No wedding preparations are without the occasional family row and, much to the concern of palace advisers, the big day for Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton has proved to be no exception. While the organisation and marketing of the "wedding of the decade" have gone to plan, there are said to be growing tensions between the Palace and the Middleton family.
When it comes to marrying off their sons, the House of Windsor is used to dealing with upper-class families who, once their daughters are engaged, are happy to turn up at ceremonies, smile for the cameras and keep quiet. The Middletons, coming from ordinary English stock, have proved to be less easy-going, and are taking what insiders call a "hands-on" approach to their daughter's future happiness.
Matters came to a head when Carole Middleton told William that Kate had bought him a gold wedding ring. An embarrassed Wills revealed that no men in the Royal Family would ever wear a wedding ring on grounds of taste. When Michael Middleton tried to take the matter up with Prince Charles, he was told by an equerry that only signet rings were acceptable on the hand of a British prince. Male wedding rings were thought to be particularly vulgar.
"The royals are surprisingly sensitive about class," a senior Palace source has revealed. "When Prince Andrew started wearing a blazer with gold buttons, the Queen nearly had a heart attack. Her Majesty is a great believer in keeping up standards."
Historian Andrew Roberts, who has been tutoring Kate Middleton on the Windsors, has been asked to develop a historical argument against a wedding ring, but the Middletons are holding firm. "Kate is a very modern girl who has no time for class or privilege," a family friend tells me. "That's one of the most important lessons she learnt at Marlborough."
* Another practical matter has been preoccupying wedding organisers. How far in advance of their wedding should William and Kate cease living together? The royal lovebirds are reluctant to be apart, but Palace officials are concerned that the move from cohabitation to marriage is not too rapid.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that "an illusion of innocence" is important on 29 April.
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