- Associated Press - Monday, February 14, 2011

LONDON (AP) — Key supporting roles in what is expected to be the royal wedding of the year — if not the decade — were handed out Monday, with Prince Harry named as his brother’s best man and Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa chosen as her maid of honor.

Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, also named bridesmaids and page boys for the big event, including a 3-year-old who will be asked to be on her best behavior during the globally televised ceremony. The Valentine’s Day announcement also names two of Prince William’s godchildren as page boys.

The announcements made by St. James’s Palace officials acting on behalf of Prince William make clear that the April 29 wedding at Westminister Abbey will be a family affair that emphasizes the tight bonds between Britain’s youthful princes and between Kate Middleton and her younger sister, the stylish, 27-year-old Pippa Middleton, whose given name is Philippa.

In the past, royal grooms have chosen more than one best man, or supporter as it is sometimes called, but Prince William, 28, has made clear that Prince Harry, 26, offers all the support he needs.

“It’s unusual to have only just one man,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. “All of the queen’s sons — Charles, Andrew, Edward — had two supporters at their wedding. But obviously William doesn’t feel the need to have more than one supporter and it’s by no means a hard and fast rule.”

The recognition of Harry’s important role in his brother’s life is one more step in the redemption of his once-tattered public image.

Derided as a carrot-topped party boy with questionable taste after he was photographed in 2005 wearing Nazi paraphernalia at a costume party and was disciplined by his father, Prince Charles, for smoking marijuana, Harry recently has gained a measure of respect with his military deployment in Afghanistan.

His on-again, off-again relationship with Chelsy Davy also has sparked speculation about a possible second royal wedding in the not-too-distant future. The official wedding guest list — still a secret — will be closely scrutinized to see if Miss Davy is invited, which would be widely taken as an indication that the relationship is flourishing once again.

Kate Middleton’s choice of her sister Pippa as maid of honor was seen as slightly surprising because bridesmaids and maids of honor at royal weddings are typically younger than Pippa Middleton, who is 27, said royal historian Hugo Vickers.

But he said the choice makes sense because the sisters, both raised in the posh suburb of Bucklebury in the horse country west of London, are so close.

The younger Middleton shares some of her sister’s style, including a taste for wraparound dresses, and she has played a contributing role in her parents’ successful party supplies business.

She carefully has stayed out of the limelight, only rarely agreeing to interviews, although she and her mother, Carole Middleton, recently were photographed with dressmaker Bruce Oldfield, a favorite of Princess Diana’s, who is seen as a contender in the wedding dress designer sweepstakes.

When it came to naming youthful bridesmaids and page boys — expected to provide unbelievably cute photogenic fodder on the big day — it seems that William may have exercised his royal prerogatives, Mr. Vickers said.

“Most of the bridesmaids and pages are very much from William’s side, although that’s not surprising,” he said. “It was very much the same at Charles and Diana’s wedding.”

The kiddy contingent will range in age from 3 to 10, posing a logistical challenge familiar to any parent. A tantrum on international TV? It’s possible, but hopefully not.

“I’m sure the bridesmaids will be kept in line and not allowed to run amok,” Mr. Little said.

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