Blair and Brown get snubbed for royal wedding
Published 25/04/2011 | 05:00
The first major controversy surrounding the royal wedding erupted last night when it was confirmed that neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown had been invited to Friday's ceremony.
The former Labour prime ministers will not join the 1,900-strong royal wedding congregation at Westminster Abbey, despite it being a "semi-state" occasion that they had been widely expected to attend.
By contrast, both their Conservative predecessors, John Major and Margaret Thatcher, received invitations. Mrs Thatcher declined on health grounds, although Mr Major will be present when Prince William marries Kate Middleton.
A spokesman for St James's Palace said Mr Blair and Mr Brown had not received invitations because neither were 'Knights of the Garter', unlike Mr Major and Mrs Thatcher.
However, guests who will be in attendance include David Beckham, Elton John and 'Mr Bean' actor Rowan Atkinson, according to a newly released official guest list.
St James's Palace also released the seating plan at Westminster Abbey, which showed that relatives of William's mother, Princess Diana, are sitting across the aisle from the royal family, joining the Middletons in an exception to the traditional division of a church into a bride's side and groom's side.
There was no explanation of the seating arrangement, but the Spencers have not had a good relationship with the royal family, especially after Diana's brother Charles Spencer attacked the royals during a speech at her 1997 funeral.
More than 46 foreign royals are seated behind the British royals.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prince of Bahrain was last night forced to pull out of attending the wedding, hours before he had been due to fly in to London, amid anger over his role in the Gulf state's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
Human rights activists had pledged to disrupt Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa's stay in Britain with a series of protests, insisting that he is the chief architect of the Saudi-backed security forces' violent response to the demonstrators, which has left up to 31 people dead.
Foreign dignitaries, the Middletons' family friends, British government and defence officials, families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, William's army colleagues, and people who work for William's charities will be seated around the abbey for the ceremony.
Palace officials last nightsaid that only crowned heads of states are traditionally invited to royal weddings, and that political leaders who are not from the 54-member Commonwealth of nations, such as US President Barack Obama or French President Nicolas Sarkozy, weren't sent invitations.