BY MARK GREAVES
FOR 400 years the idea that a member of the British royal family might marry at the Vatican has seemed farfetched, to put it mildly.
But this week it emerged that the Queen has given her approval for her cousin, Lord Nicholas Windsor, to wed at St Peter's Basilica later this year.
Lord Nicholas, 36, the son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, converted to Catholicism five years ago.
He plans to marry Paola Frankopan, a British-born Croatian who was educated at Cambridge. The couple began their relationship four years ago and attend Mass at Westminster Cathedral.
An announcement from Buckingham Palace about their marriage plans is itruninent, according to the Daily Mail.
It is thought that the ceremony will be conducted some time in November in a side chapel at the Basilica rather than at the main altar.
A spokeswoman for Westminster Cathedral said she would not comment on the pastoral matters of parishioners.
"They are both deeply Catholic and, as such, it is entirely appropriate for them to wish to marry at the Vatican," a friend told the Daily Mail. "Of course there may be obstacles to overcome, but it is their overriding wish that, if possible, the wedding takes place in Rome."
Lord Nicholas renounced his 25th place in line to the throne when he became a Catholic in 2001. He told the press at the time: "I can confirm that [the conversion] is true, but I would prefer to say no more than that."
His mother, the Duchess of Kent, became the first prominent member of the royal family to convert to Catholicism in 1994. She was received into the Church in a private service conducted by the late Cardinal Basil Hume.
Lord Nicholas, who was educated at Harrow, has a reputation as a quiet, bookish character, and studied theology at Heythrop College. part of the University of London.
But, when he was 18 years old, he made headlines after he was caught smoking cannabis in St James's Park. Since then, however, he has enjoyed a quieter public profile.
Lord Nicholas, the godson of the Prince of Wales, now works part-time as a teacher after recovering from an eating disorder. He returned from Portugal on Monday after spending four days with Miss Frankopan in Sintra.
The approval that the Queen has given to Lord Nicholas's wedding plans is a sign of the growing public rapprochement between the British monarchy and the Holy See.
Lord Nicholas's brother, George, the Earl of St Andrews, also gave up his distant claim to the throne when he married a Catholic, Silvana Tomaselli, a Canadian academic. So did his uncle, Prince Michael of Kent, when he married Baroness MarieChristine von Reibnitz (Princess Michael) in 1978.