An official invitation to Prince William to come to the Algarve on his honeymoon seems to have gone astray. It is not likely that he would have accepted the invitation anyway because of a much more serious matter, that of Madeleine McCann who went missing while on holiday in the Algarve in 2007.
By an unfortunate fluke of timing, the story of Madeleine McCann last week became intertwined with that of the forthcoming royal wedding. The mystery surrounding the honeymoon invitation (of which more in a moment) is a quite separate issue, though some ardent conspiracy theorists may be able to conjure up a connection.
The story of missing Maddie has obsessed a large section of humanity for nearly four years now. News of the fairytale royal marriage is sure to fixate the entire planet for many years to come. Last week, out of the blue, the two did a sort of pirouette.
Kate and Gerry McCann had already announced that their book entitled Madeleine would be coming out on April 28th, shortly before the fourth anniversary of their daughter's disappearance. Then the Royal Household announced that the wedding of Will and Kate had been scheduled for Westminster Abbey on April 29th.
Obviously the clash of dates would mean that the McCann's book launch would be overshadowed by the glitzy royal spectacular. So the McCanns and their publisher, Transworld, announced that the book launch had been postponed for a fortnight, until May 12th. The new date is still conveniently close to the date Madeleine went missing, May 3rd. Also, it neatly coincides with what will be, or would have been, her eighth birthday.
The timings are not good so far as the Algarve is concerned. Nuno Aires, president of the Algarve Tourist Board (ERTA), told me recently he was “optimistic” that Prince William and his bride would accept the official invitation sent from his office shortly after the original wedding announcement in November.
Nuno Aires first mentioned his intention to invite the royal couple when he spoke with the retiring British Ambassador, Alex Ellis, at a dinner in the Algarve. A written invitation was then sent to the British Embassy in Lisbon for forwarding to the Royal Household.
“We said we would be honoured and delighted to receive Prince William and his wife,” said Sr Aires. He thought having the honeymoon here would be appropriate because of the historic relationship between Portugal and the UK. He had met William during the prince's visit to the west coast as a member of a stag party group in 2006. Like Will, Nuno enjoys surfing. The prince told him, “I feel at home here”.
Many top hotels had let it be known to the tourist board that they would welcome the royal couple and that no expense would be spared in laying on everything they required. The state would be able to provide the highest security arrangements.
But would the royal couple want to be here at a time when the media will also be focusing, yet again, on the most publicised missing child case in human history - and a highly controversial one at that?
Meanwhile, it emerged at the end of last week that the honeymoon invitation sent on 25th November had still not been received by the Embassy. In confirming this, a spokesperson said that the Embassy could not have forwarded the invitation anyway. All gifts or invitations intended to mark the occasion of the royal wedding have to be sent by post directly to HRH Prince William at Clarence House, London SW1A 1BA.
The Embassy spokesperson added: “ It is also important to bear in mind the fact that many thousands of letters and offers of services have already been received by HRH Prince William and Miss Middleton.”
What a shame. A royal honeymoon visit would have given the Algarve tourist industry a welcome boost but, alas, for one reason or another, it doesn't seem to be on the cards. Our best hope is for a bit of private prenuptial surfing involving just the boys ahead of the main stag parties in London and Cape Town.