So you didn’t receive a “save the date” for the Royal wedding of Britain’s Prince William to Kate Middleton? You’re in good company, or at least the majority of the world’s population! In case you have been trekking in the remote wilds and haven’t heard, the nuptials being billed as “the wedding of the 21st century” will take place in London’s 1,000-year old Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011.
Even if you don’t have Royal connections, but want to be part of the celebration, you can see the handsome couple, along with thousands of others, after the main event as they take a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace. There, friends and family will gather for a private reception hosted by The Queen, a private dinner hosted by Charles, the Prince of Wales, followed by dancing at the Palace in the evening. Alas, if you didn’t get invited to the wedding, don’t expect to attend these after events either, but there are many other things you can do before and after the ceremony.
You will, of course, want to see the impressive Gothic Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey. Over 3,000 people are buried in the Church and Cloisters, including King Henry III, poets Geoffrey Chaucer and John Keats, writers Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters, and scientists Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. British pageantry has been celebrated here with Royal coronations since 1066 and many Royal weddings. Entrance fees are charged to visitors.
The current building of St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century. Built on the highest point in London, the 365 foot dome is one of the highest in the world. Its Whispering Gallery has unique acoustics where a whisper on one side can be heard clearly 100 feet away. St. Paul’s awe-inspiring alter was the location of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding and the funeral of Winston Churchill, among other important services. Entrance fees apply.
St. George’s Chapel, located in Windsor Castle, has also seen many Royal weddings, most recently that of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England is one of the principal residences of Queen Elizabeth II and her preferred weekend home. It is the longest-occupied palace in Europe and also the largest inhabited castle in the world with over 500 people living and working there. The expansive castle is surrounded by its own gardens, vast parks and working farms. Tours of the lavish castle and gardens are available with an entrance fee.
Back in London, the Queen’s residence and the administrative headquarters of the Monarch is Buckingham Palace. The palace has 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms! It is decorated with priceless works of art and treasures from the wide-ranging Royal Collection. Over 50,000 people each year are invited guests to banquets, receptions and garden parties, but the public can only visit the State rooms and garden and only during August and September while the Queen is in Scotland. The Queen’s Gallery, which showcases changing exhibits of the Royal Collection, is also open to the public most days of the year. Entrance fees apply to both.
Kensington Palace is another Royal residence in London located in the public park of Kensington Gardens. It was the official residence of Diana, Princess of Wales until her death. The State rooms are open for public tours for a fee.
A final Royal palace near London is the Hampton Court Palace, although no British royalty has lived there since the 18th century. Here you can visit Henry VIII’s Great Hall which is a medieval theater where Shakespeare’s company performed. Costumed interpreters guide tours through a living Tudor world including the kitchens built to feed 600 people twice a day during Henry VIII’s reign. The beautiful Chapel Royal has been in continuous use for 450 years and 60 acres of exquisitely maintained gardens, including the world famous maze, are also highlights. Entrance fees for the palace, gardens, and/or maze apply.
No Royal tour would be complete without a visit to the haunting Tower of London. This is where the spectacular Crown Jewels are housed, as well as a museum exhibiting 500 years of royal armor. Yeoman Warders regale visitors with tales of torture and treachery that make up the long and lurid history of the tower. Learn the legend of the ravens and why execution in Tower Green was a privilege for those of high rank. Entrance fees apply.
If you decide to visit during the wedding celebration, you should act quickly. Let Covington secure arrangements so you won’t be disappointed by “no vacancy” or “sold out.” London will be absolutely teeming with people hoping to catch a glimpse of the Royal Family, as well as attending world leaders and high society. Of course, you can also watch the events from the comfort of your couch and do your “Royal Tour” in the summer. We will still be happy to customize an itinerary fit for a queen!