With an estimated two and a half billion tuning in to see Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot tomorrow, it’s fair to say that the world will be watching. Suzanne Byrne previews what is undoubtedly going to be one of the biggest TV events of the decade.
Tissues at the ready? There’s nothing like a wedding to get the tears flowing – and by all accounts, the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton are going to be a right royal knees-up. But why are we interested in this particular royal couple? Could it be an enchantment with the tale of the ‘commoner’ girlfriend who has waited over eight years for her man to pop the question?
Perhaps we are enamoured of this young, handsome groom, a Disney-style Prince Charming, who is well educated, charitable, respectful to his family, a good brother and friend, but also, it seems, up for the craic. Whatever the reason, their wedding will have a huge global audience captivated for a couple of hours tomorrow. The pressure is on for it to be both a magnificent event and a showcase for 21st-Century aristocracy. So, wedding watchers make sure you have the popcorn popped and a comfy spot on the couch – this is one TV event you do not want to miss.
Name: His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
Date of birth: June 21, 1982
If anyone has a fairytale life, then it’s Prince William. The first-born son of Princess Diana, he is second in line to the throne, after his father Prince Charles, making it almost a certainty that one day he will be a king. In 1997, when William was 15 and his younger brother Harry was 12, his life took a tragic turn. His mother was killed in a car crash as she was being chased by the paparazzi through a tunnel in Paris. William has since matured into an accomplished Prince Charming. As well as extensive military, naval and air force training, William was educated in four different schools and obtained a degree in art history and geography from St Andrew’s College, where he met his future wife over eight years ago. Since announcing their engagement on November 16, 2010, William has been busy planning his wedding, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing his duties as a public figure and an officer in the RAF.
Name: Catherine (Kate) Middleton
Date of birth: January 9, 1982
With her quiet grace and stylish elegance, the British media have had no hesitation in declaring ‘commoner’ Kate Middleton to be Prince William’s ‘natural choice’ as his princess bride-to-be. The enchanting brunette may not have blue blood, but she does come from a privileged background. Her father is a self-made millionaire and she attended the prestigious boarding school, Marlborough College. After excelling at field hockey and cross-country running, Middleton studied art history at St Andrews University in Scotland, where she took William off the marriage market in 2002.
Prince William popped the question last October by a lake next to the slopes of Africa's second-highest peak, Mount Kenya. Only accessible by helicopter, the RAF pilot flew his bride-to-be to the lakeside, where he surprised Kate with his mother’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring, which he had carried around Africa in his rucksack for three weeks. “It was very romantic”, said Kate, when the couple announced the news. “There's a true romantic in there.” The Prince said he had been working up the courage to ask Kate for her hand in marriage before they went away. He said: “I'd been planning it for a while but as any guy out there will know, it takes a certain amount of motivation to get yourself going. I was planning it and then it just felt really right out in Africa. It was beautiful at the time.”
The stag party
When Prince Harry was given the job as best man, many thought the party would involve downing cocktails at a string of top London nightclubs. Instead, a weekend of water sports was planned in Devon, but when the press got wind of the festivities they switched to a secret location in Norfolk. How they celebrated remains a closely guarded secret.
The hen night
Organised by her younger sister, Pippa, who will be maid of honour, Kate’s hen party took place at a friend’s home. It was never going to be a raucous affair for the future princess, who is very careful about her public profile, but reports have said the ladies enjoyed a Dirty Dancing themed evening.
The wedding day
The Archbishop of Canterbury is to marry Prince William and Kate at Westminster Abbey on Friday, April 29 at 11am in front of 1,900 guests. Kate will arrive to the church by car, but after the ceremony the newlyweds will make their way to Buckingham Palace in a glass carriage, where the queen will host a wedding breakfast for 600 guests, including heads of states, family and a select number of the bride and groom’s friends. A variety of hot and cold canapés will be served, each specially selected by the Prince and Kate – the chefs are preparing 10,000 to make sure no one goes hungry! The couple are also expected to make an appearance on the palace balcony, where it is thought they will recreate the famous kiss that Charles and Diana shared on their big day in 1981. That evening, Prince Charles will host a lavish dinner for 300 guests, followed by reported ’80s-themed disco. William is thought to have asked for this, as his mother was a big fan of Duran Duran, Abba, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club.
The guest list
Celebrities such as Victoria and David Beckham, Elton John, Guy Ritchie and Rowan Atkinson will be mingling with dignitaries from around the world, including 40 members of foreign royal families. The Obamas are not on the list, but our own Brian O’Driscoll and wife Amy Huberman, were invited to the nuptials, but had to decline the invite as O’Driscoll will be playing with Leinster in the Heineken Cup semi-final on the same weekend against Toulouse.
If rumours circulating in the fashion world are to be believed, Kate has ordered three wedding dresses, to make sure no one can guess what she will be wearing before she comes down the aisle. Names that have already been touted in connection with the fashion commission of the century include Bruce Oldfield (a favourite designer of Princess Diana), Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen and Jasper Conran.
For her, a band made from Welsh gold already owned by the royal family. For him . . . a bare ring finger! According to senior royal sources, the Prince discussed the issue with his fiancée and has decided to eschew the tradition. “It is simply down to personal preference”, their aide said.
Fiona Cairns has been commissioned to create a multi-tiered traditional fruitcake with cream and white icing, lavishly decorated with flowers. William and Kate are fans of her fruitcakes, Paul McCartney orders one for Christmas every year and she has also baked creations for Pink Floyd and Simply Red in the past.
Since 1960, newlywed royals have enjoyed a cruise on the Queen’s yacht Britannia, but it was last used as a honeymoon vessel by the Duke and Duchess of York in 1986 and was decommissioned in 1997. William and Kate hope to spend part of their honeymoon at Balmoral, where they have a bolt hole since their St Andrews days. However, the Prince wants to treat his new wife to a romantic break abroad and has instructed aides to consult with the Foreign Office about the possibility of stretching the budget, dropping strong hints that Australia could be on the cards.