London — The gilded coaches were open, their occupants unshielded from the cheering throngs. But, with a distant backdrop of hunger strikes in Ulster and rioting on some of Britain's own city streets, security precautions for the royal spectacular were intense.
Some 4,000 police lined the wedding route from Buckingham Palace to St. Paul's Cathedral. Another 400 detectives moved among the crowds. Sharpshooters were said to have been stationed on the tops of buildings.
This correspondent saw a police van parked at Ludgate Circus and was told by police it contained armed men. (British police are usually not armed.) Others nearby were told the van also contained "special equipment." The police would not elaborate.
It was reported here the Queen was firm in her wish that open coaches be used if the weather stayed fine -- which it did. But as a concession to security the processions to and from St. Paul's were speeded up.
Bystanders packed around me commented how quickly the coaches and the brass cuirasses and scarlet and blue jackets of the Household Cavalry had trotted by, some horses even cantering. The entire cavalcade took no more than six or seven minutes to pass any one spot.
Helicopters circled overhead. Police faced the crowds, handed out candy, made small jokes -- but their eyes kept moving, scanning. Ports and airports were watched for members of the illegal Irish Republican Army or other potential terrorists.
But on the day, all went well. Not one arrest was made.
The sun stayed out, the rain stayed away, and the crowds along the route -- and televisionwatchers around the world -- were free to enjoy the sense of history as well as the small and human touches which they seemed to love the most:
* The glances bride and groom exchanged from time to time. The kiss Charles gave her on the balcony of the palace later. The small but proud smile the Queen bestowed on her son moments after he had become a husband.
* The nervousness of the bride as she mixed up her bridegroom's names during the vows. "Philip Charles Arthur George," she said softly, instead of repeating the Archbishop of Canterbury's just-intoned. "Charles Philip Arthur George."
* A few minutes later, it was Charles's turn. He dropped the word "worldly" in the phrase, "worldly goods."
* The rapt look on the face of a bridesmaid as she handed the bride's long train in to the coach outside St. Paul's Cathedral.