The reason why surprisingly late invitations to the Royal Wedding were sent out to the postman, butcher, publican and newsagent of the village of Bucklebury can now be revealed. Local characters from the village where Kate Middleton's family live have been drafted in to replace a number of Arab dignitaries who, in the words of a Foreign Office insider, have been "quietly stood down".
The problem came to light when it was noticed that an old friend of Prince Andrew's, Saif Gaddafi, was on the invitation list, as were a number of "problematic" Arab potentates whose countries are in a state of unrest.
"A handful of sheikhs have been uninvited," a Palace insider has admitted. "The Government is on a charm offensive in the Arab world at the moment, and it was thought a wedding invitation would grease the wheels of diplomacy. Recent events caused us to change our position." It was the feet-on-the-ground Prince William who turned a negative into a positive. As part of the campaign to promote Kate Middleton as Princess Ordinary, prominent locals from Bucklebury would be invited to "the People's Wedding".
There was some concern that, since the seating plan had been finalised, certain anomalies might occur in the Abbey. The King and Queen of Jordan would find themselves beside local postman Ryan Naylor, while Chan and Hash Shingadia of Peaches Store would be in the party of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai.
An urgent reshuffle has ensured that locals will be among their own kind at the back of the congregation.
I understand that discreet enquiries are being made by Prince William's private staff as to the most effective hair restoration treatment currently available. The no-nonsense Prince is said to be relaxed about his rapidly thinning locks, but palace marketing advisers have pointed out that bald royals (Prince Philip, Prince Charles, the Duke of Kent) tend to be regarded as "cranky" by the general public, and are taken less seriously than those with a full head of hair.
"It's no big deal," a senior courtier tells me. "The royals are in the image business like anybody else. It's important that our future king – who's every inch a modern royal, by the way – should look the part."