LONDON, United Kingdom — A 20-piece dinner set? A George Foreman grill? What gift do you give a royal couple to celebrate their marriage?
It is unlikely Britain's Prince William and his bride, Kate Middleton, will struggle to furnish their first love nest, but that hasn't deterred people from wanting to shower them with presents.
To save loyal subjects from poring over department store catalogues (or perhaps for fear of being inundated with unwanted toasters, bedspreads and Tupperware), the couple have instead asked well-wishers to donate cash to charity.
And, despite austerity measures that have left increasing numbers of Britons jobless or struggling to balance their books, the money has rolled in. The exact amount isn't being revealed until after the wedding to avoid giving the impression that William and Kate are organizing a telethon-style fundraiser, officials said, but estimates are already high.
"So far, it's six figures," a spokeswoman at St. James's Palace, which houses the Royal Court, told GlobalPost.
To collect and distribute the cash, William and Kate have created their own organization, the prosaically titled "Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund," as an offshoot from an existing charity established by the prince and his brother, Harry.
With details of the charity and its benefactors announced a mere six weeks before the wedding, the specifics of how the money will be spent are still being hashed out. The couple have selected 26 charities or funds that are "close to their hearts and reflect the experiences, passions and values of their lives so far," according to a statement on the charity's website. These are grouped into five major causes: changing lives through arts and sport; children fulfilling their potential; help and care at home; support for service personnel and their families; and conservation for future generations.
Some of the charities are obvious choices. After Prince William's recent visit to witness the aftermath of February's earthquake in New Zealand, donating to an appeal to help those affected comes as no surprise. Likewise military-related organizations, such as the Army Widows' Association or soldiers' mental health charity Combat Stress, clearly reflect William's army and Royal Air Force career and echo the work of the foundation set up by the princes in 2009.
Other choices have been less predictable. These included Beatbullying, a campaign to end the harassment of youngsters that said it has had no previous links to the couple, but said it was nevertheless "fantastic" to be named. Media have reported that Middleton was bullied as a youngster by her private school peers, so perhaps she selected that cause.
Offering broader appeal, there are projects aimed at preserving endangered African and Asian elephants, rhinos and tigers as well as environmental campaigns.
Though clearly a welcome source of patronage, the hurried creation of William and Kate's charitable trust has also been a source of confusion for some. Nadine Urquart of the Scottish Community Foundation, chosen to distribute grants to smaller charities and groups in the community around St. Andrew's, the university where the couple met, said there was as yet no indication of how much it would receive or what criteria it would be given to distribute the cash. Nevertheless, likely benefactors that include Crossroads Dunfermline or Home Start East Fife, small care providers operating at the unglamorous end of the charity industry, would be happy for any help, she said.
"As yet, we have no idea how much will be available to distribute as a result of Prince William and Miss Middleton’s generous charitable fund, but as many of the charities we support are volunteer-led we know even small grants can make a big difference," Urquart said.
While royalty and charity frequently go hand-in-hand in Britain, most notably the successful Prince's Trust run by William's father, the couple's decision to channel public goodwill in such a way is largely unprecedented.
Among 6,000 gifts received by Charles and Diana to celebrate their wedding in 1981 was a gem-encrusted gold model of an Arab boat, reported to be worth up to $1.65 million, presented by the Emir of Bahrain. On her big day in 1947, Queen Elizabeth received a racehorse.
Not everyone has heeded William and Kate's well-intentioned request. Pop star George Michael, though not invited to the wedding, recorded a free-to-download cover version of Stevie Wonder's "You and I" as his gift to the couple.
A little cheesy perhaps, but no match for the 1,000-pound wheel of cheddar presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their wedding day.