The Royal Wedding: Trees, tiaras and trestle tables

'The Independent' has a proud tradition of covering royal matters less slavishly than its rivals. We have loosened up a bit since our early days, when the 1988 birth of the Duke and Duchess of York's first child was marked with a single grudging sentence in the News In Brief column.

Thursday 28 April 2011 00:00

But we still don't like to get carried away, and, as a result, our readers might justifiably fear that they have been less comprehensively briefed on the minutiae of tomorrow's royal nuptials than readers of some other papers. Fear no more. This randomly arranged selection of wedding-related facts, compiled by Richard Askwith, tells you all you need to know (and quite a lot that you don't) about what some (but no means all) are calling the most romantic day of the 21st century

* At 11am tomorrow, 66 years to the day after Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker, Prince William of Wales, 28, geography graduate, water polo player, helicopter pilot and second in line to the throne, will marry Catherine Middleton, 29, history of art graduate, former fashion buyer and millionaire's daughter, in Westminster Abbey.

* Begun by Benedictine monks in the 10th century, the Abbey was consecrated by Edward the Confessor in 1065, a week before he died. His own 20-year marriage, to Edith of Wessex, is widely held to have remained unconsummated.

* The groom will arrive at the Abbey at 10.15am. Most of the 1,900 guests will already be in their seats, with 8.15-9.45am designated as the period for arrival. Only the royals – foreign and British – and the bride's family are supposed to arrive later. (Lavatories are situated near Poets' Corner.) The bride herself should arrive at 11am. She has allowed herself nine minutes for the drive from the Goring hotel in Victoria. The car will be the same Rolls-Royce Phantom VI in which the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were attacked by protesters during last December's student fees protests in London.

* The Goring hotel has been block-booked for tonight by the Middleton family. The bride will stay in a five-room suite – reported to cost £5,000 a night to ordinary guests – whose attractions include a waterproof television and an original Thomas Crapper lavatory.

* Up to 800,000 people are expected to line London's streets tomorrow morning. They will include: John Loughrey, 56, who has been camping outside Westminster Abbey since Monday; 5,000 policemen; about 8,000 foreign journalists; and more than 1,000 British television workers, including 850 providing live coverage for the BBC.

* Most channels will begin their coverage five hours before the service begins.

* The BBC's coverage will be anchored by Huw Edwards, Fiona Bruce and Sophie Raworth (with major contributions from Fearne Cotton, Chris Hollins, Anita Rani and others); ITV's by Julie Etchingham and Phillip Schofield (with Alastair Stewart and Mary Nightingale prominent at street level). Sky's coverage will be presented by Eamonn Holmes, with Adam Boulton attempting to buttonhole guests at the Abbey doors. Radio 4's Edward Stourton, sacked from the Today programme for being too posh, will be the only reporter actually inside the Abbey.

* Following complaints about "fawning" coverage from the anti-monarchy group Republic, the BBC agreed to ensure its coverage of tomorrow's events is relatively detached. But foreign broadcasters using BBC footage are banned from using it for comic or satirical purposes.

* Television coverage inside the Abbey will be overseen by Diccon Ramsay, stage manager of The X Factor.

* The global television audience for the event is expected to touch 2 billion, with another 400 million watching online or listening to the radio. The Prince of Wales's marriage to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 was seen by a mere 750 million viewers. In 1923, meanwhile, the BBC was refused permission for a radio broadcast of the wedding of the future George VI to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, on the grounds that it might be heard by disrespectful types "sitting in public houses with their hats on".

* The first royal wedding to be televised live came when Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. But television audiences did not witness an exchange of vows until 21 years later, when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer.

* Only around 800 of the guests at tomorrow's service will have a clear view of the proceedings – and some of them may have their view partially obscured by the potted trees (six English field maples and two hornbeams) which will line the aisle.

* Most of the guests are invited only to the service, after which they will have to make their own over-dressed way home through London's overcrowded and overexcited streets. A select 600 will attend a lunch-time reception (with 10,000 canapés) at Buckingham Palace; and an even more select 300 will attend an evening dinner hosted by the Prince of Wales.

* The cost of postage for the wedding invitations was £874.

