Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton are to marry on April 29 at Westminster Abbey, the historic London church where the funeral of his mother Diana was held in 1997, royal officials said Tuesday.
Downing Street announced that there would be a special public holiday on the day, perhaps the biggest royal event in Britain since the ill-fated union of William’s parents Prince Charles and Diana nearly three decades ago.
“The venue has long associations with the royal family — it is in many ways the royal family’s church — and of course with Prince William personally,” said Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, private secretary to the prince.
The imposing gothic abbey has been the British monarchy’s coronation church for centuries. Queen Elizabeth II also married Prince Philip at the abbey in 1947.
The date and venue were revealed just under a week after the second-in-line to the throne officially revealed his engagement, capping a romance that began at St Andrews University in Scotland nearly eight years earlier.
In what the prince said was a way of giving a posthumous role to his mother who died in a car crash in Paris 13 years ago, he also revealed that he had given Kate his mother’s diamond and sapphire engagement ring.
The wedding has given Britain a boost as it battens down the economic hatches ahead of harsh budget cuts aimed at cutting the country’s huge deficit, and with its armed forces mired in a tenth year of war in Afghanistan.
Mindful of the economic circumstances, Lowther-Pinkerton said the costs of the wedding would be paid for by the royal family and Middleton’s parents.
“All parties involved in the wedding, not least Prince William and Miss Middleton, want to ensure that a balance is struck between an enjoyable day and the current economic situation,” he said.
“To that end the royal family and the Middleton family will pay for the wedding.”
The announcement has sparked calls for William and Kate to ascend directly to the throne — leapfrogging his less popular father Prince Charles and his second wife Camilla a constitutionally problematic arrangement.
Four newspaper polls at the weekend showed that a majority of Britons would like to see him become king when Queen Elizabeth II dies and thought that he would be a better monarch than the 62-year-old Charles.
Amid an outpouring of national mourning in Britain after her death, Diana’s funeral was held at Westminster Abbey, with pictures of William and his younger brother Harry sadly watching her coffin beamed around the world.
The shadow of Diana, her famously unhappy marriage and her ceaseless pursuit by the media — photographers were chasing her at the time of her death — has hung over her son and his relationship with Kate from the beginning.
William has reportedly taken steps to prepare his fiancee to deal with the glare of the media, as well as with the the formality of royal life which Kate at a press conference last week admitted were “quite daunting.”
The then-Lady Diana Spencer married William’s father Prince Charles at St Paul’s Cathedral in July 1981 in a ceremony that drew hundreds of thousands of people into the streets.
But they divorced in 1996 amid admissions of adultery on both sides — in Charles’ case with Camilla.
Public support for the wedding has, however, not extended into a desire for it to receive public funding, with a poll at the weekend found that 82 percent of people said the royals should cover the cost of the event.