As the most scintillating society wedding of the year between Pippa Middleton and James Matthews began to unfold, HELLO! was at the centre of the action, mingling with the cheering crowds while all the distinguished guests began to arrive. Royal fans and TV crews from all over the world had descended on the picturesque Englefield Estate, just a stone’s throw from St Mark’s Church where the couple were set to tie the knot, and although we all intermittently gazed up at the skies in nervous expectation of another downpour, the weather was kind to us, but more importantly, to the bride.
Jostling for position to get a ‘front seat’ at the barrier that had been installed to separate us from the nuptials were royal fans galore, hoping mainly for a glimpse of their favourites: the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the adorable duo Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and last but not least, the regal but not royal, radiant bride Pippa. From far and wide they all came: Birgit Berg had travelled from Germany especially for the big day; Sandra Shaw had driven from Cheshire, dressed in a luminous orange hat and shirt in the hope that Prince George and Princess Charlotte would be attracted by the vivid colour and give her a wave; and Janice Clayton had journeyed from Merseyside to set up her foldable chair at the crack of dawn.
HELLO!'s Sally Morgan with Pippa Middleton fans
When a convoy of limousines and Range Rovers purred down the private road in front of us, excitement reached fever pitch and we surged forward in unison to see which famous guest would be making that 100 yard walk to the church. Princess Eugenie – who looked chic in a navy blue 50s style dress teamed with a simple cream hat - and her beau Jack Brooksbank were among the first to arrive. “You look beautiful!” cried seven-year-old Ruby-Rose Wren and her mother Wendy (pictured here) proudly wielding their HELLO! flags. When the princess turned to reward the compliment with a big wave and a friendly smile, it made everyone’s day.
Also drawing cheers was sporting legend Roger Federer. The tennis champ – a firm favourite of the bride, who has watched him play at Wimbledon - cut a dapper figure as he strolled in the morning sunshine with his wife Mirka. Among the select numbers joining the congregation for the intimate ceremony were HELLO! columnists Donna Air, who looked stunning in a chic cream coat dress teamed with a matching pill box hat, and fashion designer Tabitha Webb, in one of her own showstopping numbers and a Lisa Tan hat.
Princess Eugenie looked gorgeous in a navy dress
Her dresses have proved a huge hit with the bride and in 2015 she collaborated with her to create a limited edition dress and scarf to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation, of which Pippa is an ambassador. Donna, who was in an on/off relationship with Pippa’s brother James for four years, arrived with a female friend, but then greeted her beau with a hug outside the church as they waited for the bride.
In keeping with the Scottish theme of the big day, there were brightly-coloured tartan trews aplenty, sported by several of the male guests, while the ladies’ scored a hat trick with a stylish array of fascinators, titfers, toppers and plumes. But full marks must go to the ladies who, having alighted from the chauffeur driven cars, managed somehow to negotiate the puddles and muddy pathways without submerging their vertiginous heels.
Donna Air was another glamorous guest
And when it came to style, Pippa’s controversial uncle Gary Goldsmith didn’t disappoint. Despite often being dubbed the ‘king of bling’, he cut a debonair dash in a white tie and grey waistcoast on the arm of his pretty 14-year-old daughter Tallulah. Taking to twitter before setting of for his niece’s nuptials, he endearingly posted, ‘Proud dad’. But not every guest passed our way: the major players had given the crowds the slip by arriving at another entrance.
Still, it was a fine day – or at least, it had been until everyone was ensconced in church. At that precise moment, the heavens opened, and the umbrellas came out. The local Englefield Store and Tea Room – a favourite haunt of Carole Middleton’s - did a roaring trade as onlookers rushed for shelter and a tea and cake interlude. Then, as a peal of bells rang out an hour later, announcing the couple were now man and wife, the sun emerged from behind a cloud again. Even the weather was making sure that the newlyweds had the happiest day of their lives.
Following the ceremony, the wedding party headed off for a lavish reception at nearby Englefield House, a romantic Elizabethan manor owned by Conservative MP Richard Benyon. The 16th-century pile is set in beautiful grounds and served as a location for films including 2010's The Kings Speech, 2012's Great Expectations and 2015's The Go-Between, and TV series Agatha Christie's Marple and Agatha Christie's Poirot. And, in an amusing twist, it also played host to the 2014 reality show I Wanna Marry 'Harry', which saw 12 American women compete for the heart of a Prince Harry lookalike, whom they were led to believe was the real thing.
After toasting the newlyweds with the finest champagne and enjoying canapes including scallops, haggis and smoked salmon, the guests heard speeches from the bride's father Michael and Pippa's brother James, as well as a "hilarious" speech from best man Spencer, before watching the newlyweds cut their wedding cake.
Guests had been asked to bring a change of clothes for the adults-only evening reception, which started at 7.30pm, and they had almost four hours to relax and freshen up before the night's festivities began. Set in 18 acres and surrounded by woodland and fields, the grade II-listed Georgian house Bucklebury Manor served as an idyllic backdrop for the reception, which was attended by about 350 guests. Taking centre-stage in the grounds was a magnificent Art Nouveau-style conservatory, shipped over to Bucklebury from Belgian company PBI Event Architecture. The structure is thought to have cost about £100,000 to hire. And to entertain their wedding party with a spectacle they will never forget, the family had arranged a flypast of a vintage Spitfire.