* It will take the bride about four minutes to walk down the aisle.

* Westminster Abbey's bells will, between them, peal 5,000 times in the course of tomorrow morning.

* The wedding will be marked across the UK by around 5,500 street parties: 298 of them in Hertfordshire, 85 in Richmond upon Thames – and none in Glasgow. Up to 500,000 people are expected to attend such parties, and, according to one estimate, around 2.5 million cocktail sausages and 700 miles of bunting will be used. Beer consumption is likely to be up by 100 million pints.

* The event is expected to provide a boost to domestic spending of between £400m and £620m. But the cost to the economy of an extra bank holiday has been estimated at up to £2.9bn.

* According to Moneysupermarket. com, the average person in the UK will spend £29 on activities related to tomorrow's wedding.

* The average British couple spends £21,000 on their wedding.

* Weather forecasters predict heavy showers for tomorrow's ceremony. But any weather problems will be negligible compared with those faced by Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, who married in York Minster in 1328. The minster was unfinished at the time, and there was no roof to protect the nave – or the couple – from a violent snowstorm.

* The use of Westminster Abbey for royal weddings – as opposed to coronations or funerals – is a relatively recent phenomenon. William and Kate are the ninth royal couple to marry there since Princess Patricia of Connaught and Alexander Ramsay did so in 1919. Before that, you have to go back to 1382, when Richard II married Anne of Bohemia, to find a comparable occasion. (And that wasn't a happy precedent: Anne died childless 12 years later, while Richard was murdered in 1400.)

* The first royal wedding to take place in the Abbey was that of Henry I, to Matilda of Scotland (real name Edith), on 11 November 1100 (11/11/1100). The last was that between Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986. They divorced after 10 years – three of the last four royal weddings to take place in Westminster Abbey have ended in divorce – and the controversial duchess has not been invited to tomorrow's nuptials. "Not since the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, has the British royal family shown such callousness towards a former member," opined CNN.

* Other non-attendees include: Lily Allen ("You can quote me as 'outraged': why does Joss Stone get an invite and not moi?"); former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (sorry, darlings, you're not Knights of the Garter); the King of Cambodia (presumably – he hasn't replied); Ireland rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll (invited but too busy preparing for a Heineken Cup match on Saturday); and the Crown Prince of Bahrain (invited but too busy suppressing internal dissent).

* Those who have been invited include: David and Victoria Beckham; Guy Ritchie (a distant relation of the bride); Sir Elton John; Rowan Atkinson; Gary Goldsmith, Kate's inventively tattooed uncle; Tara Palmer-Tomkinson (with new nose); 27 members of Prince William's search-and-rescue team at RAF Valley in Anglesey; more than 40 foreign royals (including Prince Albert of Monaco, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, the Sultans of Oman and Brunei and – health and rebellions permitting – Prince Mohamed bin Nawaf bin Abul Aziz of Saudi Arabia andKing Mswati of Swaziland); around 200 members of government, Parliament and the diplomatic corps (including David Cameron and Ed Miliband, both now expected to wear morning dress); around 60 Commonwealth Governors-General and Realm Prime Ministers; more than 100 ambassadors (including North Korea's Ja Song-nam); and at least six people who are reported to be the exes of either the bride or the groom (including Rose Farquhar, Rupert Finch and Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe).

* Another guest, the socially immobile Nick Clegg, is very familiar with Westminster Abbey. It used to be his school chapel when he was a pupil at the exclusive Westminster School. Boys who were late for chapel were made to run 10 times round the green in Dean's Yard as a punishment.

* Unlike Ed Miliband – who marries long-term partner Justine Thornton four weeks tomorrow – Prince William has a best man, and has chosen his brother to fill the role. Prince Harry has promised to "take the mickey" in his speech and to "tell a few stories" – with the caveat that "I think my grandmother will be there, so I'll have to be selective."

* Bookmakers are offering odds of 25-1 against Prince Harry being too drunk to finish his speech.

* The allegedly rumbustious prince might do well to heed the example of Harthacnut, the Anglo-Saxon king of England who preceded Edward the Confessor. He died young in 1042 after drinking too much at a wedding in Lambeth.

