It may have been something to do with the notorious reserve of the British Upper Classes or the serene influence of the Prince of Wales' choice of English church music. But inside St Paul's the royal wedding fulfilled its promise of magnificence without being an overwhelming experience. Few moist Kleenex can have been left behind.

It was a great performance, and that implies detachment. But there was more to it than that. The national genius for self-deprecation seemed to want to get in on the act. And so a whole series of small touches - not least the fluffing of the royal lines - contributed to a reduction of the pomp to human scale.

This note was struck early for, by 9.30 some of the best seats in the cathedral had already been occupied by two girls. Smartly dressed in the day's colour - blue - but definitely not normal front row material. Could they be? indeed they were, the former flatmates without whose discretion we might not have been there at all. Caroline, Anne and - later - Virginia, rewarded with seats four rows in front of Raine, the Fairy Stepmother, and a good dozen in front of the Cabinet. Well done, Di.

The Great and the Good, and the not so Great or Good, poured in. Raine kissed a lot of people, but otherwise behaved. The more conservative African dignitaries appeared to prefer morning dress, while the radicals wore tablecloths. With the Brits it was the other way round. The old soldiers wore the gorgeous attire.

Photographers seemed to be dripping from Wren's Baroque cornices like corrupted cherubs. In our section of the press ghetto, easily the grandest and most confident morning-suited character turned out to be James Whitaker, the Daily Star's celebrated Royal-Hunter. For once they had managed to confine him to a restricted view of their activities, but fortunately he had brought along his Royal binoculars.

He seemed to know everyone and was a mine of information. Did one know that so-and-so was now very friendly with Di, and that there was talk of her becoming a Lady-in-Waiting. One did not, but in any case one was busy trying to persuade another colleague that Jeremy Thorpe could not possibly be one of the ushers.

At 10 o'clock sharp we were blessed with a gloriously anarchic touch. Two lads arrived to remove the polythene cover from the carpet in the nave. They were presumably token guests from the General and Municipal Workers, but no one had thought to give them special clothing allowance. Hence - in all this splendour - they performed in jeans, T-shirts and midriff.

But by now things were happening. Mrs Shand-Kydd, the bride's mother, and the Spencer heir, Lord Althorp, had arrived. And the American correspondents were getting anxious because they could not see Nancy Reagan in the first 12 rows.

All the while we were being feasted - as Prince Charles intended - with the Best of British - Purcell, Britten, Elgar, Vaughan Williams - in one of the best concert halls in London. Various Beefeaters, Gentlemen at Arms and Military Knights of Windsor were now in evidence, but it was hardly a display of oppressive military power. True, they were armed to the teeth, but judging by their seniority, would not have been up to much more than opening a tin of Spam in a riot.

The foreign Royals arrived minus Spain, and then the faint sound of cheering on Ludgate Hill alerted us to the arrival of the Royal Family itself. A lifetime of public composure could be no guarantee on a day like yesterday, but the Queen looked up to the challenge.

Purcell's Trumpet Tune announced the Prince of Wales and his brothers - HRH looking scrubbed, pink, and - for 32 - incredibly young.

Then, as the organ faded for a moment, there came a huge roar from outside. We may have come a long way since we simply chained our virgin sacrifices to the rock, but not as far as we think. It was the roar for the bride. Inside the cathedral half the congregation rose, then sat again. It seemed an age - actually three-and-a-half minutes - before she reached the dome. Mrs Shand-Kydd smiled at her daughter and behind me a woman from the St John Ambulance Brigade moved to give a newspaper messenger boy a better view. The Dean launched into the 1661 service? to join "this man and this woman" in holy matrimony. Unexpectedly egalitarian language. No concession for princes there.

HRH said "I will" (firmly). Then the bride said it softly. Each time the crowd listening to the loudspeakers outside, roared their approval. She called him Philip. Did that mean she had? legally? married his father? Over our loudspeaker Prince Charles could be heard whispering a comforting "well done."

A few seconds later he dodged the Archbishop's invitation to endow her with all his "wordly" goods, so it was honours even and the accountants can sort out the implications. At 11.18 they were pronounced man and wife.

With eloquence and the unshakable conviction of Welsh non-conformity, the Speaker of the Commons then read from Corinthians I on faith, hope and charity, which last word the modernists have (wisely for once) corrected to "love." Unlike his usual line of work on a Wednesday, he was not heckled once.

Dr Runcie rose to the occasion with a simple address. "All couples, on their wedding day are royal couples, and stand for the truth that we help to shape this world and are not its victims." Even that absent triumvirate, Ian Paisley, Ken Livingstone, and Barbara Cartland could, surely, all agree on that?

Among the inter-denominational coalition of assembled clerics, it was the Reverend Harry Williams who became the first person - correctly - to use the words "Diana, Princess of Wales." Earl Spencer, who had been looking a bit shaky in a nice sort of way, looked shakier.

In the tradesmen's section, where the service had been punctuated by the scuffles of cameramen on high, we now had to contend with bags of urgently needed film whistling past our ears on bits of string. Meanwhile, in the Dignified Sector of the Constitution, the wedding party disappeared to sign the book.

Thoughtfully, HRH had left Kiri Te Kanawa behind to thrill us, so the time passed quickly. Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance, and Lord Spencer's broad smile, alerted us to the newlyweds' return. They seemed to be enjoying it so far.

Down the nave they went. There were some bows and curtsies, President Mitterrand, as befits the socialist president of the most self-assured republic in the world, had appeared impassive throughout.

But this monarchist congregation, which had not known whether to sit or kneel, to sing or to pray, seemed to be keeping something back. The crowd outside had no such inhibition.

Outside we came down with a jolt to the pungent smell of horse manure. The Nobs waited for their cars, and the three flatmates walked quietly in the direction of Cannon Street.

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