William & Kate Get an Early Wedding Gift

updated 04/26/2011 at 03:30 AM EDT

originally published 04/20/2011 07:30AM



As their big day nears, Prince William and Kate Middleton have received an early present from the public. Actually, thousands of presents.

The couple set up a charity wedding fund to which people could donate in lieu of sending wedding gifts – and insiders tell PEOPLE the fund has already generated donations into the six figures.

Exact numbers aren't available yet, but the fund is likely to swell further this week and next – particularly with George Michael now urging fans to contribute when they download his version of Stevie Wonder's You and I, recorded itself as a wedding present.





"I want Will and Kate to know that this is a genuine gift, not a promo exercise," Michael says. "It's a gift that they'll be able to turn into many, many donations."

Michael himself will not be attending the royal wedding on April 29. "They should [be] surrounded by people they love," he said last week, "not dodgy ex-con pop stars."

The new fund benefits 26 causes specially chosen by the couple, but William has already built up a roster of charities as part of his working life, and has invited the leading lights of the causes closest to his heart to his wedding.

Humorous, Yet Compassionate

Alex van Straubenzee, who runs a memorial fund that helps schools in Uganda (set up in the name of his late son Henry), says of William, "He has this remarkable ability to put people at their ease and be very, very humorous and, at the same time, sympathetic.

"He has immense charm which he uses. There are no hints of aloofness. William is fantastically good at getting the temperature right and being able to tailor what he does in both his language and his body language to what is the right thing to do."

One of the first charities William picked after leaving college was Tusk Trust, an African conservation charity – matching his passion for the continent, "its wildlife and its people," says Tusk CEO Charlie Mayhew.

In 2007, William took the role of president of the Royal Marsden hospital, a cancer treatment hospital. It was a role his mother Diana held as well.

"The Princess of Wales had, and Prince William has, a quite special ability to talk to people, to listen to them, to empathize with them, to make them feel good," says Marsden CEO Cally Palmer.

William is also Royal Patron of the Child Bereavement Charity, which provides a lifeline to bereaved parents and children – an emotional topic for a man who lost his own mother when he was 15.

"I was very moved by his willingness to be himself in the most vulnerable aspect of his life," says Founder Patron Julia Samuel, a friend of Diana's who has known William since he was a boy. "He has a very powerful effect on other people just by being himself. He really gets it."

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