* Wedding related bets recently on offer: Queen to wear a yellow hat: 5-4 (Victor Chandler); someone to drop the wedding ring : 4-1 (William Hill); James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" to be the first dance of the evening: 5-1 (Victor Chandler); the Duke of Edinburgh to be caught on camera sleeping during the service: 8-1 (William Hill); the bride garbling the groom's name in her vows: 20-1 (Ladbrokes); Sarah Ferguson to catch the bride's bouquet: 20-1 (SkyBet); William to be left at the altar: 100-1 (William Hill, Ladrokes). Betting has been suspended on "Kate to wear Queen's Russian fringe tiara" after a Berkshire punter placed £6,000 on that eventuality at 12-1 at Ladbrokes.

* Both halves of the royal couple held their stag/hen parties last month, and managed to maintain almost complete privacy from the media. Even The Sun – which winkled out the information that the prince's Devon stag do was "boozy", that the groom-to-be "was made to wear a chest wig" and that guests included Guy Pelly, Thomas van Straubenzee and Tom "Skippy" Inskip – was forced to concede that the event was "relatively tame".

* Not every royal pre-wedding celebration runs so smoothly. Two nights before the current Queen's wedding in 1947, her parents gave a dance at Buckingham Palace that threatened to get out of hand. King George led a conga through the state rooms, while an Indian rajah got drunk and attacked the Duke of Devonshire.

* Like tomorrow's wedding, that of the then Princess Elizabeth took place against a background of economic gloom, and some wondered about the propriety of an extravagant wedding in a nation still subject to rationing. But the ruling classes concluded that raising the nation's spirits mattered more than absolute adherence to "all-in-it-together" austerity. Winston Churchill described the wedding as "a flash of colour on the hard road we have to travel." The dress alone cost £1,200, as well as requiring 3,000 clothing coupons, 10,000 small pearls and the output of 3 million Hertfordshire-based silk worms. But the public was won over. When the dress went on display, the queues stretched the length of The Mall.

* That 1947 wedding was the first for which the royal couple was allowed to accept wedding presents from people they did not know. The impoverished public bombarded the couple with nylon stockings and knitted tea-cosies (as well as a cotton shawl woven by Mahatma Gandhi, and a turkey). Tomorrow's couple have asked for donations in lieu of wedding presents, to the Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund, which supports 26 charities in such areas as conservation; help and care at home; changing lives through art and sport; children fulfilling their potential; support for services personnel and their families.

* Other royal marriages have prompted more lavish gifts. When King Solomon married the daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh, the bride's father conquered and sacked the Canaanite town of Gezer, killed all its inhabitants and gave it to Solomon as a wedding present.

* In 1973, the Cabinet contributed £10.53 each towards a wedding present – a rug – for Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.

* Our current Queen enjoyed herself so much on her wedding day that she wrote to her mother from her honeymoon to apologise: "I was so happy and enjoying myself so much that I became completely selfish and forgot about your feelings or anyone else's!"

* After their wedding reception, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were taken to Waterloo in an open landau. The future Queen's going-away outfit (designed, like her wedding dress, by Norman Hartnell) provided little protection against the evening cold, so several hot-water bottles and a corgi were concealed under a rug to keep her warm.

* Prince William and his bride are considered less hardy. If the weather is bad, they will be taken from the Abbey not in the landau, as originally planned, but in the Glass Coach.

Crowds lining the couple's one-and-a-half mile route to Buckingham Palace are expected to leave 140 tons of rubbish.

* Guests at the palace reception will drink Pol Roger champagne and £8.50-a-bottle Chapel Down white from Tenterden in Kent.

* Not every royal wedding is so frugal. When Prince Arthur, elder brother of the future Henry VIII, married Catherine of Aragon in 1501, bride and groom both wore robes of cloth of gold, and the celebrations (including masked balls and frequent jousting) lasted for a fortnight.

