"Are you going to cycle to the Abbey?"
As I first reported on the E! TV network, those were the Queen's first words to Prince William when she phoned him shortly after Clarence House tweeted the royal wedding details last week. My contacts at the palace were in the room when the Queen called William on his mobile, and read him the royal riot's act over the latest announcements.
She was absolutely livid as she asked her grandson, "At what point do you stop being trendy and start being realistic?"
Her Majesty didn't bother to hide her anger after hearing that William had made wedding plans without consulting with her. After all, she is paying the bulk of the wedding costs. First was the news that Kate will travel to the Abbey by car - perhaps to cut down on expenses. This is a departure from the tradition of the bride arriving at the church in a horse-drawn glass coach. Princess Alexandra was the last royal bride to travel by car to her Westminster Abbey wedding in 1963, but that was because she left from Kensington Palace (the Kent's London home), and it was too great a distance for a carriage procession to the Abbey.
However, as the Queen points out, it will actually cost more to use a car than to use the carriage, when you consider the fuel costs and so on. By contrast, the horse carriages and the Household Cavalry guards are going to be on duty anyway on the wedding day, so it doesn't cost anything extra for Kate to ride in a carriage to the Abbey.
The argument that Kate will be traveling by car due to safety and security concerns isn't convincing since William also announced that both he and his bride will ride in an open carriage to Buckingham Palace after the ceremony. Similarly, Kate's reported allergy to horses can't be the reason for the use of a car instead of the enclosed glass coach since she is leaving the Abbey in a horse-drawn carriage.
The main source of the Queen's displeasure is the wedding breakfast reception at Buckingham Palace. This is usually a sit-down meal (actually a lunch) for around 130 people, consisting of family and close friends. When the proposal for it to be a buffet reception was brought up, the Queen only said that she will consider the idea. Now William has announced it before her official approval.
To add insult to injury, it was also released that hundreds more in the Abbey congregation will make their way to the palace after the ceremony. The Queen is reportedly questioning why she is holding such a huge reception in her home for loads of people she doesn't even know. The monarch doesn't particularly care for buffets anyway, and when Prince Edward organized a buffet reception after his own wedding in 1999, the Queen arranged for Prince Philip, the Queen Mum and herself to be served a sit-down meal.
Prince Charles is said to host a private dinner and dance at the palace on the evening of the wedding. What many people don't realize is that Buckingham Palace only has one kitchen set up for formal occasions. Even with all the staff and help, it will take hours to set up the wedding breakfast reception. So by the time that reception is finished at around 3:30 in the afternoon, all the fine china and crystal have to be cleared, hand-washed, and reset, and then another multi-course meal prepared for several hundred more guests just a few hours later for dinner. Logistically, it will be a nightmare. That is why in the past, the wedding dinner receptions were held at a hotel.
While Charles and William undoubtedly mean well, the fact is neither of them has ever organized a royal wedding before, and really has no idea what's involved. In fact, the planning for Charles' own wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005 became so disorganized, the Queen finally lost her patience and indicated that either she's making the wedding arrangements, or there won't be a wedding at all.
With decades of experience under her belt, all occasions that Her Majesty attends are planned with skilled precision, and run like clock-work. The Queen has now instructed that one person from William's team of aides at Clarence House, who had been organizing the wedding, be sent over to Buckingham Palace. This means that William and Kate will still have input, but it's the Queen and her Buckingham Palace aides who are effectively taking over the planning of the wedding.
While the Queen is William's grandmother, she is also his sovereign, and she's decidedly "not amused" at how things have been handled so far. Watch for changes to the royal wedding details as we countdown to April 29.