Not invited to the wedding? One can still send a gift -- a donation to William and Kate's 26 designated charities.
If you haven't been invited to the royal wedding, there's still a way to be part of the historic occasion -- by giving Prince William and fiancée Kate Middleton a gift they've personally requested.
They've asked guests and the public to hold off the gems and silver, however, and instead support charitable jewels across the kingdom: Donor's choice from among the 26 charities included as part of the "Charity Gift Fund" (www.royalweddingcharity fund.org).
British ex-pats in Minnesota, as well as local Anglophiles, think it's a terrific idea.
"I already give to other charities, so why not this?" said Jean Fournier of Lakeville, past president of the Minnesota chapter of the Daughters of the British Empire.
The first-ever royal charity registry is a sign of the times, added Andrew White, a British construction management consultant from Minneapolis.
"It reflects the new, modern royal family ... and what the princes are all about," said White. "They have everything they could possibly need. I think it's brilliant."
Plus, White added, it's excellent for the couple's public image.
Break from tradition
British royalty have long supported pet charities: Think Princess Diana and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. They also lend their names to organizations through formal "patronages." But this is the first time that charity has come front and center of a royal wedding, said Fournier. The wedding is April 29.
The royal couple typically gets several thousand gifts from guests, as well as more modest offerings from the public. Prince Charles and then-Lady Diana, for example, reportedly received more than 6,000 gifts. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip received 2,500 presents when they married in 1947, including a racehorse and a piece of lace made from yarn spun by Mahatma Ghandi.
That outpouring of generosity now will be directed at 26 charities that are relatively unknown beyond the United Kingdom. A blitz of donating is expected in the week ahead.
The charities focus on five issues: support for military members and their families, arts and sports, health, conservation and children "fulfilling their potential."
"These causes are close to their hearts and reflect the experiences, passions and values of their lives so far," said the royal charity website.
The list includes the Army Widows Association, a counseling service called Youth Access, a London theater group for special needs children called Oily Cart Company, and PeacePlayers International in Northern Ireland, which uses sports to unite Protestants and Catholics.
The Boston-based Earthwatch Institute, which places volunteers in science research projects across the globe, also is on the registry.
"We were shocked," said Kristen Kusek, institute spokesperson. "It's such an honor. Earthwatch has been around 40 years. But since this news came out, we have gotten calls and voices of interest from people we haven't heard from before."
White observed that the charity list reflects not just royal interests, but also sound political judgment. Charities are spread across the United Kingdom, he said, and with tremendous variety.
"If you broke down the list, it's an appeasement of every segment of British society," said White. "The royal family is a large [public relations] machine."
It's not unusual for British ex-pats to support their royalty from afar. After Prince William's birth, the local Daughters of the British Empire group -- which since has gone dormant -- hosted a baby shower and donated the gifts to a local charity in the prince's honor.
After the death of Princess Diana, the American Cancer Society here received a donation in her memory, said Fournier, who served on its board of directors at the time. She informed the palace of the donation.
"We received a very charming letter back," Fournier said. "They're very good at that sort of thing."
The royal website, in fact, says donors to the charities will receive a thank you e-mail from the newlyweds.
Singer George Michael will be fanning the charity drive among commoners. Last week he released a song for the royal wedding, Stevie Wonder's classic "You and I," and is encouraging listeners who download the song for free on his website to donate to the charities.
Donations can be made online, or via snail mail or text messages, the website says.
Shane Higgins, general manager at Brit's Pub in Minneapolis, which is hosting a nearly round-the-clock royal wedding bash this week, thinks getting rid of the lavish and unneeded gifts makes total sense. If a wealthy guest who normally drops, say, $50,000 on a gift, instead spends the money on a good cause, isn't that better?
"I wouldn't normally be sending the royal family presents," Higgins said. "But I could be now."
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511