* Arthur died before he could succeed to the throne, and Henry's marital record, starting with his brother's widow, was patchy. This might explain the subsequent tendency – lasting some three centuries – for British royals to hold their weddings in privacy, in royal chapels. European monarchs showed no such reticence. When Henri IV, the king of France, married Marie de' Medici in Florence in 1600, the extravagance passed immediately into legend. Bernardo Buontalenti, sculptor and architect, was recruited to mastermind the festivities, which included a magnificent cathedral service and a 50-course banquet at the Palazzo Vecchio where sherbets of milk and honey were served and live songbirds were wrapped in guests' napkins. This famous Medici wedding should not be confused with the 1589 extravaganza, painted by Rubens, between Fernando de' Medici and Christina of Lorraine, at which mock sea battles were staged in a specially flooded Palazzo Pitti.

* The money-is-no-object approach has remained popular with royal families. When Prince Rainier III of Monaco married Grace Kelly in 1956, the entire Monegasque population was invited to the subsequent knees-up. And Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai's 1979 wedding to Sheikha Hind Bint Maktoum involved a month of celebrations, a specially built stadium for 20,000 guests and an estimated bill of $44.5m – enough to feed the entire nation for two years or more. The Sheikh personally visited every village in the country on horseback – a courtesy that seems to have been dispensed with for his subsequent wedding to Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, in 2004, which lasted a mere week.

* It's arguable that the most lavish royal wedding that London has seen since the Second World War had nothing to do with the British royal family. On 1 July 1995, Pavlos, Crown Prince of Greece, married Marie-Chantal Miller – the daughter of an American billionaire – at St Sophia's Cathedral in Bayswater. There were 1,400 guests, the cathedral was hung with 30,000 pink flowers, and the bride's dress (in pearl-encrusted ivory silk) was reported to have cost £150,000. The combined cost of the ceremony and multiple receptions was estimated at $8m.

* Other pricey recent weddings involving non-British royals include the union of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden with Daniel Westling (her former personal trainer) last June, which cost about £1.9m (excluding the replica castle that Ikea built in central Stockholm); and the 2004 nuptials of Prince al-Muhtadee Billah of Brunei and Sarah Pengiran Salleh, which cost an estimated £2.8m.

* But the high-profile approach to royal marriage has its drawbacks. For example: when the future Henri II of France married Catherine de' Medici in 1533, the 14-year-old couple had to consummate their union under the all-night observation of the groom's father, Francis I. They were joined around dawn by the Pope, who was delighted to be reassured by the king that both parties "had shown valour in the joust".

* Queen Victoria's wedding night was a more private affair – or would have been without her journal. Her entry for 10 and 11 February 1840 reveals: "After looking about our rooms for a little while, I went and changed my gown, and then came back to his small sitting room where dearest Albert was sitting and playing; he had put on his windsor coat; he took me on his knee, and kissed me and was so dear and kind . . . He called me names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! . . .

"When day dawned (for we did not sleep much) and I beheld that beautiful angelic face by my side, it was more than I can express! He does look so beautiful in his shirt only . . ."

* How unlike the fourth wedding night of Henry VIII, who married Anne of Cleves in 1540 on the basis of a dodgy Holbein portrait. "I liked her before not well," the king told Thomas Cromwell the next morning, "but now I like her much worse." The marriage was dissolved after six months on the basis of non-consummation.

* Yet Henry was positively besotted compared with the future George IV (then Prince Regent), who in 1795 was forced for reasons of state to abandon his secret Catholic "wife" (Maria Fitzherbert) and marry his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. "I am not well. Get me a glass of brandy!" he said when he first saw her. He married her anyway, on the basis that "one damned German frau is as good as another", but he was blind drunk on his wedding day (and night). The subsequent marriage was as disastrous as one might have expected, and by the time the prince became king in 1820 they had fallen out irretrievably. He barred her from his coronation, and the ceremony was marred by her banging on Westminster Abbey's locked doors, wearing a tiara and demanding to be let in. When Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg married Frederick, Prince of Wales (George II's heir) in 1736, she was so reluctant that she clung to her mother's skirts on the way to the chapel at St James's, crying "Please don't leave me." After the ceremony, she was sick.

* Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, better known to most of us as the most recent Queen Mother, was another nervous bride. "Ma gnikniht oot hcum", she wrote in her diary on the eve of her 1923 wedding to the future George VI – which decodes without too much difficulty as "Am thinking too much" . . .

* Other royal brides have taken a more gung-ho approach. In 1554, Queen Mary married Philip II of Spain, in Winchester Cathedral, just two days after meeting him.

