Prince William has won the battle for a spring Royal wedding and will marry Kate Middleton on Friday, April 29 next year, it was announced today.
Clarence House revealed the date – which by coincidence is also St Catherine’s Day – this lunchtime and confirmed the couple will tie the knot in Westminster Abbey.
Officials said the Prince and his bride-to-be, who are ‘over the moon’ about being engaged, are ‘calling the shots’ over the planning of their big day.
In a shock move, the Middletons are set to share the bill with the Royal family to avoid piling the cost on the taxpayer – although the public will still have to cover the multi-million cost of policing.
Britain will celebrate over a four-day weekend and school children still on holiday after Easter a weekend earlier will be able to travel to London to take part in street parties.
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David Cameron and his Cabinet agreed this morning that there will be a special Bank Holiday, while the following Monday is also the first May Day holiday.
The Abbey had been regarded as a certainty for the venue since the Mail published exclusive pictures of Kate leaving there last Wednesday.
The Gothic church has welcomed kings and queens for more than 700 years. It is the final resting place of 17 monarchs and the Queen and the Queen Mother both married there.
For William, it holds painful memories because it was where his mother’s funeral took place in 1997 when he was just 15 but again he has chosen to embrace this legacy rather than avoid it.
His private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton said the couple had chosen the Abbey for its ‘staggering beauty’, 1,000-year Royal history and the intimate feel it maintains despite its size.
But he added: ‘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.
‘For Miss Middleton, the associations she has with the Abbey are quite simply the same as any British person would have for such a glorious and holy place.’
The timing of the wedding has yet to be fixed. In a bizarre twist, it falls on the same date as Adolf Hitler’s macabre marriage to Eva Braun as the Third Reich collapsed.
The Nazi dictator married his long-time mistress deep in the Fuehrer’s bunker below Berlin as the Russians closed in and the pair committed suicide together the next day.
William and Kate are said to be planning a ‘very traditional’ ceremony to show Britain ‘at its best’ and intend to have as many people as possible inside the Abbey.
WHO IS ST CATHERINE OF SIENA?
The royal wedding is to take place on April 29, the feast day of St Catherine of Siena, who has been an inspiration to countless people over more than 600 years and is widely regarded as having helped to further the Christian ideal.
Catherine Benincasa was born in the Italian city on March 25, 1347, the youngest of 25 children. Her father Giacomo was a prosperous wool dyer.
At the age of six she had a remarkable experience which shaped the rest of her life. While walking with her brother she stopped still in the road, gazing up into the sky. She believed she had seen a vision of Christ, seated in glory with the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John, and a year later made a secret vow to give her life to God.
She rejected suggestions of marriage, and her father, displeased at first, came to realise that he would not change her mind as she took up a life of prayer and fasting.
She was allowed to assume the black habit of a Dominican tertiary, which was usually granted only to matrons or widows, and volunteered to nurse the sick in the city hospitals, helping fight the ravages of plague.
Her deeds of mercy, coupled with a growing reputation as a worker of miracles, caused the Sienese to turn to Catherine in all kinds of difficulties, and she became involved in seeking to heal the factionalism at the head of the Church, prevailing on Pope Gregory XI to move the Papacy back to Rome from Avignon in 1377.
Later she also strove to end the ‘Great Schism’ which followed the Pope’s death, with Western Christendom temporarily divided.
For Catherine, though, her life was nearing its close, at the age of 33. On April 21, 1380, a paralytic stroke made her helpless from the waist downwards, and she died eight days later.
Pope Pius II canonised her in 1461.
Her talents as a writer caused her to be compared with her countrymen, Dante and Petrarch. She wrote the treatise A Dialogue and some 400 letters, many of them of great literary beauty.
They are also keen to have a street party atmosphere outside in Parliament Square and the surrounding streets to allow the public to celebrate with them.
Officials have been given the all clear to invite heads of state to the ceremony, meaning the likes of Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy could attend.
The Royal household has been in deadlock over the timing of the ceremony for seven days, with courtiers struggling to secure an agreement.
Officials had wanted a summer ceremony to ensure good weather but William, 28, is understood to have insisted on a spring wedding.
Aides had argued that a deluge of rain at an event likely to draw the biggest TV audience in history would only cement the image of ‘rainy Blighty’ in the mind of potential tourists.
The date is also a blow for the Liberal Democrats who fear it will eclipse the referendum on the electoral system the following week.
They were hoping for a wedding in mid-May instead, after the May 5 poll which was promised by the Tories as part of the coalition agreement.
