Talbot Church: The ultimate guide, by the man the Royals trust

There will, in effect, be two royal weddings on Friday. The pomp and grandeur of a very public ceremony will be watched by billions across the world. But what will be going on privately behind the scenes? Our veteran court correspondent who has covered all the great royal occasions of recent years offers a true insider's view of what will be an unforgettable day
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The Independent Online

Princess Diana's ring was not the only one Wills gave Kate

Friends of the Middleton family have revealed that, away from the cameras, the Romeo prince gave his bride-to-be a second, secret engagement present – a simple gold ring bearing an inscription on the inside which reads "MDPO".

Royal sources have refused to confirm or deny that the letters stand for "My Darling Princess Ordinary".

Chelsea Pensioners will receive a traditional wedding gift

It is a custom within the royal family for the manure left by horses drawing the royal carriages from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace to be collected and donated to Chelsea Pensioners.

"It may seem an odd wedding present," a courtier tells me, "but royal wedding manure is said to have a very special quality."

The gift will be delivered to the garden of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, on Friday evening.

There will be no problems of "nerves" for the royal couple

Seasoned Palace-watchers know that, while the radiance of the happy couple on Friday will be genuine, some small assistance will have been provided by the royal medicine cupboard.

For some time now, the Queen has sworn by what she calls "my marvellous blue pills" to keep up her energy levels on demanding occasions.

"The pills are not drugs as such, but a simple pick-me-up," reassures a senior equerry.

"As long as they are not taken too regularly, they do no harm whatsoever. Her Majesty is a different person when she has taken one."

Level-headed Prince William is said to be a late convert to the pills, having been persuaded by his brother Harry to give them a "trial run" on his stag party.

Royal lookalike will ease pressure on the new princess

After the wedding, there are plans by palace insiders to make the life of our newest royal easier than that of her immediate predecessors.

"Kate projects the perfect image," a courtier tells me. "Unlike Diana and Sarah Ferguson, she has not given too much of herself to the public. Her absence of obvious 'personality' has turned out to be an advantage."

Now, in order to maintain a healthy distance between Princess Kate and the people, the Palace plans to put into effect an arrangement which worked well over many years for the Queen Mother.

At certain events, when spectators are not too close at hand, a lookalike will stand in for the royal guest. The replacement, who in the case of the Queen Mother was a racehorse trainer's wife who bore a striking resemblance to the much-loved royal, plays the part – to the benefit of everyone concerned.

A Princess Kate lookalike has been found, I am told, but will not be used during the forthcoming royal tour of Canada. A less important engagement later in the year, probably in Northern Ireland, has been earmarked for the substitute's debut.

Westminster Abbey will be a no-Twitter zone

The same technology favoured by China to block dissident online activity will be used around Westminster Abbey on Friday to prevent tweeting during the ceremony.

One of the side-effects of inviting ordinary members of the public, it is feared, will be that those not used to state occasions will be tempted to text and tweet, disrupting the service with ring-tones and other inappropriate digital noises.

The Poet Laureate will mark the occasion with a new poem

Rumoured to be reluctant to pen verses for the wedding of the decade, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is said to have relented. Friends of the controversial poet promise that her poem, called Rings, will celebrate the big day but in the poet's own style. Its opening lines memorably set the scene:


A ring

Once worn by his mam.

Quite a sparkler, but blue too


Blue too? Who? Royal blue?

Just a ring,

My love."

The astrological portents for the royal couple are outstanding

The combination of Cancer (Prince William) and Capricorn (Kate Middleton) has been greeted as "exceptionally positive" by some top astrologists.

"The combination of an earth and water sign means that it will be a fruitful and happy marriage," an expert has commented.

"It could be a little bit stormy in 2013, though luckily both will have a Taurus Moon which should help."

Other celebrity marriages blessed by the same star signs include those of Jonathan Ross and Jane Goldman, Bruce and Scialfa Springsteen, and Lord and Lady Prescott.

State schools will be represented at the wedding

At the insistence of feet-on-the-ground Kate, one of the bridesmaids and page-boys following the couple down the aisle will have been educated at a state-run nursery school.

"Kate feels very strongly about equal opportunity and feels this would be a good way of making it statement about it," a family friend tells me.

The identity of the child will remain a royal secret.

Newsreader rises to the challenge

Those who assumed that David "Lord" Dimbleby would be the main wedding commentator for the BBC underestimated the ferocious ambition of newsreader Huw Edwards. It is rumoured that BBC chiefs decided that Dimbleby was "too 20th century" for the occasion and would "turn off" younger viewers.

Since landing the job, Edwards is said to have been attending lessons with a voice coach. "Huw's great, but he can sound just a bit whiney sometimes," reveals a BBC insider. "He's working on making his voice more weighty, and is improving his pronunciation of foreign names."

The wedding will be the first event for over 50 years at which there will be no commentary from a member of the Dimbleby family.