LONDON >> Shunning an immediate overseas honeymoon and opting instead for a quiet weekend at a secret British location, Prince William and Kate Middleton made it clear Saturday they want to carve out some space for themselves.
This fight for privacy is crucial if they are to avoid being hounded like William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, whose every move was tailed.
The royal newlyweds started the day by asking the media not to intrude this weekend and to leave them alone when they eventually start their honeymoon. Separately, palace officials also asked the media not to reveal where the couple live near William’s Royal Air Force base in Wales.
He will return to military duty there as a helicopter rescue pilot after the holiday weekend, which ends Monday.
The request for privacy was in stark contrast to their accessibility to the public over the previous two days. On the eve of Friday’s wedding at Westminster Abbey, William greeted crowds on the streets outside his official residence in an impromptu gesture.
The royal couple also dazzled the masses on their wedding day with an open-topped carriage ride from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace and a pair of kisses on a palace balcony. They also emerged from the gates of the palace with the prince at the wheel of his father’s Aston Martin, which had balloons on the back and a "Just Wed" license plate.
William and Middleton, who have the titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, now seem determined not to let paparazzi armed with long-lensed cameras make it impossible for them to go about their business without constantly feeling they are being stalked.
The couple, walking hand in hand on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, boarded a helicopter Saturday morning to a secret location, then issued a statement asking to be left alone.
"The couple have asked that their privacy be respected during the coming weekend and during their honeymoon," according to a message posted on the official royal wedding website.
Previously, officials said William had scheduled two weeks of leave from his military duties amid indications that the honeymoon would begin a day or two after the wedding. But the couple said on the website that they would take an overseas honeymoon at a later date.
The ultimate destination remains a closely-guarded secret, although a number of idyllic locations have been mentioned. German media reports, which were not confirmed, suggested the couple planned to spend a honeymoon at a small private island in the Seychelles.
The reports were based on the comments of a German real estate agent who claimed to have rented the island to the British royals.
Privacy has long been the couple’s main concern while planning their honeymoon. They are thought to have considered private islands in the Caribbean — although photographers on boats could conceivably get pictures of them cavorting on a beach — and hideaways in Africa, where William has traveled extensively in the past.
Another option, one they may be using this weekend, is Queen Elizabeth II’s Balmoral Estate in Scotland, which contains vast secluded areas where the couple would be likely left alone.
But the desire for privacy — something they enjoyed during their university days because the usually voracious British media agreed to give the young prince some space — may become a dominant theme of their marriage, especially with the worldwide interest generated by their glamorous wedding.
The BBC said 17.5 million viewers watched Kate Middleton arrive at Westminster Abbey in her wedding gown. Sky News said 661,000 viewers watched her entrance, and around a million logged on to their website. Millions more watched around the world, and the images from the wedding will be reprinted for years.
Certainly, the Middletons and the royal family appeared to want to send out a clear signal that the wedding was definitely over. Middleton’s parents, her brother and sister left their London hotel in the afternoon, smiled and waved at waiting photographers, and then drove back to their home in Bucklebury, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of London.
Royal commentator Dickie Arbiter said the couple is likely to be able to live normally when they return to the area around the military base in north Wales where William is based.
"They’ve been left alone there in the past and there’s no reason they won’t be left alone there now," he said.
Arbiter said that it will be relatively easy for the prince’s staff, which has wide experience in security and logistics, to set up the honeymoon so the couple would not be disturbed. The honeymoon is expected to be briefer than that of William’s parents, Prince Charles and Diana, who combined a two-week Mediterranean cruise with several extended breaks in Britain.
William and Middleton celebrated their wedding in style Friday night and Saturday morning with a dinner and dance party at Buckingham Palace hosted by Charles. Middleton wore a second gown designed by Sarah Burton of the Alexander McQueen fashion house, while William wore a double-breasted tuxedo.
Some of the prominent guests, including Middleton’s sister Pippa and Prince Harry’s sometimes girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, returned to their rooms at the Goring Hotel at about 3 a.m. Saturday as the palace celebrations wound down.
Harry had announced plans to make an early morning "fry up" breakfast for anyone with the constitution to stay awake through the night, but it is not known how many hungry partygoers he fed.
There was no fear about keeping quiet to avoid waking grandma — Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip had left the palace to the kids and retreated to another royal residence.
The often contentious British media pronounced the wedding day an unqualified success, filling special souvenir editions with dozens of photos from a day that saw an estimated 1 million people throng the streets and parks of London to celebrate.
Middleton’s bridal bouquet was laid on the tomb of the unknown warrior — a memorial in Westminster Abbey that holds the remains of a solider killed in World War I that is now a memorial for all war dead.
Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, the late Queen mother, began the tradition of laying royal bridal bouquets on the tomb when she left her own bouquet there after her wedding to the Duke of York, later George VI in 1923.