The official line on this year's royal British love story is now out: Prince Andrew's discovery of Sarah Ferguson, whom he will marry July 23, was no passionate cataclysm but "more of a low and ripening dawn."
The account is in the official royal wedding souvenir program, a 32-page booklet presented to the waiting world yesterday by Queen Elizabeth's chief courtier, the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Airlie.
For 2 pounds 25 pence (about $3.40), royalty followers will get the first official photo of the couple on the cover, 70 illustrations inside (including one photograph of the bride-to-be taken by her prince), Buckingham Palace's declaration that the romance is "no linking of dynasties, no union of convenience, only two people delighting in each other's company," and the satisfaction of knowing the profits will go to British children with fatal or crippling diseases.
*The palace hopes sales of the glossy booklet will match the 1 million programs sold for the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, which may be a little optimistic. Although the wedding will take place at Westminster Abbey and the bride will ride in the so-called Glass Coach, used for most royal weddings since 1910, no one has yet described the event as "a fairy tale," and among the royalty-obsessed crowd in Britain, nothing sells as well as scandal or fairy tales.
Moreover, the palace announced yesterday that, unlike in 1981, no heads of state will be invited to the wedding except for relatives of British royalty and personal friends. Neither the palace nor the White House will say if Nancy Reagan will attend, as she did in 1981.
*But in a land where royalty is good business as well as good romance, no royal wedding goes unnoticed. The requisite royal wedding mugs, royal wedding post cards and royal wedding postage stamps are already on sale. With the fear of terrorism wreaking havoc with the British tourist trade, the wedding is a welcome lure, and hotels and tour companies are churning out a slew of wedding-linked packages.
For a mere $147.25, guests at the Ritz hotel's "Royal Wedding Gala" will get a champagne reception, something billed as a "special royal dinner," a cabaret, fireworks and dancing. They can sip on a newly created "Royal Blush" cocktail, concocted of passion fruit liqueur, blackberry liqueur, dry vermouth, lemon mix and champagne. Those unwilling to brave the crowds outside can watch the wedding on the giant TV screens scattered about the hotel.
London's Royal Garden hotel ($58.90 for a black-tie dinner dance, proceeds to charity) will have its own nuptial cocktail, but the ingredients are being carefully guarded.
The tour group Ambassadors of Britain has announced its royal wedding walking-lecture tours. Participants will see the graphic design firm where Ferguson works, the coffee shop where she has been known to buy sandwiches, the store where her engagement ring was crafted, and Claridges, where tour spokeswoman Verite Baker says the pre-affianced Ferguson was wont to eat lunch with her father. Two-hour tours will cost about $9, and a four-hour Ferguson odyssey $15.50.
Reservations are still available.