Courtiers wanted to confirm the wedding date today to avoid a five-day state visit to the Gulf by the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Andrew starting tomorrow being overshadowed.
Kate and William made up their minds on Friday but deliberations have been protracted because a long list of mandarins all have to be allowed their say.
Mr Lowther-Pinkerton, who has been leading the planning on William’s behalf, said everyone including the Prince and Kate were mindful of ‘the current economic situation’.
‘To that end the Royal family and the Middleton family will pay for the wedding,’ he revealed during a Palace briefing this morning.
The move follows the precedent set by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s wedding in 1947 and Charles and Diana’s nuptials in 1981.
William and Kate are ‘calling the shots’ in planning the wedding but have a ‘rather large supporting cast’, Mr Lowther-Pinkerton said.
‘We know that the world will be watching on April 29, and the couple are very, very keen indeed that the spectacle should be a classic example of what Britain does best.’
They are both ‘mindful’ of wider issues like the economy and soldiers’ commitments and William has already insisted only troops on ceremonial duty should be involved in the event.
Pomp: Prince Andrew and Fergie outside the Abbey in 1986 and (right) Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947
Mr Lowther-Pinkerton also spoke of how excited the couple are to finally be engaged after their marathon, eight -year courtship.
‘I’ve never seen two happier people, which is absolutely fabulous to work in that sort of environment,’ he said.
‘They’re on Cloud Nine, like any other newly-engaged couple. They’re now getting stuck into organising their wedding.
They are very much in charge of the arrangements for the big day. They’re giving us and the Household office very firm direction indeed.’
Mr Cameron welcomed the announcement of the date, saying: ‘The wedding of Kate and William will be a happy and momentous occasion.
‘We want to mark the day as one of national celebration – a public holiday will ensure the most people possible will have a chance to celebrate on the day.
‘The costs of the wedding itself will be met by the Royal Household, with Government meeting any wider security or transport related costs.’
The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said: ‘We are very pleased they have chosen Westminster Abbey for their marriage and look forward to the detailed planning for what will be a great and happy occasion for the couple themselves, for their families and friends, for the country and Commonwealth and for well-wishers across the globe.’
Who had a say over the date of the royal wedding?
Her aides had to check the timing was suitable – for example it could not fall in the Easter and Lent period or clash with state visits in the UK or abroad. William has insisted the plans are handled by his team rather than Buckingham Palace, leading the Queen to joke she has ‘no idea’ what is going on.
William’s father is expected to foot the bill for much of the wedding, and holds a lot of sway. He has made it clear he expects his former valet Michael Fawcett, who organised his wedding to Camilla, to be involved.
The Lord Chamberlain – the most senior official in the Royal Household – has an office responsible for planning royal ceremonial events from garden parties to investitures and weddings. Headed by the Comptroller, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Ford, it will oversee all aspects of the day.
Michael and Carole Middleton
Kate’s parents obviously had a say – but after waiting for this day for seven years they are unlikely to have let other engagements get in the way and are said to be ‘very flexible’.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg
Civil servants will have gone through the Government’s political diary, but Downing Street had insisted there would be no political interference from the Prime Minister’s aides. The Liberal Democrats fear a late-April wedding could eclipse their cherished referendum on electoral reform on May 5. The Scottish Parliament has also been consulted.
The Leader of the Opposition will have been invited to highlight potential clashes in discussions with the Palace, but the Labour Party stressed the final decision is William and Kate’s.
Dr Rowan Williams
The Archbishop of Canterbury is widely expected to pronounce William and Kate man and wife at Westminster Abbey, the venue they are understood to have chosen. A spokesman declined to comment.
Dr John Hall
The Dean of Westminster governs the Abbey and answers to the Queen. As the most senior clergyman there, he showed Kate Middleton around when she requested a secret visit the day after announcing her engagement.
Sir Stephen Lamport
The Receiver General of Westminster Abbey is responsible for logistics. As a former private secretary to Prince Charles, he is ideally placed to go between the church and Palace, and helped to show Kate around on Wednesday last week.
Sir Paul Stephenson
As Commissioner of the Met Police, he will oversee plans for the vast police operation on the day, and counter-terrorism in the lead up to it. Several police departments – including the Mounted Branch responsible for topping and tailing royal processions and marshalling tourists – will be involved.
Officials held a meeting with St James’s Palace yesterday. William’s RAF colleagues may organise a helicopter fly-past on his wedding day. No formal request has yet been made but an MoD spokesman said they were ‘standing by’.
Heads of State
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are said to be keen to attend the wedding. Their diary dates will be communicated to the Government, it is thought. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla could also be invited.