Is Westminster Abbey the ultimate royal wedding venue?

Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey has been widely tipped as the venue for the royal wedding next year

Speculation is rife that Westminster Abbey will be chosen as the venue for Prince William's wedding after fiancee Kate Middleton made a private visit to the historic site on Wednesday.

Palace officials have stressed that the Abbey - which hosted the weddings of the Queen and Queen Mother - is only one of the options on the table.

But bookmakers have been deluged by wagers on the church that was founded in the 10th Century.

Richard Jenkyns, author of the book Westminster Abbey, says the "sheer depth of the historical association" between the abbey and both royalty and the nation makes it the outstanding choice for the wedding.

"The royal connections with the Abbey are extremely long-standing. It's the coronation church and about two dozen kings and queens are buried there.

"But the tradition of marrying in the Abbey is really a 20th Century thing," he says.

Westminster Abbey

  • The first coronation at the Abbey saw William I crowned king on Christmas Day 1066
  • In all, 38 sovereigns have been crowned there
  • The present structure was started by Henry III in 1245
  • The capacity of the Abbey is about 2,000 but during the Queen's coronation tiers and galleries were installed to seat 8,200 people
  • The Abbey is a "Royal Peculiar" - which means it belongs directly to the monarch, not to a diocese or province of the Church
  • At the west end of the nave is the grave of the Unknown Warrior, whose body was brought from France to be buried at the Abbey on 11 November 1920
  • Immovable treasures and tombs were protected by about 60,000 sandbags during World War II

When Princess Patricia of Connaught, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, picked the venue for her marriage to the Honourable Alexander Ramsay in 1919, it was the first time the Abbey had been used for a royal wedding in 650 years.

The wedding of Princess Mary, daughter of George V, in 1922 continued the trend, then in 1923 Prince Albert, the Duke of York, later King George VI, became the first prince to be married in the Abbey.

"The tradition had been for quite a long time that the royals would get married at Windsor or the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace," says Mr Jenkyns.

"Having a royal wedding on such a grand scale was quite an innovation.

"Royal weddings became so popular that Prince Charles moved his wedding with Diana to St Paul's because it's much bigger."

Royal weddings have certainly attracted an enormous amount of public attention since the arrival of television made them a mass audience event.

Mr Jenkyns says the need to cater for the ceremonials that surround a royal wedding would also work in the Abbey's favour.

Start Quote

We are proud to be British - and the Abbey is where our history is”

End Quote Christine Jones Visitor at Westminster Abbey

"It's really close to Buckingham Palace and you've got a natural procession route," he says.

That route takes in a place very much of the people - Trafalgar Square - as well as the political epicentre of Whitehall.

"I suspect it won't be St Paul's, which is very large and brings back memories of Charles and Diana, and the logistics would make it more difficult.

"Westminster Abbey seems to me to be the natural choice."

It is a view shared by many people who were visiting Westminster Abbey on Thursday.

Jeanette and Peter Price with their friends Christine and Albert Jones outside Westminster Abbey Christine and Albert Jones want the royal wedding to have "pomp and significance"

Christine and Albert Jones, 72 and 74 respectively, from Birmingham, think nowhere else in the country has the "pomp and significance" the ceremony deserves.

"Even in these economic times, a royal wedding has to be special and splendid.

"We are proud to be British - and the Abbey is where our history is," says Christine.

Their friends Jeanette and Peter Price, 68 and 71, also from Birmingham, agree.

"London is a lovely place. Westminster Abbey is big, beautiful and central; it would be fantastic if the wedding was here," says Peter.

Dania and Mohammed Naamani, from Lebanon, are won over by the architecture.

"The image of the church, its connection with royalty and government - that's the way Britain presents itself to the rest of the world," says Dania.

Miriam Chaves Miriam Chaves, 38, from Malaga, says the Abbey's tombs make it too sad for a wedding

But holidaymaker Miriam Chaves, 38, from Malaga in Spain, disagrees.

"I think they will go for St Paul's. This is a bit like a cemetery, there are a lot of kings and queens buried in there, there are a lot of tombs. It is a bit sad for a celebration like a wedding."

Australians Ben Houseman, 28, and Larry Diamond, 29, say the decision should be left to the young royals.

Jody Orlando, 55, a wine business entrepreneur from Los Angeles, thinks the couple should elope.

"There is so much hype with royalty here - it is like your own Hollywood.

"They are bound to compare it with Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding - but no-one wants to start a marriage with ghosts.

"If they ran away it would be much more romantic."

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