Royal wedding dress exhibit a tidy earner

The Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress has proven to be a tidy earner for the Queen as more than 600,000 people flocked to see a public display of the designer frock.

The highlight of Buckingham Palace's 2011 Royal Collection saw the tiny-waisted gown by Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton available for inspection at a cost of £17.50 (NZ$35.65) per adult.

The 73-day exhibition closed on Monday and a collection spokeswoman confirmed that visitor numbers were up almost 50 per cent on 2010, mainly due to the "Kate effect".

While a final figure for takings from this year's collection is yet to be revealed, London's Evening Standard newspaper put early estimates at nearing £10 million.

The entrance fee entitled visitors to see the gown, fitted to a headless dummy, above which was suspended the Queen's Cartier tiara, loaned to Catherine for her April 29 marriage to Prince William.

Nearby the bride's shoes and earrings were displayed and in a neighbouring room the royal couple's eight-tiered wedding cake, complete with sword mark where the newlyweds made their cut, is in a glass case.

Funds raised by the annual palace opening typically go towards the maintenance and conservation of the collection, but in 2011 a donation is also expected to be made to William and Catherine's wedding charity fund, benefiting 26 causes including Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service.

News of the boosted collection earnings come as the Queen faces a virtual pay freeze by British parliament.

The House of Lords has passed the Sovereign Grant Bill which will see the Queen, who received £31 million of public funds this year, get a projected £31.5 million by 2014/15, the Standard reported.

- AAP

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