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Kate and Will’s big day

Prince William and Kate Middleton tea bags enjoy a soak in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Philipp Guelland/dapd

In case you haven’t been rushing to the nearest newsstand to pick up an imported copy of Hello! magazine or tuning into daily dispatches on the “Today Show” to keep up with your royal wedding news, here’s a round-up of what you need to know in the lead up to the big day…

Now coming to a computer screen near you…

In the five months since the engagement of Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton was announced, all manner of media have been saturated with royal reports. From major network news outlets to gossip blogs, the quest to uncover new details about the princess-to-be, her relationship with Prince William and their wedding day is extensive — and exhaustive. It seems that every detail about the wedding merits its own press release – and representatives for the royal family have been feeding the frenzy.

The press office at Clarence House, Prince William’s home base, has set up a dedicated website to manage the royal wedding press strategy. The monarchy has embraced social media with regular Twitter updates (hashtag #rw2011), a Flickr photostream, an invitation for well-wishers to submit video tributes to the couple via TheRoyalChannel on YouTube, and efforts to engage nearly 350,000 fans on Facebook (and the number keeps growing). Even the Archbishop of Canterbury is in on the action, sharing his thoughts on the occasion and the marriage over which he will preside in a video interview produced by his staff at Lambeth Palace.

The ceremony will be streamed live via TheRoyalChannel, and in addition to team coverage from NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and the Fox News Channel, commercial-free coverage from the BBC will air in the US on public television stations. Stateside coverage will begin in the wee hours of the morning. Kate and her dress are scheduled to emerge from the Goring Hotel to begin the journey to Westminster Abbey at 10:51 am GMT.

Royal weddings past, present, and future

Royal weddings are traditionally family affairs: Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip are not only second cousins once removed, but third cousins as well because they are both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria. Ancestral ties are not as evident in the upcoming union, but there’s still a link. Although Kate is technically a commoner, she and William share a joint fifteenth century ancestor in Sir Thomas Fairfax, making them distant cousins.

The nuptials of William and Kate are not the only royal wedding scheduled to take place this year within the House of Windsor. William’s first cousin Zara Phillips, an internationally recognized equestrian and the oldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II is due to wed Mike Tindall, current captain of the English national rugby team on July 30 in Edinburgh.

And what of Prince Harry? The ginger-haired prince will become the most eligible bachelor in the United Kingdom by default as soon as his brother’s marriage vows are complete. Will he follow William to the altar? He and South African Chelsy Davy have had an on-again-off-again relationship for seven years, nearly as long as William and Kate. But his status as the spare rather than the heir means he may be experiencing less pressure to settle down.

Trappings of royalty

A major part of the fairy tale aura surrounding the wedding is connected to Kate’s status as a commoner. Her middle-class background is a subject of fascination and scrutiny, and the royal family has yet to announce how she will be titled once she and William are man and wife. In the meantime, her father Michael Middleton commissioned a coat of arms in honor of her wedding that represents the family as a whole, and the right to use the symbol will be passed down to future generations of Middletons. Kate has her own variation of the family’s heraldic design that will be used up until her wedding day, after which it will be combined with Prince William’s symbol to form a joint, or “impaled,” coat of arms.

Speculation persists as to what title the Queen will bestow upon Kate when she officially joins the royal family. Kate will not automatically become Her Royal Highness Princess Catherine of Wales because she is not a princess by birth. Unless the Queen makes a special dispensation, Kate will become HRH Princess William of Wales, carrying the designation of her husband. It is a tradition for a royal male to receive (at least one) territorial title as a wedding gift from the reigning monarch, therefore the Queen may confer a dukedom or other royal title upon her grandson William. The Privy Council advises the Queen as to which titles are available, and aristocratic seats that have been mentioned as potential wedding gifts include the duchies of Clarence, Cambridge, Connaught, and Sussex. William and Kate would then become the Duke and Duchess of the selected territory.

According to the results of a poll released on April 24 and commissioned by the British newspaper “The Guardian,” 46 percent of British subjects think Prince William should be crowned the next king of England, thereby skipping a generation, whereas 40 percent think the monarchy should pass uninterrupted to Prince Charles, who is technically next in line for the throne. Whether or not William becomes king sooner than expected, when he does ascend the throne, Kate will be named queen consort beside him and will thereafter be known as Queen Catherine. She can never become the reigning queen in her own right, however. Should anything happen to William, the powers of the monarchy would pass to their offspring. A parallel convention for bestowing royal titles does not exist for the husband of a female monarch. Queen Victoria’s husband Albert was not named king when she came to power. Instead, he retained the title of Prince Consort. The same is true of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, who is known as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (his full title continues with Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich).

Bride on a budget

Plans for the April 29 wedding have been announced during a time of “austerity cuts” imposed by the coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron. One cost-saving measure devised by the Palace for the wedding and approved by William and Kate calls for members of the extended royal family to travel to Westminster Abbey in minibuses. This is not the first time a royal bride-to-be has had to be mindful of lavish expenditure. When Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip on November 20, 1947, austerity measures were still in place following World War II, and the future queen saved clothing coupons to cover the cost of her wedding dress.

The royal couple will continue to be conscious of cost-saving measures as they begin their life together. According to a report in Britian’s Daily Telegraph, William and Kate will forgo the help of servants when they return to their first home on the Welsh island of Anglesey, where William is stationed as he serves out his tour of duty as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot.

Behind palace walls

If watching from the comfort of your own home is not enough to fulfill your need to get up close and personal with the royal family, you could take a more proactive approach – apply to work in the royal household. The household encompasses five diverse departments, including the Royal Collection, the trust established to manage treasures such as the Crown Jewels, artwork, and arms and armor and the Private Secretary’s Office (which oversees communication between the Queen as head of state and such entities as the government, armed forces, and the Church of England). In addition to proximity to the monarch, working for the royal household grants an employee access to exclusive job perquisites. A list of social activities on the royal household website includes Christmas balls, bingo, and a film society that gathers in the Buckingham Palace Cinema. Staff profiles mention a Palace Pedal Pushers cycling organization, the Royal Household Sports and Social Club, and “enticing” staff lunches. Indeed, a list of staff benefits mentions that all employees are entitled to a free lunch on working days. If you are eager to help polish Her Majesty’s silver, please note that the ability to work in the U.K. is a prerequisite to apply for most vacancies.