The countdown to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, who announced their engagement last week, began on Tuesday with the news that it would take place on Friday April 29 next year at Westminster Abbey, which was also the venue of the Prince’s late mother Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.

The Abbey, which has a history dating back some thousand years, has traditionally been the royal family’s preferred choice for such occasions — the Queen’s own wedding took place there, as did her mother’s.

Prince William’s private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkington, said the couple chose the Abbey for its "staggering beauty", its royal history and feeling of intimacy despite its size.

"We know that the world will be watching on April 29, and the couple are very, very keen indeed that the spectacle should be a classic example of what Britain does best,’’ he said.

About the scale of the wedding, he said the couple were "very mindful" of the current economic situation. The Royal Family and the Middletons would pay for the wedding itself, with the government providing security and transport

In a move that raised mild eyebrows in republican circles, Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be marked by a public holiday. "We want to mark the day as one of national celebration, a public holiday will ensure the most people possible will have a chance to celebrate on the day," he said.

His excited reaction to the wedding has led critics to accuse the Government of trying to "hijack" the event to deflect attention from the prevailing economic gloom.

Discounting Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles’ marriage five years ago, it would be the first "prop’ah" royal wedding in nearly 30 years. The last, of course, was the "fairy tale" Charles-Diana wedding which ended in tears.

More In: International | News