Royal wedding: charitable gifts, not presents
Wednesday, March 16, 2011; 12:41 PM
LONDON -- What to get the couple who has everything? How about a donation to a rhino sanctuary - or an offer of help for earthquake victims in New Zealand.
Prince William and Kate Middleton on Wednesday requested charitable gifts in lieu of wedding presents, seeking to pre-empt the tide of extravagant - and unusual - offerings that typically flood in for a royal engagement.
The palace said the couple was "touched by the goodwill shown them," and selected 26 charities to benefit from a special charity gift fund.
Their decision to forego toasters, gravy boats and candlesticks sets William and Middleton apart from other soon-to-be newlyweds and even the prince's parents, whose use of a wedding gift registry, replete with items such as a gourmet barbecue set and pair of Cockatoos, was slammed by the press as "a vulgar, middle-class custom."
While Charles and Diana did get some gifts in the form of charitable donations, William and his bride-to-be are said to be determined to make sure their April 29 wedding is not seen as overly ostentatious at a time when the British economy is hurting.
The charities they have selected - including some based in Canada, Australia and New Zealand - represent a range of issues, from support for army widows to local community foundations and the arts.
The list does not include any charities focused on relief efforts around last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. William and Middleton are "obviously very shocked and saddened by the events in Japan," but the list of charities has been in the works for weeks and is focused on countries the prince has visited, a spokeswoman for his office said. She spoke on condition of anonymity under palace rules.
"They are charities that have a particular resonance with Prince William and Miss Middleton and reflect issues in which the couple have been particularly interested in their lives to date," the palace said in a statement.
The couple were engaged while on holiday in Kenya, and the prince's affinity for causes on the continent is represented in charities focusing on wildlife conservation in Africa and beyond.
William's dedication to military service is also apparent - he and Middleton chose to support the Army Widows' Association, a group dedicated to alleviating the symptoms of combat stress and financial support for veterans.
The Army Widows' Association had been selected and chairwoman Christine Gemmell said it came as "a complete surprise." She learned of the decision a few weeks ago and said that it was hard keeping it a secret from her fellow volunteers until the official announcement.
"It's a recognition of the work that we do," Gemmell said. "It shows that (William) understands, being a member of the forces himself."