Royal Wedding? No Thanks, I’d Rather Golf.

The royal nuptials: a snooze?

The response in London to William and Kate’s nuptials is a tad less enthusiastic than American journalist Jennifer Howze expected

The weather turned gloriously springlike in London over the past two weeks, with sunlight the colour of Tate & Lyle’s golden syrup pouring through bay windows and showcasing the daffodils. The afternoon sun heats the brass Victorian doorknobs and knockers into ornamental skillets. The pubs overflow, patrons spilling onto their front sidewalks. The mood is buoyant – in short, if the weather holds it will be the perfect atmosphere for a royal wedding.

Yet despite the enthusiasm from the media, the natural optimism these ceremonies inspire (sometimes), and the collusion of Mother Nature herself, a very different conversation about the royal wedding is taking place here in London: How are you avoiding it?

Among my friends, Justin will be golfing on April 29. Claire’s taking the train to Brighton with her children. Philip’s heading to his country house in the Cotswolds. Lucy will be attending – but only because she’s producing live TV coverage.

Even friends who aren’t leaving town are approaching it in lacklustre fashion. “Attend a wedding-watching party?” one father from my daughter’s school mused, looking puzzled. “We have a TV here if the girls want to see it so badly.” Many Londoners say vaguely that they’ll do something. They don’t know what. They’ll decide on the day.

The second in line to the throne, the first son of the “people’s princess” is getting married –and it’s not even generating the heat of an iPhone launch or a store appearance by Kate Moss.

As a former New Yorker, on one level I get it. Just like summer in the Big Apple, when the tourists, suburbanites and out-of-towners descend, it’s the cue for the “real” Londoners to take a powder. Nobody wants to be stuck on the pavement behind a family of visitors staggering under the weight of their camera equipment and commemorative wedding tea towels.

Yet unlike summer, this isn’t an annual event. (One wonders if jokes about “next time I get married” are acceptable palace humor.) I expected a mild flurry of … well, not excitement exactly – you rarely get that here — but at least a frisson of anticipation among even my most reserved of British friends and colleagues. It’s a great excuse for a party, right?

But the British people’s relationship with their royals isn’t one of celebrity fandom like I’d imagined 30 years ago as a teenager in Texas, watching Charles and Diana wed. My mother and I sat in our robes in the darkened living room, commenting on the carriages, military uniforms and Diana’s big poufy dress. I was dazzled by the real live prince and princess. Here and now, most people’s attitude is one of apathy, with the occasional spark of anti-royalist emotion.

“The wedding is nice for them, but it’s nothing to do with me,” said my friend Nick. His “celebrations” will include hitting a couple of local parties and enjoying the free bubbly.
Rachel, an old-school journalist for a broadsheet newspaper, got exercised on the topic: Did I realise how vast the royal family’s wealth and land holdings are and the special rights they enjoy? Did I know how much was being spent by us, the taxpayers, to put on this little party?

“I don’t think the wedding itself is a load of bollocks if they love each other, but I can’t stand this manufactured national bonhomie around it,” said Angela, a property developer. The wedding has pushed front and center the symbolism of the royals, which grates. “To have as the head of state someone who has simply been born into the right family sends a horrible message. It’s everything that’s wrong with this country – deference and hidebound loyalty to the class system.”

Ah yes. While Catherine will turn into a princess on April 29th, her current “commoner” status is a topic of concern for a few royal watchers: can she possibly adjust to palace life? But in an era of Google entrepreneurs, to many Brits she’s stuck in the language of the past and borne into the palace on the back of the prince’s steed. Cute for 6-year-olds, but not exactly in line with the picture of a modern global power.

I’m neither royalist nor anti-royalist. While I recently become a British citizen – swearing my allegiance to country and, yes, Queen Elizabeth II – I don’t follow the season, read Hello! or keep up with the princes’ nightclub antics.

Even so, I perceive the benefits of maintaining the royal family. As an outsider, I know the Windsors are a heady symbol of the UK, and in reality the Queen especially seems to work tirelessly, cutting ribbons and shaking hands. While Brits debate the actual statistics, according to my anecdotal research, tourism also benefits. I’ve heard that hotels are booked solid and pull-out sofabeds are seeing high occupancy too. One friend described April as “when the family descends on the guest room.”

I can’t help getting a wee bit excited about a national holiday that calls for cake and Champagne. With another New Yorker, I’m throwing a party at her flat on a grand residential square. The dress code is “wedding,” hats included (note: the fashion elite tut at fascinators). There will be mini Yorkshire puddings to eat and two ex-Etonians organizing traditional British party games. The cultural read of this is that I am slightly too keen on the whole business.

Still, there’s been one aspect of the day that’s united everyone. When the palace announced the date, the buzz round the school gate, in restaurants, and at the office was all the same. The 29th was named an official bank holiday. It’s just one week after Good Friday and the four-day Easter weekend. So if you take three days’ holiday – from April 26 to 28 – you get 11 days off work.

In inviting the nation to celebrate with them, the royal family have – perhaps inadvertently – encouraged another great British institution: the bank holiday French leave.

