Wills and Kate: time to embrace the royal wedding
So William and Kate are engaged. Despite the bride-to-be’s feigned surprise, it was the news the rest of us had been expecting for months, if not years. But judging from much of the media coverage yesterday, many of us are unsure of how to react. And some commentators are already asking if we should exercise restraint in the run up to the wedding and on the big day itself.
I’d argue the opposite. In the lead-up to the Queen’s golden jubilee celebrations in 2002, those planning the event predicted a groundswell of public disinterest. But the reality of unreserved jubilation that spontaneously burst out of the population that memorable bank holiday weekend confounded all expectations. And that anniversary took place just a few years after the death of Diana when, if opinion polls were to be believed, the Queen’s popularity was at an all-time low.
Whatever the inevitable popularity polls reveal about William and Kate over the next few days, not even the most hardened stick-in-the-mud could wish them anything but the very best. His behaviour has always been beyond criticism. And she’s had long enough waiting in the wings to make a mistake, without ever putting a foot wrong. So how could anyone begrudge their obvious happiness as they announced their big news to the world yesterday?
It didn’t take long however for rumblings to surface around the potential cost of the wedding. Some are already saying that in this time of austerity, a lavish wedding would be inappropriate. Quite the contrary. It’s well documented that the Royal Family are one of the strongest symbols of British identity, particularly when projected around the world, and that they deliver way more than they cost in economic terms.
Measuring their contribution in terms of morale is obviously more difficult, particularly during the scandal-prone recent years. But the Queen’s coronation in 1953 did much to boost both morale and the economy in a time of deep post-war austerity. And Charles and Diana’s wedding also took place during a time of economic gloom yet it had the same effect on both counts. If the government really is serious about measuring the success of our nation not just in terms of the economy but also in terms of how we score on their much-publicised happiness scale, then they should surely be clapping their hands with glee at yesterday’s announcement.
Perhaps the only dark shadow hanging over proceedings yesterday was that of William’s parents’ failed marriage. Which is why it was such a shrewd move for William to confront head-on what could easily have been the elephant in the room. By giving Kate his mother’s iconic sapphire wedding ring, he not only banished the elephant from the room but scored extra points by inviting his mother – surely the most popular royal ever when measured in world terms – along to the party.
But perhaps what was most striking of all was that throughout the announcement and the big TV interview, the couple seemed genuinely happy and clearly in love. She picked a bit of fluff off his shoulders, making sure that he was camera-ready. And he not only looked at her with obvious love but was also protective towards her, stepping in to help her out when she struggled to answer the inevitable question about how she’d cope with the pressures of comparisons to Princess Diana.
And these comparisons are grossly unfair. Just as it’s unfair for William to be held accountable for the mistakes of his father, interestingly the only member of yesterday’s inner circle to miss the mark in his reaction to the news, making a curmudgeonly quip about the couple having practised for long enough.
But this is no time for cynicism. I predict that the public will embrace the event and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the celebrations.
I certainly will.
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