officiating clergy -- the dean of Westminster, ranking prelates of the Church of England, the archbishops of Canterbury and York in mired white and gold, the bishop of Norwich, the bishop of London, the dean of his majesty's Chapels Royal and the moderator of the general assembly of the Church Scotland.

On scarlet and gilt chairs set on the right side of the sanctuary, as the congregation faced it, sat Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother Mary, the Duchess of Kent and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

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Notably missing were the Duke of Windsor who refused to attend without his American-born wife, the princess royal, who is ill.

Philip's blond hair was brushed smooth but he kept smoothing it firmer with his left hand. It was the greatest sign of nervousness he showed, and he smiled and chatted with the best man.

On the bridegroom's side sat Princess Andrew of Greece, his mother, his uncle, Earl Mountbatten, and Lady Mountbatten, Queen Frederika of Greece, King Frederik and Queen Ingrid of Denmark.

King Michael of Romania, the king of Iraq, King Haakon of Norway, the crown prince and princess of Sweden, the princess regent of the Netherlands and the prince regent of Belgium.

At the foot of the steps were grouped the eight bridesmaids, headed by Princess Margaret, and two pages in royal Stuart tartans with sporrans and white silk blouses -- 5-year-old Prince William of Gloucester and 4-year-old Prince Michael of Kent, one of whose godfathers was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The bridesmaids wore ivory tulle over satin with tight-fitting bodices gathered down the front, shoulders swathed with deep fichu tying in front with a bow.

The skirts were full gathered at the waist with satin syringa blossoms appliquéd around the edges of fichu and clustered on the skirt.

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They wore headdresses of white satin roses with pearls and satin ears of grain mounted with silver leaves and crystal dewdrops. They carried bouquets of orchids.

During the procession down the nave the choir sang at Elizabeth's special request, "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven." As the voices faded away the dean of Westminster took up the introduction of the Church of England service.

"Dearly beloved we are gathered here in the sight of God and in the face of this congregation to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony ... "

Then the archbishop of Canterbury, his chaplain holding the jeweled cross of Canterbury behind him, asked for responses.

In a deep, clear voice, the bridegroom said:

"I Philip, take thee, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, to my wedded wife ... "

The heiress to the throne, her right hand clasping his right hand, said:

"I, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, take thee, Philip, to my wedded husband to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love cherish and to obey until death do us part ..."

Philip took a ring of gold mined in Wales and placed it on Elizabeth's finger, saying, "With this ring I thee wed ..."

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Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary were solemn now but dry-eyed. They remained dry-eyed throughout. So far as I could see, not a tear was shed at this wedding.

The king nervously fingered the sword strapped to his left side. After he gave the bride away, he went over and sat down beside his queen in the vacant chair that had been saved for him. The queen whispered to him as he picked up the marriage service.

Everyone was seated now as Elizabeth and Philip knelt on the gold cushions at the top of the steps -- five steps to happiness for them -- and were touched on their heads by the archbishop.

They knelt while the archbishop pronounced them man and wife. The choir burst into the 67th Psalm, "God be Merciful To Us," and the bride and bridegroom, Princess Margaret and the best man and pages were led to the high altar by the precentor of Westminster.

The precentor took responses to lesser litany and the Lord's prayer. The Dean of Westminster uttered the Church of England prayer that, "Upon these two persons the heritage and gift of children ... " be bestowed.

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