London — Pomp and circumstance — what “Britain does best” — will rule the day when Prince William and Kate Middleton get married April 29 at Westminster Abbey.
The young couple on Tuesday rejected the notion that austere times will force them to pare down the royal festivities. The church itself is free, at least.
William and Kate ended days of suspense by choosing the abbey, a grand venue where members of the House of Windsor have been crowned, married, mourned and buried. The abbey was also the site of the funeral for William’s beloved mother, Princess Diana.
Palace officials said the two were on “cloud nine” with their wedding choice and want the nation to share their joy.
“We know that the world will be watching on the 29th of April, and the couple are very, very keen indeed that the spectacle should be a classic example of what Britain does best,” said William’s private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton.
William and Kate chose the centuries-old abbey in central London because despite its size — it holds 2,200 people — it has a sense of intimacy, particularly at the altar, which stands at the head of a smaller, partly enclosed space called the sanctuary.
The date — after Lent and Easter but before the 90th birthday of William’s grandfather, Prince Philip — allows the pair to have a spring wedding. It also is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, whose name Middleton shares.
Best of all for Brits, the day, a Friday, will be a public holiday.
St. James’ Palace, the offices of Princes William and Harry, stressed that the Middletons and the royal family would pick up the bill for the wedding — the flowers, the reception, the honeymoon — everything apart from security and transport costs. The couple say they are mindful of the country’s tough times.
Much public money already flows to Britain’s royal family. Taxpayers sent the royal household $60 million last year, and the queen also receives $12.5 million each year to pay for staff and other costs.
However, the family earns millions a year from its vast land and property portfolios. Prince Charles’ large estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, earned him $29 million last year. The royal family pays millions in tax on its earnings.
But while all parties involved in the wedding want to ensure that a balance is struck between an enjoyable day and current budget woes, analysts such as Patrick Jephson, longtime private secretary to the late Princess Diana, say the austerity argument “doesn’t cut it.”
“This is a future king and a future queen, this is the most famous young royal in the world, and it will indubitably be compared to his mother’s wedding. So for all these reasons, the palace won’t want to be seen as downgrading it,” Jephson said.