Jennifer Howze, formerly the Times of London’s online lifestyle editor, is a writer and co-founder of the British Mummy Bloggers social network.

20 comments so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I have to wonder if the reaction would have been different had Lady Kate been the bride instead of just plain old Kate. Lady Diana was of the peerage. Plain old Kate is not. 

    I suspect the bio of Queen Elizabeth should be titled  “The Last Monarch.” In a way, she is.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Baby…interesting thought.  But given Kate’s age (almost 29) and her experience (years with William) she carries herself with much more regal assurance than young Lady Di did, in those early years.  And it was Diana’s gaucherie–that doe in the headlights air– that endeared her to, well–the world, really, even before the wedding. 

      Middleton is a beauty and nobody’s dishrag.  She  appears quite stable, sure of herself (and her man)   Good for her, and for him.  But stability isn’t terribly exciting for the media.  

      Good luck to them.  I think it’s a horrible life. 

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        But she is a commoner.  And that in a way was a problem for Diana as well who assuming she was at best only going to marry one of her own had moved from Althorp and found a job and moved into a flat with roommates and became a commoner. And forgot the rules of the house so to speak. Camilla should have been ignored. She became part of the package.  The way it was. The way it still is.  Had Diana not died, Charles would never have been allowed to marry Camilla. Not if he wanted to remain the Prince of Wales.

        It is a horrible life in a way.  And there are rules. That commoners it appears cannot deal with. As before there are “dark clouds” as they say.

        Among the “dark clouds” is this odd “political” element that has been added. If Buckingham Palace keeps ”uninviting” the suddenly “politically incorrect” only the media will be attending.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        And that ring.  The symbol of Diana. Not a good portent of things to come.

  2. avatar MumsRock says:

    Couldn’t disagree more with your eloquently written post Jen. As an actual Londoner (don’t mean to be rude but blimey are there a lot of non-London-Londoners!) I only know one person/humbug who doesn’t wish to watch the wedding and his wife is pulling her hair out.

    Most of my friends are enormously pleased thank-you-very-much to have something cheery to think about instead of ruddy lying coailtion politicians, negative equity, lack of school places and the mysterious increase of dog shit on the pavements these days.

    Yesterday we drove past Buckingham Palace awash with international news crews and tourists which was actually, well lovely. I wanted my four year old to have memories of this event – because it does matter, and we are a part of it so… Phooey to the sad and cynical amongst the population for feeling they are above such frivolity – it’s their loss.

    For our part – we will be watching the wedding with family then joining friends at one of the local street parties. Like you said – how often do we get a day off when it’s positively encouraged to drink champagne and quaff cake?! Long Live The Royal Wedding!

    • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

      Thank you Mum’s Rock!!
      I had been told that all of England except for the immediate families were all disinterested in this wedding. I am looking forward to watching it and I wish William and Kate well. I truly hope that after the pomp and circumstance, the toasts and cake, the pictures and dancing that they will have some time to themselves to just BE. They have conducted their courtship with grace and fun. I wish them love and a good life. Let the festivities begin!! Have a glass of wine or whatever for me at the street party! I’ll be there in spirit!
      Deirdre

      • avatar MumsRock says:

        Deidre – I will raise a glass of fizz for you and might even attempt a spot of Hokey Cokey to boot!

  3. avatar Pdr de says:

    American journalists have made a HUGE thing of this wedding – everything blown all out or proportion – was disgusted a few days ago to see that the “guest seating list has been released” as though millions will read about who sits where. I wish them well – living as a royal is not the greatest life. Pretty soon the press will be reporting on Kate’s hats, on her weight (too thin, too fat), on her appeal to the “commoners”, when are they going to have a baby? Poor William – he’s gone from the “world’s most eligible bachelor” to “oh, wow, he’s sure lost a lot of hair and isn’t so sexy any more.”

    I won’t be watching though I’d like to see her wedding gown since there’s been so much speculation about it. They seem to be a very nice young couple and I wish them happiness. At least they’ll never have financial worries unlike 95% of the rest of the world.

  4. avatar WkendDad says:

    First of all, I shall be driving to see my parents during the Royal Wedding- I anticipate the A303 around Stonehenge will be clear for once during this time.

    I could not give two hoots about the Royal Wedding, the Tax payer is funding a party for two very wealthy families. As I struggle to pay my Council Tax and over-the-top Water rates I find this quite irksome.

    Surely in this time of economic problems, the young couple could’ve picked a more low-key event? And don’t get me started on the date itself (2 four day weekends on the trott- bad timing).

    As for our ‘commoner’ Kate- when can we drop this charade? She went to one of the most exclusive private schools for girls, there is nothing common about Kate Middleton, she is not of Royal blood true but she’s certainly not an everyday girl (for which the word common implies).

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      She’s not of the peerage and she’s not of a royal house.  So she’s a commoner. Nothing wrong with it per se as long as she knows the rules. Diana  was of the peerage and knew the rules. And forgot them. So, well, there you go. 

