5 Things to Know About Westminster Abbey
They’re not just walking down just any aisle: Come April 29, Prince William and Kate Middleton will prove that a royal wedding calls for a royal backdrop when they say their vows at the Westminster Abbey.
The church, located in London just to the west of the Palace of Westminster, is rich in history and grandeur. But before the rings are exchanged, here are five things to know about the place-to-be on William and Kate’s big day.
1. It was good enough for Queen Elizabeth
More than 60 years ago, William’s grandmother, the future Queen Elizabeth, gave her hand in marriage to Lieut. Philip Mountbatten. The Queen donned a silk gown, crowning her ensemble with a diamond tiara. The floor of the Abbey was covered with a fine carpet – everywhere except over the grave of the Unknown Warrior. “[Elizabeth] was radiant,” Lady Pamela Hicks, 81, one of the Queen’s bridesmaids, recalled to PEOPLE of those nuptials.
2. Princess Diana rests in peace here
There are sad memories, too: On Sept. 6, 1997, 1,900 mourners – not including 2 billion television viewers – flocked to the Abbey to bid farewell to Princess Diana. “The funeral had Diana’s fingerprints all over it,” one attendee told PEOPLE back in 1997.
3. Kate and William picked the spot themselves
The couple decided upon the Abbey “because of its staggering beauty, its 1,000-year royal history and – in spite of its overall size – by its relative intimacy,” said the prince’s private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton. He adds: “They are giving us very clear direction and calling the shots.”
4. You can go to the Abbey, too
Planning a regal getaway? You don’t have to be a member of the royal family to get a peak at the grounds, and the Abbey has general hours for visitors. The church is open Monday, Tuesday Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Abbey is closed to tourists on Sunday.
5. Or you can take a look online
From the High Altar, where the happy couple will say “I do,” to the College Garden, which was originally used to harvest medicinal herbs and produce, get up close and personal with the royal venue on the Abbey’s Web site.