* There's some sense in bridal apprehension. Some royal weddings do indeed go badly – for example, that between Prince Albert Edward (the future Edward VII), and Princess Alexandra in 1863. Queen Victoria attended the ceremony but not the reception: she could not forgive her son for breaking the heart of his late father (also Prince Albert) with his "disgusting" affairs. (Instead, she wrote bleakly in her journal: "I lunched alone.") The service itself, in St George's Chapel, Windsor, was overcrowded, with several Knights of the Garter seeming to trip over one another. And there was an ugly scene when one of the guests, the four-year-old future Kaiser Wilhelm II, threw his decorative "dirk" across the chapel. Reprimanded by the groom's brother, he sank his teeth into the unfortunate prince's leg.

* The custom of the post-wedding wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace was instituted in 1858 by Queen Victoria, who insisted that the royal family go out to acknowledge the cheering crowds following the marriage of her daughter Victoria to the future German Kaiser Frederick III. The cheers were reported to have included the chant: "God save the prince and bride! God keep their lands allied!" The union produced a son, Kaiser Wilhelm II (see previous item), who was Britain's principal enemy in the First World War.

* Crowds greeting the Prince and Princess and Wales's appearance at Buckingham Palace in 1981 expressed a simpler wish: for a public kiss. And so a new balcony tradition was born.

* An official recording of tomorrow's ceremony will be made by Decca Records, whose previous experience of such events includes Charles and Diana in 1981 and Princess Diana's funeral in 1997.

* The royal romance that reaches its notional happy ending tomorrow has been described as a "fairy-tale" in 125 different British newspaper articles since the engagement was announced on 20 November. Nearly 20 per cent of these appeared in either The Daily Telegraph or The Sunday Telegraph.

* Those irritated by the "fairy-tale" conceit should blame the late Robert Runcie, who as Archbishop of Canterbury oversaw the 1981 wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. Their romance, he declared in his address, was "the stuff of which fairy tales are made". The rest, sadly, is history.

* A more measured response to that particular romance was found on the letters page of that day's Times: "Sir, I would like to put on record, in The Times of July 29 1981, one citizen's sense of revulsion and foreboding at the ostentation, the extravagance and the sycophancy surrounding tomorrow's wedding of the heir to the British throne. Yours faithfully, Jan Morris."

* If tomorrow's royal bride subsequently becomes Queen, she will be the arguably be the sixth Queen Catherine in British history. (The "arguably" is necessary because some used different spellings: Catherine of Valois, Catherine of Aragon, Kathryn Howard, Katherine Parr and Catherine of Braganza.) She will also be the first British Queen with a university degree.

* The bride's favourite drinks include Jack Daniels and "Crack Baby"– a cocktail sold at Boujis nightclub in London.

* She is allergic to horses – notwithstanding the prominent role that horses, including nine specially selected police horses from the Grey Escort division, will play in tomorrow's events.

* The costs for security and transport for tomorrow's wedding will be met by the UK Treasury. (A figure of £20m has been quoted.) However, the cost of the wedding itself will be met by the Royal Family and the Middletons. The latter's share of the bill has been estimated at £100,000.

* Both can afford it. The Queen is the world's 12th richest monarch, with a fortune of about $450m, according to Forbes magazine. Kate's parents, Carole and Michael (a former airline stewardess and pilot respectively) have made themselves millionaires through their mail order party supply company, Party Pieces.

* Kate and William are 15th cousins, both being descended from Sir Thomas Fairfax (c1475-1520). But Kate is none the less considered unusual for a royal bride because she is a "commoner" – that is, neither royal nor an aristocrat. In fact, five of the last six royal weddings have involved a commoner: Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960, Mark Phillips in 1973, Sarah Ferguson in 1986, Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999 and Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005. But that 1960 wedding – Princess Margaret's – was considered scandalous at the time: it was only the second time in 200 years that a British royal had married a commoner.

* Perhaps the most notorious royal-on-commoner union was that between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville in 1464 – a clandestine affair that would surely have been the subject of a super-injunction had such things existed then. Widespread knowledge of the union could have had disastrous political repercussions in that in that dynastically-challenged age; and, indeed, the couple's seven surviving children were all declared illegitimate after Edward's death.

