Five things we know about the wedding (and five we don't)
- 19 January 2011
- From the section UK
Furious arrangements are under way for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton - but very little is being said by those in charge. Here, BBC Royal correspondent Peter Hunt offers a beginner's guide to what is confirmed, and what is still in the realms of fantasy.
Every day brings forth new stories about arrangements for the wedding of the year. Newspapers and websites are abuzz with speculation about the dress, the guests, the service. But mostly it is just that - speculation.
So what do we know for sure, what don't we know, and can anything be divined from previous royal weddings?
Five things we do know about the wedding...
1. WHERE AND WHEN
The date, Friday 29 April, is in the diaries of the dedicated - so, like David Cameron back in 1981, they can camp out along the route - and of the disinterested who are mulling over whether to exploit the plethora of bank holidays on offer around this time and head off. For those who don't flee the focus, initially, will be on the wedding venue, Westminster Abbey. It's been at the forefront of royal ceremonies for generations. Despite its size, officials argue it has the uncanny feel of an intimate space.
2. THE SERVICE
The couple have gone out of their way to ensure they haven't ruffled any feathers in the Church of England hierarchy. The Dean of Westminster will conduct the service; the Archbishop of Canterbury will marry Prince William and Kate Middleton; and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, will deliver the sermon. He is an impressive orator, and a friend of the Prince of Wales and his son. At the memorial service to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of William's mother, the bishop issued this rallying call: "Let it end here. Let this service mark the point at which we let her rest in peace".
3. WHO'S CALLING THE SHOTS?
William and Kate, according to those who work for them. (Don't every couple convince themselves/delude themselves that they're totally in control of their big day?) The challenge is to organise a wedding which is fit for a future King; which doesn't skimp on the ceremonial; but which isn't over the top at a time of austerity.
4. WHO'S FOOTING THE BILL?
As a nation we've moved on from the fairytale royal weddings of the past and this one is taking place during a sustained period of belt-tightening. So, the Windsors and the millionaire Middletons will bear much of the costs from their private incomes. However, the taxpayer will still foot the hefty, but never disclosed, security bill.
5. WHAT GIFTS TO GIVE THE HAPPY COUPLE
Put away the toaster, the pepper grinder and that freshly purchased set of lilac towels. Donations to nominated charities are an option being explored. It would spare the couple the challenge of thanking those who give more unusual presents. Back in 1947, William's grandmother received a turkey from a woman in Brooklyn who thought the then princess was living in a post-war country where there was little to eat.
...and five things we don't know
1. THE GUEST LIST
Choosing the close friends they want with them should be easy. Their families come pretty much as a job lot. Kate has an uncle who has had some difficulties. William has a troublesome aunt. An invitation to the Duchess of York would show he's trying to move on, but it could play havoc with Prince Philip's blood pressure. World leaders are only likely to be ushered through the gothic Abbey's gates if they have some link with the couple. So, the Prime Minister of New Zealand could be there, but not Presidents Obama and Sarkozy and indeed the King of Tonga. When the incumbent of that throne came to Charles' and Diana's wedding, a special seat had to be used in St Paul's to accommodate his girth.
2. THE DRESS
There are some inside the royal household who want to keep the name of the designer secret until the day itself. Others are counselling that even with the best confidentiality agreements in the world, it will leak out. The pragmatic approach, they argue, would be to reveal the designer in advance, without saying anything about Kate's dress. My contribution to this debate is my prediction that it will be white.
3. WHAT DO WE CALL HER?
In the short term, it's easy. William's fiancee is relaxed about people using both Kate and Catherine. But once she's become a future queen, she'll acquire a title to elevate her high above her current status of Miss. If precedent is followed, William could be made a duke by the Queen and his wife would become a duchess. If the second-in-line to the throne turns down a fresh title, Princess William of Wales would emerge onto the royal stage.
4. BEST MAN
When you're a royal, you don't have a best man - you have a supporter and you can have more than one. It would be odd if Prince Harry didn't take on one of these roles. The brothers are close - something that can't be said about other royal siblings. When George IV married Caroline of Brunswick he literally had to be supported to the altar, because he'd drunk more than his usual ration of cherry brandy to steady his nerves for the occasion.
5. THE FUTURE
He has a destiny to fulfil and a job as an RAF search and rescue pilot to pursue. She will have to carve out a role as a senior royal and find some charitable causes to embrace. And during the down times, as she's washing the dishes in their accommodation on Anglesey, there's another thought for Kate to dwell on - she's entering a monarchical dynasty which she - with William's help - will be expected to perpetuate.