The XX Factor

The Royal Wedding: Up All Night Near Buckingham Palace

They’ve done it. Kate and Wills managed to walk, speak a few words, sit, stand, wave, and give each other a peck, all without mishap. Rule Brittania!

It was certainly a triumphant day, which began, in truth, last night. Thousands lined the mall leading to Buckingham Palace-tents and tiaras in tow-hoping to catch a glimpse of the royals. Families sat together, enjoying a bit of KFC; little children ran to and fro, trailing union jacks. Most of the campers were white. Some were drunk.

Near the palace, a newscaster rounded up a group of campers and instructed them to wave their signs and scream. She delivered her report in front of this frenzied simulacrum, while nearby campers tugged at their sleeping bags and sipped tea.

I strolled down the mall away from the palace, and met a friendly fortysomething named Lucy who was planning to spend the entire night in a fold-out chair. She had camped out for Fergie’s wedding, and fondly remembered joining a midnight campers’ conga line as a child. Prince William was “quite a dish,” she said, but there were other reasons to like the monarchy. “There has to be a hierarchy, whether you’re an animal or a human,” she said, cheerily. “I’m from a working class family. There have to be some people on the bottom, and some on the top, and that’s OK.”

Across from the gleaming Horse Guards, I spotted a lively group sitting beneath a tree. When I approached, saying I was an American journalist, one haggard woman sprung up and growled “Fuck off!” before rushing toward me. I was quite curious as to why she wanted me to fuck off, but it soon became clear her inebriated state might impede discussion. Two of her companions wanted to chat, however. “We’re Irish travelers,” they said. “You know, gypsies. Pikeys!” they said in lilting accents. Mary, 20, tall with curly red hair and Elizabeth, 20, a blonde elfin beauty, were great fans of the royals. “They know how to rule,” said Elizabeth. “It runs in their blood.”

Unsurprisingly, there were not many royal doubters out that night. From Surrey, to Ireland to New Zealand to Canada, people had come to worship at the shrine of monarchy. They thought Prince William was “a lovely boy,” though they didn’t speak so fondly of Charles. The only dissenters I encountered were three Americans girls from Boston, taking their junior year to study abroad at Regent’s College in London. They had brought along paper royal masks and bouquets, intending to spend the night. “The royals don’t really do too much stuff,” said Coleen, 20. “They’re all special for no reason,” added Caroline, 21, before pulling on a Prince William mask. “I’m him!” she squealed.  “I’m her!” said their friend Lindsay. They each donned royal masks, grabbed their flowers, and giggled into the night.

Photograph of royal wedding watchers by WPA Pool/Getty Images.