Definitely NOT low-key: Royal Wedding guests to sample best of British food in 19 splendid rooms
It has been billed as a low-key royal wedding – but when the couple in question are hosting their reception at Buckingham Palace, the reality is anything but.
Yesterday, just a month before Prince William marries Kate Middleton, palace officials offered a glimpse of the venue and the team working round the clock to ensure their big day goes without a hitch.
Those lucky enough to have been invited, will have access to 19 state rooms, decorated in opulent style, following the Westminster Abbey ceremony on April 29.
Feast your eyes: Exquisitely decorated with red silk damask, the walls of the State Dining Room make a fitting background for the portraits of sovereigns from throughout history. Countless dignitaries, including presidents and prime ministers, have dined here.
Grandeur: Prince William and Kate Middleton's guests will be drinking and dining in opulence. The Blue Drawing Room was the venue for the first State Ball held at the Palace in 1838 before Queen Victoria's coronation. It has 30 fake onyx columns and a table made for Napoleon
Fit for a queen: A portrait of Edward VII's wife Queen Alexandra hangs in the White Drawing Room, the grandest of the state rooms overlooking the gardens. A secret door leading to private rooms allows for a discreet Royal entrance
On the walls will be Old Masters brought out from the vaults of the Royal Collection in honour of the couple, who will no doubt appreciate their finer points as they met studying history of art at St Andrews University.
The focus of the reception will be the picture gallery, where the wedding cake – a traditional multi-tiered fruit cake – will be on display surrounded with works by Canaletto, Rembrandt and Rubens.
Guests will also be able to wander through areas normally reserved for heads of state and other dignitaries in the palace’s west wing, including the White and Blue Drawing Rooms, the Music Room and State Dining Room, all of which date back to the 1820s.
Remarkably, just 60 staff, from chefs and footmen to housekeepers, will be on duty catering for up to 900 guests.
But Edward Griffiths, deputy master of the household, whose department is responsible for all hospitality, says his staff are well drilled. Guests will be offered champagne and canapes ‘from the moment they arrive’, he explained.
Their glasses will be topped up throughout the day – although the Prince and his new wife plan to stick to soft drinks (bar a glass of champagne for the toasts) until later, it is understood.
The Queen’s head chef Mark Flanagan admitted his team would be under pressure but was confident his 21-strong staff – who produce 550 meals a day when the Queen is in residence – were up to the task.
The cooks will be using copper pots to create the wedding breakfast, some of which were first used 190 years ago during the reign of George IV.
Mr Flanagan would not reveal details about what they planned to serve but promised to use ‘the best of British’ and source much of it from the Queen’s gardens and estates.
Each canape is made to be consumed in just ‘two bites’.
A taste of things to come? Could guests be munching on quails' eggs served with celery salt (seen left)? Meanwhile, demi chef de partie Shaun Mason is hard at work preparing thousands of intricately designed sweets
Delicious treats: A chef of the Royal Household at Buckingham Palace, London, holds a tray of canapes, like those that may be served at the Royal Wedding
Collection: Wine glasses used during royal receptions are lined up at Buckingham Palace, and right, a copper cooking pot that is still in use today and bears the markings of King George IV sits on a rack in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace
Opulent: The lavishly decorated White Drawing Room will be one of the rooms used during the wedding reception of Prince William and Kate Middleton
Fine art: Jennifer Scott, Assistant Curator of Paintings, looks up at a Canaletto from 1723 in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace, which will be one of the rooms used during the wedding reception and right, a Rubens self portrait from 1623 in the Picture Gallery
Decadent: Jennifer Scott sits underneath the Peter Paul Rubens painting Winter (bottom centre) in the Picture Gallery, which will be used during the wedding reception
Song and dance: Palace Steward Nigel McEvoy walks through the Music Room, which has seen some of the history's finest pianists play their music on the ornate grand piano and which will be used during the wedding reception
Splendour: The White Drawing Room includes a stunning chandelier and furniture lined with gold upholster. The room will be one of many others used in the wedding reception, while right, Edward Griffiths, Deputy Master of the Household, stands in the room, recognisable by its intricate carpet
Magnificent: The finest crystal chandeliers hang from the ornate ceiling of the Blue Drawing Room, which will see dozens of guests mingle during the reception