After the undue pressures and expectations projected onto the nuptials of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, the union of Prince William and Kate Middleton is being treated with a certain calm restraint by both the bride and groom and the royal watchers who chronicle the couple’s every move. Still, the wedding is the social event of the year, if not the decade. Hugo Vickers, who has tracked the British royal family for decades, offers the ultimate TV guide to the ceremony. Read on for a few pointers on what to watch for on April 29.
HOW IS THE BRIDE ARRIVING?
Kate is to travel by car to Westminster Abbey, accompanied by her father, who presumably will be wearing a morning coat, with tie. (For the few parental words delivered outside his Bucklebury home after the November engagement announcement, Mr. Middleton eschewed a tie.) Most recent brides—including both Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson—traveled by carriage, but Kate’s choice is in keeping with the couple’s wish to downplay the fairy-tale aspect of their wedding. At any rate, a Rolls-Royce from the Royal Mews—the Windsors’ garage and stable—will ensure that she arrives without feeling sick due to the rocking of the carriage.
HOW ABOUT THE PRINCE?
Prince William and the royal family will also arrive by car. In 1981 Prince Charles traveled to St. Paul’s Cathedral in an open landau—a convertible carriage—with a vast Household Cavalry Escort. (The royals also arrived in landaus, although during 2002’s Golden Jubilee festivities a number of them were deposited at St. Paul’s in a large bus much like the ones that convey tourists around town.)
WHAT ABOUT THE ROYAL CARRIAGE?
After the wedding, the couple will return to Buckingham Palace in the Glass Coach, built for the Lord Mayor of London in 1881 and purchased by the royal family for George V’s coronation in 1911. This is the same carriage used by Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson on the way to their weddings. Unlike the landau, the carriage is closed, but it affords a fabulous view of those seated inside.
HOW INVOLVED WILL THE MIDDLETONS BE?
Prince William wants his new in-laws to play a larger part than is usual in the wedding. He differs from most of his predecessors in that he has had complete freedom in his choice of bride: Kate Middleton does not come from a royal house or even from the aristocracy—though an ingenious genealogist has found that she is William’s 15th cousin, and her ancestry can be traced back to the 1400s. The Middletons have even offered to share some of the costs—and hopefully this unusual gesture has gotten them more than the 30 invitations that were allotted to Earl Spencer for the wedding of his daughter Diana. The invitations are the responsibility of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, sometimes in consultation with the Foreign Office—as with Princess Alexandra’s 1963 wedding, to which Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia was to be invited. The Prince had seven wives; which of them would he bring? The invitation was eventually addressed to the Prince “and Madame”—and, after prolonged negotiations, was declined. There are more mundane considerations as well when dealing with those outside the inner circle: When the King of Tonga attended the wedding of Prince William’s parents, a special chair had to be constructed to contain his mighty frame; he was said to weigh 434 pounds.