* Even more low-profile, however, was William the Conqueror's wedding to Matilda of Flanders. It was so secret that no one knows where or when it took place.

* Tomorrow's wedding is so un-secret that it will be streamed live on YouTube, with a real-time Twitter-feed from Clarence House (and countless other tweeters) and an official Flickr gallery for the photos.

* According to a report by Greenlight, the wedding gets a new mention online every 10 seconds. Positive comments outnumber negative ones by six to one.

* If Kate and William embrace one another half as enthusiastically as they have embraced modern communications, their union will be a happy one. Their engagement was announced (on 16 November last year) via Facebook and Twitter, as well as through a conventional press release. The Queen and the Prince of Wales had been informed only two hours earlier.

* The news was greeted with considerable – but not uniform – Establishment enthusiasm. The Cabinet is reported to have banged the table with delight when the Prime Minister (who as a 14-year-old slept rough in St James's Park to be sure of a good view of Prince Charles's big day) told them of the royal engagement. The Prince of Wales said that he was "thrilled", adding: "They have been practising long enough." The Bishop of Willesden described the couple as "shallow celebrities" and said "I give them seven years." (He was later suspended from his duties.)

* Prince William's private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, has been a key figure in planning the wedding. He is said to be one of Britain's most skilled exponents of the art of flicking peas with a fork.

* As billions of people must know by now, the engagement ring that the prince gave his bride-to-be – an oval blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds, set in white gold – had previously been given to Prince William's mother by the current Prince of Wales. Prince William is reported to have carried the ring around Africa in a rucksack for three weeks before finally proposing in Kenya.

* The bride's mother, Carole Middleton, follows the Dukan Diet weight-loss programme. After she revealed this, it quickly became Britain's best-selling diet book.

* The menus for tomorrow's receptions are a closely guarded secret. Our tip is that lamb will be involved in the evening meal (which is being overseen by Anton Mosimann). But one near certainty is that one of the dishes will have a royalty-themed name. Previous royal wedding meals have included Supremes de saumon Reine Mary (1923), Filet de sole Mountbatten (1947), bombe glacée Princess Elizabeth (1947), Filet de boeuf Princesse (1960), and Princess of Wales chicken (1981).

* The royal wedding-related culinary creation that takes the biscuit must surely be the Marie biscuit, which was invented in 1874 in honour of the marriage of Queen Victoria's second son, Alfred, to the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia.

* Nineteen state rooms will be made available for the Buckingham Palace reception. The walls will be hung with Old Masters, many of them brought up specially from the Royal Collection's vaults.

* For the more exclusive evening bash, 22 of the 300 guests will be Old Etonians.

* Tomorrow's nuptials will have not one but two wedding cakes: one created by the Leicestershire cake-maker Fiona Cairns and the other, made by McVitie's, made from up to 1,700 rich tea biscuits. If you think that sounds piggy, you're out of touch with royal norms. Princess Anne and Mark Phillips had a cake that was 5ft 6in tall – the same height as the bride – while the Duke of York and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon had one that was nearly 9ft. Queen Victoria had several, one of which weighed more than 300lb. And even that was tame compared with the Four-and-Twenty-Blackbirds pie that Henry VIII (still getting into his stride as a bridegroom) allegedly gave to his second wife, Anne Boleyn, in 1533

* It may or may not be a good omen, but a 64-year-old slice of the current Queen's wedding cake was found yesterday in a filing cabinet at the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher.

* Only two designers in the modern era have designed more than one royal wedding dress. Norman Hartnell made them for both Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. Robinson Valentine made two for Camilla Parker Bowles: she wore one for the civil ceremony, and one for the blessing afterwards. (But bear in mind that Robinson Valentine comprises two people, Antonia Robinson and Anna Valentine.)

* Queen Victoria set two crucial royal wedding dress trends when she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. Her dress was white (previous royals favoured blue); and her dress had an 18ft train that required 12 bridesmaids to carry it.

