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PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 April, 2011, 12:00am
 

On Friday, 30 years after Prince Charles and Princess Diana tied the knot in London's Westminster Abbey, royal watchers around the world will witness the marriage of their first child, Prince William, to long-time love Kate Middleton in what will be the definitive royal wedding for this generation.

Like a grand procession leading up to the big moment, our Anglophile channels are marching royal-centric specials down the aisle all week.

To introduce the players, The Monarchy (ITV Granada; today at 4pm) provides an in-depth look at the public and private lives of the British royal family. The programme explains how the monarchy functions, how it has evolved over the centuries and the challenges it faces now and in the future.

Then take a look at ceremonial traditions in Britain's Royal Weddings (BBC Knowledge; today at 8.10pm). Offering an intriguing glimpse into the kind of pomp and circumstance that few of us will ever experience first hand, the programme also charts how changing social attitudes and national circumstances have influenced what the public has come to expect from royal weddings.

Next, we focus our attention on The Queen: Behind the Mask (ITV Granada; Wednesday at 11pm). This documentary on reigning monarch Elizabeth II is presented by Andrew Morton, the unofficial royal biographer who first exposed Prince Charles' affair with Camilla, now the Duchess of Cornwall. Given Morton's penchant for the sensational, we can expect 'unofficial' but juicy takes on the queen's past.

Leaving no stone unturned, BBC has found a willing storyteller in designer India Hicks, who was a teenage bridesmaid during her godfather, Prince Charles', marriage to Diana. In Untold Stories of a Royal Bridesmaid (BBC Knowledge; Wednesday at 8.10pm), Hicks draws on her memories of that day to give us a preview of what is in store on Friday.

Finally, on Thursday, we can take a look at the lovebirds themselves, on the Biography Channel. William's Love Life (Thursday at 9pm) charts the rise of Prince Charles' eldest as the country's most eligible bachelor, and the kind of pop-star worship he inspired in young women, even in his soon-to-be wife before they met. The programme interviews friends from school, university and the army to get a picture of the future king, and delves into the photo archives to colour in his lively social past. Immediately following that, Kate Middleton (10pm) dissects the upbringing and aspirations of the princess to be, from her family's working-class roots to her slow and steady courtship with the prince during their years at the University of St Andrews. Middleton's story reads like a modern-day fairy tale, her being the first British commoner to marry a prince in 350 years, as well as the first college-educated princess in the country.

Come the big day, BBC Knowledge, World News and Entertainment, TVB Pearl (using BBC feed), ATV World, CNN International, Now Direct, ITV Granada and E! will all air live coverage of the celebrations, with most beginning at 3pm local time and lasting well over six hours. Newscaster Huw Edwards, who will lead the BBC's team of presenters as the day unfolds, says he's been preparing for three months, watching hours of footage of previous weddings.

'It is very worthwhile because you begin to understand in some detail how these events work. That is very important for me on the day just to understand the logistics and the timings,' he says. 'And on top of that there is all the research to do on who is taking part this time, the key characters, all the people behind the scenes.'

ITV Granada will take a more fashion-forward approach to things as entertainment host Phillip Schofield will be inviting British celebrities to comment on hat styles and ensembles during the processions, run-up and aftermath of the event.

And for all you non-royalist readers, we're fairly certain Cartoon Network will be running a normal schedule this week.

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