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Will and Kate are cash cows for the memorabilia business

For some, the royal wedding in Britain will merely be a great reason for a party. But for others, it's a huge business opportunity: The manufacturers of wedding memorabilia are expecting the sale of a century.

Plates with portaits of Kate and William

Plates that are meant not to eat from but rather to look at

The British will be celebrating what looks set to be one of the country's most popular royal weddings ever on April 29, when Prince William, second in line to the throne, marries Kate Middleton.

And while for many the royal wedding will be a great reason for a party, for others it's a huge business opportunity.

Makers of royal wedding memorabilia have already started churning out plates, cups, posters and dolls - not since William's parents, Charles and Diana, got hitched in 1981 has a royal wedding attracted so much interest.

"Oh, we are extremely busy - we're probably going to do as much business in the next two weeks as we did all of last year," said Andrew Cousins, head of Peter Jones China, a major manufacturer of royal commemorative plates, cups and all things china.

To his company, the prince's marriage to Middleton is the be all and end all for the few weeks the wedding bonanza lasts.

Royal Wedding memorabilia on sale in Windsor

There's an eclectic mix of memorabilia on sale in Windsor

"As soon as the engagement was announced a big cheer went up in the office, because we've been ready and waiting for this event for quite a while. We've been working on designs for about two years," he said.

Spoons, mugs, plates, vases ...

"This particular event is of massive importance to our business," Cousins added. "Not only is it big, but it's coming off a period of four or five years since an event of any size or any significance in the commemorative market. So yes, it's very, very important to us."

There's non-stop activity in the company's packing room, where everything from 14-euro coffee mugs to a 3,400-euro vase are being shipped both to the UK and to eager royalty-watchers in Commonwealth countries, like Australia and New Zealand, and to some of the most passionate followers of all things having to do with British royalty, in the US.

"This has got a design of Buckingham Palace and the relevant flags," Cousins said, pointing to a tankard. "Tradition always has it that you have individual portraits."

Making royal memorabilia is a quintessentially British tradition, which has been going on since a commemorative mug was made in 1660 to celebrate the coronation of Charles II.

This time around there are some new - and less politically correct - players in the field.

... and a royal sick bag

"Well, I'd heard a few people saying things like, 'Oh I'm sick of hearing about the royal wedding,' and that was already around Christmas time," said designer Lydia Leith. "And I thought I could probably make something for these people who are already sick of hearing about it."

Tea spoons with portraits of Kate and William

The perfect spoon for your five o'clock tea?

Leith is behind one of the best-selling royal souvenirs - a royal sick bag. It comes in red or blue and, as with almost all royal memorabilia, an image of the smiling royal couple has a prominent place on it. At 3,40 euros a piece, they've been flying off the shelves.

"It's just taken off so much bigger than I could ever have imagined" Leith said, who hand-signs each bag that sells through her website.

While the sale of mugs, plates and sick bags nears fever pitch as the big day approaches, royal memorabilia businesspeople needn't worry too much about the drop in sales which is sure to begin as soon as the royal couple leave on their honeymoon. Next year, the Queen will be celebrating 60 years on the throne with a spectacular diamond jubilee.

Author: Lars Bevanger, Manchester /ai
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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