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They chose the venue for its intimacy: "It's almost," says Prince William's private secretary, "the feeling of a parish church." That is, if your parish is all of England, past and present. When William and Kate Middleton walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey April 29, they'll be getting hitched on the same hallowed ground where William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066 and Charles Darwin is buried. And while Kate, 28, is no more familiar with the Abbey than any British commoner, it's special to her fiance: There, on Nov. 20, 1947, William's grandmother, the future Queen Elizabeth II, wed Lieut. Philip Mountbatten. Wearing a silk gown and a diamond tiara made for Queen Mary (see opposite page), Elizabeth "was radiant," recalls Lady Pamela Hicks, 81, one of her bridesmaids. "And she was very much in love." Just like Kate, who, Hicks wagers, "will be a total star."

IT FELT COZY Despite its size-it seats 2,000-William and Kate liked Westminster Abbey (above and at top) because "it has the uncanny feel of intimate space," Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Prince William's private secretary, said Nov. 23. William and Kate are taking charge of the planning, he says, and "are very keen that the spectacle should be a classic example of what Britain does best."

THE DUCHESS OF TECK

THE STRATHMORE

THE DELHI DURBAR

TOO TALL? Don't bet on a towering headpiece like Camilla's: "Kate," says jewelry expert Leslie Fields, "doesn't have ostentatious taste."

FLAPPER CHIC The Queen mum sported this tiara in 1928.

A Tiara for KATE

FUTURE PRINCESS Which, if any, glittering crown will Kate get from the royal collection? Some contenders.

THE CAMBRIDGE LOVER'S KNOT

LONG SHOT Experts would be surprised if Kate gets the pearl-and-diamond tiara Elizabeth (in 1958) gave Diana (in 1985) as a wedding gift.

1890s

1983

THE GIRLS OF GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND TIARA

2010

'GRANNY'S TIARA' Worn by Queen Mary (above, left), it was passed to granddaughter Elizabeth (right) on her wedding day.

THE SPENCER

SOMETHING BORROWED

Elizabeth loaned her mother's tiara to her sister Princess Margaret (left, in 1954) and later to Princess Anne (right, in 1970).

OFF LIMITS

Kate won't get the Spencer family headpiece Diana wore on her wedding day (left, and, right, in 1983). But she might land the sapphire necklace Diana got as a wedding gift from the Saudi Crown Prince.

THE SCROLL

  • Contributors:
  • Liz Corcoran/London.