Kate Middleton gets coat of arms to merge with Prince William's
The coat, which was unveiled Tuesday, was commissioned by her father, Michael Middleton, for his family at London's College of Arms in time for the April 29 wedding.
But what does it all mean? Traditionally, the heraldic design is passed down through generations, but because the Middleton family are commoners they weren't required to have a coat of arms before now. Since she's marrying a royal, we're going to call it an early wedding gift.
The blue and red crest with three acorns sprigs adorn the shield, which represent the three Middleton children: Catherine (Kate), Philippa Charlotte (Pippa) and James. The acorns were chosen because West Berkshire, England, their hometown, is surrounded by oak trees. The oak tree is also a traditional symbol of England and strength, according to Clarence House. A gold chevron cuts through the middle of the coat to represent Kate's mother, Carole, whose maiden name was Goldsmith.
Blue and red were chosen because they are the patriotic colors of the United Kingdom's flag.
Kate's lozenge-shaped coat of arms is derived from her family's and suspended from a tied blue ribbon, which symbolizes that she is an unmarried daughter.
"Mr. and Mrs. Middleton and their children took enormous interest in this design and, while its purpose is to provide a traditional heraldic identity for Catherine, as she marries into the royal family, the intent was to represent the whole Middleton family together, their home and aspects of what they enjoy," said Thomas Woodcock, Garter King of Arms who oversaw the design process.
"Every Coat of Arms has been designed to identify a person, school or organization, and to last forever: Heraldry is Europe's oldest, most visual and strictly regulated form of identity and it surrounds us in Britain, giving clues to our history and surroundings," he added. "After her marriage, Catherine Middleton will place her father's Arms beside those of her husband in what is known as an impaled Coat of Arms. This will require a Royal Warrant from the Queen."
Prince William received his coat of arms on his 18th birthday. The design was derived from his father's and late mother's coats. After the wedding, Kate's coat of arms will be incorporated into William's, and the Middleton family's symbol will be passed down by her brother James.
Clarence House will also publish an official program for the ceremony that will include the full order of service (as used by guests in the Abbey), a personal message of thanks from Prince William and Kate and a never-before-seen photo of the couple shot by Mario Testino.
Prince Charles and Lady Di had their program printed in 1981, and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and Sarah Ferguson had one printed for their 1986 nuptials. The program will be sold for $3.25 (2 pounds) or can be downloaded online. Proceeds will benefit the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, a philanthropic organization that helps the less fortunate by bringing people together across cultures and age groups.
Not sure you want to get a program but still want in on the royal wedding action? Not to fear, there's an app for that. Westminster Abbey has launched its Abbey 3D app to allow users navigate the royal wedding venue, highlighting key spots around the historic church.
Still don't want to dole out the cash? Check out the Los Angeles Times interactive map of the church here.
— Nardine Saad
Photos, from top: Prince William and Kate Middleton in April. A sketch of Kate Middleton's coat of arms by Herald Painter Robert Parsons. Official souvenir royal wedding program. The Abbey 3D app on an iPad. Credits, from top: Tim Hales / Associated Press; Suzanne Plunkett / Associated Press; Royal Household / Getty Images; Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images.