05/22/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
What were more than 1,000 royal watchers doing, lining the streets of rural Lacock, England, on May 6, the nuptial day of Camilla's daughter Laura Parker Bowles and Harry Lopes? Hoping to catch a glimpse of another dashing couple: Camilla's stepson Prince William
and his beautiful plus-one Kate Middleton. "There was a terrific buzz as they came in," says Rev. Sally Wheeler, who performed the ceremony. Added a wedding guest: "There were a lot of eyes on her."
No wonder. While Middleton, 24, has appeared at other royal-attended events—notably when she shared Charles and Camilla's box at Cheltenham races last March—a seat at the Parker Bowles wedding seemed to signal another milestone in Windsor-clan acceptance. (Will and Kate sat together during the church service but were seated separately at the reception, as were other couples.) In contrast, Prince Harry
, 21, back from his Africa trip, attended this wedding sans girlfriend Chelsy Davy.
Of course there was some fascination with the newlyweds themselves—the 30-year-old Lopes, after all, is a former Calvin Klein underwear model turned accountant and his bride, 28, the manager of a London art gallery. But not a few wedding guests took a moment to size up Middleton—who has seemed increasingly at ease in public—sporting a golden tan from her and Will's recent Caribbean vacation and looking every inch the princess in a cream and gold embroidered coat and feathered hat. As well-wishers threw rose petals at the happy couple, there was little doubt in some minds that Middleton has what it takes to be a royal daughter-in-law. "She copes with these family occasions beautifully," says the guest. "She is a natural."