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Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding: Do monarchies still matter?

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That union, of course, ended in scandal and divorce. In 1997, trailed through the streets of Paris by press photographers, Diana was killed in an auto accident, along with her companion, Dodi Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul.

Diana's memory looms over her children – William and his younger brother, Harry – and her country.

"I think there is excitement," royal biographer Hugo Vickers says of the upcoming wedding. "I don't think it's quite the same as 1981. That was built up as such a fairy-tale occasion and it put too much pressure on the couple [Charles and Diana]. I think people are a little nervous to do that again."

Instead, this wedding is billed as something a little smaller. Well, as intimate as you can get inside Westminster Abbey, the coronation church since 1066.

"There is a lot of public sympathy for William," Mr. Vickers says. "He unites both sides of the coin, Prince Charles and Diana. Because he had a lousy time as a young boy, people wish him well, regardless of their sympathies toward the monarchy. He's a good boy doing a good job.

"You could say this is the first marriage of an heir to the British throne that is a complete love match," Vickers adds. "This is not a dynastic union. No one has pushed him into it."

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