Clarence House earlier today confirmed the speculations that the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, who became engaged last Tuesday, will take place in Westminster Abbey in the week following Easter, more precisely on Friday 29 April.
This means that their engagement will be shorter than what seems to have become the norm in other European monarchies in recent year – the time span between the engagements and the weddings of the heirs to the thrones of Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden were eight, eleven and sixteen months respectively, with Prince Albert II of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock set to marry thirteen months after their engagement.
It has been reported in the British media that Prince William and Kate Middleton wanted to have the wedding even earlier, in March, but that they had been talked out of this. What surprises me is that the royal wedding will take place the week before the referendum on electoral reform, which means that campaigning will to a large extent be overshadowed, but apparently the political parties have voiced no objections to this.
The last royal wedding to take place in Westminster Abbey was that of the Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson in 1986, while Prince William’s parents married in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. In the 20th century Westminster Abbey has also seen the weddings of Princess Patricia and Alexander Ramsay in 1919; Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles (later Earl of Harewood) in 1922; Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923; Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece in 1934; Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947; Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960; Princess Alexandra and Angus Ogilvy in 1963; and Princess Anne and Mark Phillips in 1973. It has also been the scene of the funerals of Queen Alexandra in 1925, Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002.
It has also been reported in the media that Queen Elizabeth II has offered to hold a ball at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle two days before the wedding, but this remains to be confirmed. When Prince Charles and Princess Diana married in 1981 the ball took place at Buckingham Palace.
In other royal news today the Daily Telegraph reports that the Duke of Edinburgh has made known his intention to scale his public duties down somewhat when he turns 90 in June next year. He will therefore relinquish “more than a dozen” of his patronages, including the chancellorships of the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge.
However, as the Prince is involved with more than 800 organisations it seems giving up a dozen of them will be just a drop in the ocean. And while his mother-in-law, who lived to the age of 101, ceased making major trips abroad at the age of 89, Prince Philip will join the Queen for a state visit to Oman and the United Arab Emirates starting tomorrow.
The Telegraph speculates that some of the patronages relinquished by the Duke of Edinburgh may be taken over by his granddaughter-in-law-to-be, but this remains to be seen. The royal court has however confirmed that she will be a working royal even though she will live in Wales for the next five years while Prince William carries out his duties as a search and rescue pilot with the RAF.
There have also been unconfirmed media reports that the Countess of Wessex, the most experienced of the Queen’s two daughters-in-law, has been asked to be some sort of mentor as Kate Middleton learns the ropes of her future royal role. (The Norwegian tabloid VG today writes that Prince William’s aunt Sophie will share this task with Prince Edward’s wife, the Countess of Wessex – the journalist has obviously not understood that Sophie and the Countess of Wessex happen to be the same person).