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Abbey feels the strain: Royals 'will pay only a small sum' for William and Kate's wedding

By Rebecca English

Kate and William's big day will cost the 1,000-year-old Wesminster Abbey £2 million

Westminster Abbey is struggling to cope with the financial strain of hosting next year’s royal wedding, the Daily Mail has learned.

The Royal Family will pay only a small sum to the church for hosting the ceremony on April 29, despite claims to the contrary, sources say.

One senior official involved in the planning process described the payment offered to the Abbey as ‘a mere gesture’ which ‘in no way’ covers the financial toll the wedding will take.

‘Contrary to what many people believe it is a gesture – a token fee – and nothing more,’ the source said.

It is estimated that hosting Prince William and Kate Middleton’s big day will cost the 1,000-year-old Abbey up to £2million.

Much of this will be down to lost revenue as the building and its precincts will be closed to the public for a week to prepare for the event, move in television cameras and create a ‘sterile’ security zone.

Westminster Abbey receives no financial assistance from the Church Commissioners, the Government or the Crown.

Instead it is run as a charity funded by visitor charges, public donations and a small portfolio of investments. Last year it earned £15.4million but cost £14million to run.

Sources say the church is set to lose an estimated £500,000 in door-takings and will be forced to cancel dozens of services which bring in thousands of pounds.

Senior personnel have introduced a series of belt-tightening measures including cancelling the staff Christmas party and stopping essential maintenance to areas such as staff and storage rooms.

One senior member of staff said: ‘While Prince William’s wedding will be good for us in many ways in terms of publicity and future visits, many people who work here are very concerned at the financial impact it will have on the Abbey.

There is a lot of grumbling from people who feel that the Royal Family should contribute more given the size of the occasion.’

An Abbey spokesman confirmed that it would be shut to the public for several days but denied it would suffer financial hardship.

‘The Royal Family will be contributing financially but the wedding is four months away and we cannot discuss details,’ he said. ‘It is true that it will be shut for several days, primarily to move in the television cameras, but it is a logistical thing.

‘The staff Christmas party has been cancelled this year but this is due to building work which means we have nowhere to hold it.

‘The wedding is a routine event for us and will not be a financial strain.’
A St James’s Palace spokesman added: ‘The Royal Household has a good working relationship with the Abbey and we will never comment on costs.’

Kate has lunch with the Queen

A special guest was at the Queen's lunch yesterday at Buckingham Palace - newest future-member of the family firm, Kate Middleton.

The lunch was a private affair, but photographers managed to snap a grinning Kate sitting between Prince William and Prince Harry during the short drive from his place to his mother's, just across the road.

Prince Harry and Prince William with Kate between them on their way to see the Queen for lunch

According to CBS, Kate mingled confidently with the 50 or so members of the extended family who were invited.

'Kate Middleton is a confident young woman, I think we saw that on the engagement footage,' said CBS News contributor Neil Sean. 'While people might think it is slightly daunting to go in there, for her she has that super support of Prince William.'

The primary royal Christmas event is the annual gathering at the Queen's country estate at Sandringham.The family's trip to a local church is a Christmas day ritual.

At this stage, however, it seems Kate won't be there. Nor, it seems, will William make it either. He will be working at his day job; on duty as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

Kate's expected to spend a final Christmas with her own family - her last 'normal' Christmas, perhaps, before she's swept up fully in royal pomp and protocol.