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Elton John, Beckhams on royal wedding guest list

LONDON, Apr 24 – The confirmed guest list and seating plan for the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton was unveiled on Saturday, with celebrities, sports stars and foreign monarchs set to attend.

Musician Elton John, footballer David Beckham and his pop star wife Victoria and "Mr Bean" actor Rowan Atkinson are among the glittering line-up for the service in London\’s Westminster Abbey on Friday.

In a nod to William\’s military background and status as second in line to the throne, there will also be a British veteran of the war in Afghanistan and the families of soldiers killed in that country and in Iraq.

The seating plan revealed that William\’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and other senior royals will be the front row, with the Middleton family on the other side of the aisle.

Kate\’s mother Carole will sit directly opposite the queen.

The Spencer family of William\’s mother Diana, princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, will sit behind the Middletons.

However, as expected there is no place for Sarah Ferguson, William\’s aunt and the ex-wife of his uncle Prince Andrew, following a series of tabloid newspaper scandals.

More than 40 foreign royals from countries as diverse as Brunei, Thailand, Morocco and Swaziland are among the "confirmed attendees", said St James\’s Palace, William\’s official residence.

There is an unexpected appearance by Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain after reports that the Gulf state\’s rulers would withdraw to avoid embarrassment after a bloody crackdown on protesters there.

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But Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni cannot attend the wedding, Phnom Penh\’s foreign ministry said, although it denied reports in Britain that he had ignored the invitation.

A St James\’s Palace spokesman said inviting other crowned heads of state was a long-held tradition but the Foreign Office\’s advice was sought on issues.

Since the wedding is not a formal state occasion, world leaders such as US President Barack Obama have not been invited.

There are however several heads of government including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her New Zealand counterpart John Key, along with governors-general from 15 Commonwealth realms where the queen is still the monarch.

Key figures from the British government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also attend.

The wedding is expected to be watched by a worldwide television audience of around two billion people.

Celebrities feature heavily on the guest list, and also include Guy Ritchie, the film director and ex-husband of Madonna, and Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, whom St James\’s Palace said William had met last year.

Elton John – who sang the hit "Candle in the Wind" at Diana\’s funeral in the abbey – will be accompanied by his partner David Furnish.

William met former England captain Beckham as part of England\’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

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Mario Testino, the official photographer for the engagement, will be there along with singer Joss Stone, who performed at a Diana tribute concert.

Sports stars include Clive Woodward, the World Cup-winning former England rugby union coach; Gareth Thomas, the Wales rugby back; and the former England football midfielder Trevor Brooking.

Former British prime minister John Major, who was appointed a guardian to Princes William and Harry after their mother died, will attend, as will Julia Samuel, chair of the Child Bereavement Charity.

A number of William\’s colleagues from his job as a search and rescue helicopter pilot for the Royal Air Force will also be attending, along with members of charities he supports.

There will also be space for Lance Corporal Martyn Compton, a British soldier who served with William, and who was so badly burned in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan in 2006 that he lost his ears and nose.

William has also invited members of the families of two colleagues from the military officer training school at Sandhurst: Joanna Dyer, who was killed by a bomb in Iraq in 2007, and Major Alexis Roberts, killed four years ago in Afghanistan.

Most of the invitees are family or private friends of William and his fiancee, and her guests reportedly include the butcher, the postman and the greengrocer from the rural English village of Bucklebury where she grew up.

Inside Westminster Abbey itself, only the bride and groom\’s nearest and dearest will be able to witness the ceremony close up.

Most guests will be behind the choir screen, a partition in the abbey which restricts the view of the altar to those behind it. They will have to watch on video screens to see the moment when William and Kate exchange their vows.

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