      As for the cost of “maintaining” the House of Windsor I believe it works out to about 65 pence per person per year.  I believe that’s about a dollar. Given what the House of Windsor brings in each year as a “tourist attraction” it’s quite a deal.  Which works out well for everyone. Of course who knows. After a couple of years of Charles and Camilla, everyone may decide it’s time to try entertainment parks.

      Regardless of anything else, there is the monarchy which has seen everyone through good times and bad for centuries.  These are bad times.  But there will be good times. Don’t blame Queen Elizabeth.  Blame Parliament.  And keep in mind that if Parliament ever really goes too far, she can dismiss Parliament and call for new elections.   It’s
      the one absolute power the Contsitution grants the monarch. To defend the Constitution. If her heating bill gets too high this winter, well, you never know. “Off with their heads!”

      The wedding is part of the “rites of passage” for the people. It should be celebrated. With all the pomp and circumstance a royal weeding is supposed to have. When Charles assumes the throne William becomes the Prince of  Wales. The monarcy will continue. As will what’s left of the British Empire. Which will probably survive the American Empire. Simply because of the monarchy.

      The marriage? Well, who knows. Let’s just hope she follows the rules and keeps it all to herself. Regardless of whatever it is she may not want to keep to herself.

  5. avatar Bonnie O says:

    A very interesting read;  thank you Jennifer Howze.

    Will I watch the ceremonies?  Everything begins about 1AM, my time, but I believe I will be able to watch until the service at the Abbey is concluded.  It will be an “event”, a world wide spectacle ….. and, perhaps, a lot of fun.

    The weather forecast is for rain and thunder.  The cost is, from what I last read, about $32 million dollars.  Even in the UK, that is not that much money to invest in what is bascially the UK’s number one business …. tourism.

    Would Britain be the same without the royals?  Hardly.  As Margaret Thatcher once said of the UK …. Britain maintains her status as a world player in politics because she flies under the wing of the Eagle (America).  Could it not also be said that the UK maintains her uniqueness because the royal family is a living link to not only Britain’s past from the dark ages, through the Renaissance, the Industrial age, past Dunkirk and to today?

    England’s London will be spotlighted not only through the wedding of William and Kate but into next year with the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics.

    I wish all Brits good luck with these two major events.

  6. avatar Liz Dawes says:

    I know we probably shouldn’t be using tax payers money, I know the royals are prob elitist and I know I should probably find something better to do on my free day off. But smiling faces, sunshine, union jack bunting, cupcakes……I can’t help it! I’m officially excited!

  7. avatar Rho says:

    I got up to watch Diana’s wedding, before I went to work.  Now that I’m not working, I’m not sure I will wake up so early, I’d like to though.  I’ll see.  If not, I’m sure it will be all over the news.

    I do find it kind of exciting.

  8. avatar Sian - MummyTips says:

    Great post Jen. I have to say I’m kind of up in the air about the whole thing but I think I actually will be sitting down to watch.
    If the whole wedding thing doesn’t take your fancy opt for watching my girl’s TV debut at 3.30pm on CITV!
    x

  9. avatar Bella Mia says:

    The trend is weddings becoming less commonplace than they once were. I would like to see a young happy couple making a lifetime commitment. Maybe the cynicism coming from so many is from the experience of seeing so many divorces. I’m happy to say that the majority of my college roommates and friends have had enduring marriages, so I consider a wedding a really wonderful experience. I would watch this on TV, and am interested in the dresses. These boys were deprived of a mother, so the thought that this will spur them to even greater happiness is heartening.

  10. avatar elaine s says:

    We got sucked into the fairy tale when Dianna married Charles.  We were so sad for her when we found out he wasn’t in love with her, after all, and had been pressured to marry the finest available virgin.  She had a terrible life with him and her only joy was her children.  Her premature death was the final blow.  It was enough to stop many of us from believeing in fairy tales ever again.  Happy endings are the stuff dreams are made of, and some of us have quit dreaming. 

    And, yet, at the 11th hour, I find myself sincerely hoping Dianna’s son William all the happiness in the world, in the crapshoot that is marriage.  My reaction fits the quote about remarriage:  “a triumph of hope over experience”.

  11. avatar Anais P says:

    I am less than thrilled that the media of “the colonies” keeps shoving royal wedding coverage down our collective throats. Didn’t our forefathers go to war more than 200 years ago to throw off the tyranny of a monarchy? What’s worse is that they are showing how completely our media is obsessed with any sort of celebrity, instead of providing coverage on MUCH more important issues, such as our grave economic situation, the developing class war and the exportation of jobs. The Founding Fathers and Mothers are spinning in their graves.

  12. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Mr. W. Ms. Middleton will go straight to the pages of Vogue. She is little else that I can see. To me, she is the Bond Girl. 

  13. avatar jennyp says:

    As an American living in London too, I agree with Jen; there was so little excitement among the Brits for this exciting day. I couldn’t get any of them to come out with me that day, in the end it was an American friend who joined me early Friday morning to get a good spot to watch the procession from Westminster Abbey. We had a great time waving our flags and cheering for the happy couple, how amazing to say we saw the future King and Queen of England on their wedding day! Of a million people along the route, I know there had to be some English people cheering for true love and not just the extra day off.