BY STAFF REPORTER
THIS WEEKEND will witness a historic moment in relations between the Catholic Church and the British monarchy, when a royal is married at the Vatican.
Lonl Nicholas Wmdsor, the Duke and Duchess of Kent's last remaining unmarried child, will marry the Britishborn Croatian noble, Donna Paola Doimi de Frankopan.
The ceremony will be conducted by Auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes of Westminster at the Church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini within the papal gardens behind St Peter's Basilica.
Lord Nicholas, whose godparents are the Prince of Wales and the late Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Coggan, will become the first ever member of the Royal Family to marry at the Vatican.
He will also be the first ever member of the Royal Family to marry openly and legally within the rites of the Catholic faith since the Reformation. A recent meeting of the Privy Council confirmed the sovereign's approval of the wedding, as is required by law.
Lord Nicholas's mother, the Duchess of Kent, became the most senior member of the Royal Family to convert to Catholicism in 1994.
He himself converted in 2001 and by doing so automatically lost his rights of succession to the throne because of the 1701 Act of Settlement that bars Catholics from becoming a monarch.
Princess Michael of Kent — the wife of Lord Nicholas's uncle — and his sister in law, the Countess of St Andrews, although Catholic from birth, both had civil marriages. Lord Nicholas's father, the Duke of Kent, who is the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Freemasons of England, is expected to attend the Vatican ceremony.
The Duke, who is known to be very close to his son, also and unusually issued an official engagement photo
graph taken by him at Kensington Palace (above).
The couple's spokesman, Anthony Bailey, said: "The wedding will be a small and strictly private family affair. It is expected that only immediate family members will attend.
"Lord Nicholas's godfather, the Prince of Wales, will not be attending as His Royal Highness will be returning from an official visit to Pakistan at the time which was arranged many months ago.
"Lord Nicholas and his bride will however be organising a private party to cele
brate their marriage in London some time in the New Year for other members of the Royal Family and close friends who will be unable to travel or have other commitments at this time".
The little-known and publicity-shy Lord Nicholas has been very active in Catholic affairs since his reception into the Church.
He privately joined tens of thousands who queued for 24 hours to file past the body at the lying in state of Pope John Paul II.
He and his Cambridgeeducated bride attend Mass regularly at Westminster Cathedral and Brompton Oratory and were recently seen at a reception with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and earlier at a Constantinian Order dinner held in honour of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington DC.
• It was claimed in the Daily Mail this week that the Queen has sent a private message of congratulations to Lord Nicholas and his future wife.
According to Richard Kay, the paper's former royal correspondent and successor to Nigel Dempster, the Queen told the couple that she was "delighted" and "very pleased" by the marriage.
Mr Kay also disclosed that the Queen, whose consent was required for the pair to many, would be attending the reception at St James's Palace.