Crowds gather as William, Kate, Charlotte and George prepare to appear for the first time as a family of four

By Simon Perry
July 05, 2015 10:20 AM
Chris Jackson/Getty

Princess Charlotte‘s country christening got off to a soggy start.

Crowds eager for a glimpse of 2-month-old Charlotte and her family began gathering at Sandringham early Sunday.

Despite heavy rain showers, there were around 300 diehard royal watchers in position by 1 p.m. waiting for the gates to open to the field outside the historic St. Mary Magdalene church. (Luckily, the rain cleared before the actual christening.)

The fans were lining up a few hours before the little princess, her nearly 2-year-old brother Prince George and their parents Prince William and Princess Kate were set to appear.

At the head of the line were some familiar faces: royals superfans Maria Scott, 44, and Terry Hutt, 80, both of whom had camped for days outside the hospital where Charlotte was born May 2.

Hutt arrived in the Norfolk countryside 24 hours before the ceremony was set to start.

“I’m sure if we weren’t there they would miss us,” he joked to PEOPLE. “I’m hoping to see everyone and everything.”

Scott says of the expected walk to church by the family of four, “We are going to see them like we have never seen them before. And this is a significant place because Diana was baptized here too, and we’ve just heard that one of her godparents is one of Diana’s nieces, which is a great touch.”

Charlotte Elizabeth Williams, 11, was hoping to catch a glimpse of her namesake. “I was really glad when I heard the name they’d chosen,” she tells PEOPLE. She was there with parents Richard and Elizabeth, who had driven three-and-a-half hours from Stourbridge. “This is a lovely family event for them and for us,” says Richard.

When they walk into and exit St. Mary Magdalene on Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham estate, it will be the first time the Cambridges have appeared in public as a family of four.

Although the service is private, the couple invited locals and other well-wishers to share in their day, and have asked that any flowers brought along are donated to a hospice charity that Kate, 33, supports.

Charlotte will be christened wearing the replica of the Honiton lace and satin gown that was originally made for Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, also named Victoria, in 1841. The newer version, which was first used in 2008, was also the robe Prince George wore at his ceremony in October 2013.

And making the 110-mile journey north from its normal home among the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London is the historic Lily Font, over which Charlotte will be baptized.

The service starts at 4.30pm U.K. time.

Giving the homily or address is the Archbishop if Canterbury, who is supported in the service by the Reverend Canon Jonathan Riviere, the Rector of the group of churches in the estate’s area.

Princess Kate and Prince William s Dream Country Life with George and Charlotte

Later, Charlotte will be center stage when she is held for her first official portraits, which will be taken by famed photographer Mario Testino.

The pictures of the family, including the Queen, 89, will take place back at Sandringham house, which is also the venue for an afternoon tea created by the royal chefs – including, the palace revealed, slices of a tier of the couple’s wedding cake saved for the occasion.

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