* But the most extravagant royal dress in British history was probably the lace-trimmed silver-tissue creation worn by Princess Charlotte for her marriage to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield in 1816. Valued at £10,000 at the time, it would have been worth about £400,000 at today's prices.

* The poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, will tomorrow publish a 46-line poem , "Rings", about the wedding. Duffy also commissioned wedding-related works from 20 other poets.

* Previous wedding offerings from poets laureate include the following: "Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,/ But all of us Danes in our welcome of thee,/ Alexandra! (Lord Tennyson, for the wedding of Albert Edward, the future Edward VII, to Princess Alexandra, 1863); "Blackbirds in city churchyards hail the dawn/ Charles and Diana on your wedding morn..." (Sir John Betjeman, 1981); "I took your news outdoors, and found the Spring/ Had honoured all its promises to start/ Disclosing how the principles of earth/ Can make a common purpose with the heart." (Andrew Motion, for Charles and Camilla, 2005).

* Other creative responses to the royal romance include William and Kate, a made-for-television movie that was released in the US last week. One fairly representative review (in the Guardian) described it as "so bad it's awful, toe-curlingly, teeth-furringly, pillow-bitingly ghastly". Produced by Lifetime and filmed mostly in Los Angeles, the film stars Camilla Luddington as Kate, Nico Evers-Swindell as William, Ben Cross (star of Chariots of Fire) as the Prince of Wales and Serena Scott Thomas (sister of Kristin) as Kate's mother, Carole. Serena also appeared in the 1993 film, Diana: Her True Story.

* In an ICM opinion poll last week, just 37 per cent of those questioned described themselves as "genuinely interested and excited" by the impending royal wedding.

* Another poll, by CitySocialising, suggests that, if people were given the choice between going to Kate Middleton's wedding or Kate Moss's, 52 per cent would choose the fashion royalty option.

* Around 60 alleged troublemakers arrested during recent protests in London have bail conditions that ban them from entering London from two days before the wedding until; two days after it. At least six have been arrested again this week.

* If you're reading this in southern Spain and wish you weren't missing out on the big day, don't worry: James Hewitt, former lover of Diana, Princess of Wales and professional "royal love-rat", is holding a lavish, royal-themed day at Polo House, his bar in Marbella.

* Total sales of Kate and William related merchandise, official and unofficial, are expected to be worth about £45m. If you've yet to indulge, it's still not quite too late to buy... Royal Wedding fake nails (with a picture of the happy couple at each fingertip; £6.99); Royal Wedding iPhone cases (£29.99); Kate Middleton dolls (£120), Kiss Me Kate ale (£1.50), Crown Jewels condoms (£5), Royal Wedding teabags (£4.30), Royal Wedding sick bags (£3) – and much, much more... including, now we think of it, a 250-piece Catherine & William Engagement Jigsaw (£29.95 from, er, the Prince of Wales's Highgrove shop); and royal-themed Rule Britannia scratchcards (£3.99 a pack from, er, the Middletons' Party Pieces).

* The bride prefers to be called Catherine rather than Kate. The media prefers Kate, which is more convenient for headlines. So Princess Kate it is, then.

* Kate's nickname for Prince William is said to be "Big Willie". Other nicknames by which he has been known include "Steve" and "Billy the Fish".

* As a boarder at Marlborough school, Catherine held school records for high jump and long jump. Experts believe that she was also good at "mooning" at passing boys through her dormitory window.

* Insiders predict that tomorrow's vows will not include a commitment by Catherine to "obey" her new husband. The last royal bride to do this was Diana Spencer.

* Wedding-day ages of recent and current royal brides: the current Queen (21); Princess Margaret (29); Diana Spencer (20); Sarah Ferguson (27); Sophie Rhys-Jones (34); Kate Middleton (29).

* Success rate of UK royal marriages since 1919: 66 per cent (four divorces out of 12). Current success rate of non-royal marriages: 45 per cent.

* At the time of going to press, no announcement had been made about the royal couple's future titles. This state of affairs is unlikely to persist (expect an announcement relating to the dukedom of Cambridge or Clarence). But if it does, Kate Middleton will henceforward be known Princess William of Wales.

...And if you're still looking for reasons to celebrate: tomorrow is Bernie Madoff's birthday. The old fraudster will be 73.

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