The eve of a royal wedding is the peak of excitement when crowds conga in the streets and well-wishers camp around the palace, sometimes for days on end. We'd been expecting a heady atmosphere ahead of Princess Beatrice's wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, planned for 29 May, but the pandemic put paid to the fanfare.
Instead we can look back to Prince Harry and Meghan's thrilling May 2018 nuptials when 120,000 revellers thronged to Windsor Castle, while their retinue of celebrity friends took over the plush hotels, Coworth Park and Cliveden. Similarly when Prince William and Kate tied the knot in 2011, the Middletons commandeered every room in the 71-suite Goring Hotel in London to entertain their friends and family. Find out how some of our favourite royal couples spent the night before their wedding…
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Prince William and Kate
The Duke spent his last night as a bachelor at his father Prince Charles' home, Clarence House. Overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the thousands camped along the Mall, Prince William embarked on an impromptu walkabout to shake hands with royal superfans. With his best man Harry by his side the groom admitted to nerves, saying: "All I have to do is get my lines right" and asking one camper: "Are you going to sleep in there? Have you got a Jacuzzi in there?" "I'm sleeping out here tonight," Harry joked. "The atmosphere is fantastic. That's why we came out."
Kate, Carole and Pippa Middleton arrive at the Goring Hotel the day before her wedding
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The bride Kate, showing the composure we've come to expect, looked the picture of calm and happiness outside the five-star Goring Hotel, a stone's throw away from Buckingham Palace. She and her family prepared for the biggest occasions of their lives in the Royal Apartment, a suite which had been given a £150,000 makeover to include a four-poster bed, a grand piano and a walk-in shower. A TV was installed in the bathroom, so that Kate could lie in the bath and watch the wedding build-up on a flat screen.
While the happy couple attempted to get a good night's sleep, the rest of the Windsors hosted a gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge for a Who's Who of foreign royals, including all the crowned heads of Europe.
Prince Harry and Meghan
Prince William and Harry took part in a walkabout the day before the wedding
If William's wedding was a chance to clock Kings and Queens, his brother's rivalled a Hollywood awards show. On the guest list were George Clooney, Idris Elba, James Corden and Oprah Winfrey, who decided at the last minute that her dress was too close in colour to white and had Stella McCartney rustle up a new one overnight. Meanwhile, Meghan's Suits castmates flooded social media with pictures of themselves whooping it up in Windsor. Their base for the festivities was Georgian manor house Coworth Park, an establishment so chic that a ballroom gown-clad harpist plays during afternoon tea. Probably more interesting to William and Harry, who chose to stay there the night before, are the polo fields and state of the art equestrian centre.
Meghan Markle and mum Doria arrive at the Cliveden hotel
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Half an hour away, the bride was with her adored mother Doria at the magnificent grade I-listed hotel Cliveden, once home to the Astor family. Set amid 152-hectares of verdant gardens that run down to the Thames, the mansion had welcomed many illustrious guests before, among them Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling and Charlie Chaplin.
Zara and Mike Tindall
The locations for the wedding of the Princes' cousin, Olympic horserider Zara Phillips, to rugby player Mike Tindall in 2011 were no less steeped in history. Before the reception at Holyrood Palace in the Scottish capital, the residence of Queens and Kings since the 16th century, the bride lodged at the majestic Balmoral Hotel. Built in 1902, the hotel is an authentic slice of Scottish history, presided over by a clock tower that has run three minutes fast ever since so travellers don't miss trains from the nearby station. It is also known for providing JK Rowling with an oasis of calm to finish the Harry Potter series.
Zara Phillips held a drinks reception aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia
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Most of Zara and Mike's sporty set stayed in boutique hotel Tigerlily. Being athletes they know the importance of a good warm-up, which they did by quaffing champagne in the hotel nightclub Lulu. The pre-match merriment culminated with a drinks reception aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, once the personal vessel of the Queen. Her Majesty skipped the party, though, allowing the young Princes and Princesses to really let their hair down ahead of the church service the next day.
Prince Charles and Diana
Go further back to 1981, and Princess Diana spent her last night as a single girl in Clarence House, the home of the Queen Mother, whose page Billy Tallon witnessed her circling the courtyard on an old bicycle, shouting gleefully, "I'm going to marry the Prince of Wales." The groom had sent Diana his signet ring with a note, saying: "I'm so proud of you. Knock 'em dead tomorrow."
Charles and Diana outside their wedding venue, St Paul's Cathedral
Before Charles and Diana became man and wife, the Queen threw a glitzy soirée at Buckingham Palace with glitter balls and discos lights. Around 800 guests danced the night away, some taking the lead from Princess Margaret, who tied balloons to her tiara. Diana's former boss Mary Robertson, who couldn't believe the bride had once been her nanny, described it "as the best party I will ever go to".
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The Waleses' nuptials really brought the big white wedding back into fashion. The opening salvo of the public celebrations was fired by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery with a gun salute in Hyde Park marking the first marriage of a Prince of Wales in 118 years, followed by a huge fireworks display. Among the 500,000 people watching was Prince Charles's goddaughter India Hicks, who ended up staying the night with Princess Margaret in nearby Kensington Palace because the streets were too busy to reach her own home. It was certainly a magical evening when the Queen's sister might offer you a bed and a young girl could go to sleep a nursery teacher and wake up to become a Princess of the realm.
Princess Marie-Chantal and Prince Pavlos
During her reign the Queen has given her blessing to some of the most memorable wedding parties ever thrown, most notably the 1995 nuptials of Princess Marie-Chantal and Prince Pavlos, the son of Prince Philip's distant cousin King Constantine, who once reigned in Greece. The week-long celebrations brought together the biggest gathering of blue bloods in London since her own wedding in 1947, with the Queen kicking things off by hosting a tea party at Claridge's in Mayfair.
Princess Marie-Chantal and Prince Pavlos the day before their wedding
The groom's aunt, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, gave a lunch for 100 aboard her yacht. Not to be outdone, the bride's family erected two marquees to recreate the Parthenon at their ball in Wrotham Park. In a further tribute to Pavlos's heritage the colour scheme for the pre-wedding gala was the white and blue of the Greek flag.
King Felipe of Spain and Queen Letizia
The Spanish royals hosted a candle-lit gala
Pavlos and Marie-Chantal were expecting their fourth child when his cousin Felipe of Spain wed journalist Letizia Ortiz in 2004. The joy was palpable at the candle-lit gala on the eve of the royal wedding, the first in Madrid for a century, with the happy couple holding hands throughout the night as they greeted regal relatives from 36 royal houses. Even the heavens opening failed to put a dampener on the occasion, as rain is traditionally regarded as lucky for a bride in Spain.
Prince Albert of Monaco and Princess Charlene
Princess Charlene and Prince Albert just days before their wedding
Princesses and Princes gathered once again for the wedding of Prince Albert and Charlene of Monaco, billed as 'the biggest party in 55 years', with light shows over Monte Carlo harbour and two concerts before the religious ceremony. A 15,000-strong audience joined the nearlyweds at a gig by the Eagles, Albert's favourite band. The atmosphere was electric as they played Hotel California, with the Prince sweeping his bride to her feet to dance. When the stars dedicated their single Love Will Keep Us Alive to the happy couple the crowd went wild again. "We will cherish this moment forever," said the ecstatic bride and groom, a sentiment the people of Monaco could certainly agree with.
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