The Wedding March: View from a Brit

Spare a thought for Prince William and Kate Middleton. They probably just want to get hitched, with as little fuss as possible, and head off and enjoy their honeymoon. Instead, their wedding has become a cultural signifier—but does it really warrant all the media attention it's getting?

William's popularity has ushered in a wave of affection for the Royal Family. He's young, reasonably attractive, and it helps that he looks like his mother, who still occupies a prominent role in the mysterious place known to commentators as the nation's heart. Oscar-winning films such as The Queen and The King's Speech have equally helped rehabilitate the Windsors, ten years after one broadsheet risked being accused of treason by openly supporting the abolition of the monarchy. And nothing makes the public love you like getting the day off work.

The UK is in a recession. Hospitals and libraries are having their funding slashed and the blame for the economic crisis is being placed on the public sector instead of the banks. Now that tuition fees have rocketed, fewer people from underprivileged backgrounds can afford university, and the much-vaunted social inclusion that allowed a girl from a reasonably well-off family to meet and marry a boy from an incredibly well-off (if deeply dysfunctional) family is at an end. And yet despite this, the haves and have-nots seem to be united in celebrating a wedding that will have little impact on their lives barring a brief influx of tourism and the opportunity for enterprising individuals to cash in on the plethora of Wills & Kate merchandise.

But not everyone is shelling out on the commemorative tea towels. Although the bulk of the media coverage suggests that the 29th of April will be a day of festivities, little has been reported worldwide of the skepticism with which many of William's future subjects view the ceremony. It's not just a rebellion against our celebrity culture—although the heir and the spare have long been fodder for the same tabloids that drool over footballers and former Spice Girls—it's the timing and the scale of the event.

The wedding itself will take place a month after 400,000 people descended upon London to protest massive cuts to public spending. Among the buildings peacefully occupied by protesters was Fortnum and Mason's, a department store that does double duty as a bastion of all things English. It was yet another sign that a sizable part of the population is growing tired of the elite that defines us in the eyes of the world.

So is this wedding just the last hurrah, a decaying institution relishing its final moments of cultural relevance, or does the Windsor-Middleton union herald a renewed love of all things regal? Only time will tell, but over the next two weeks, I'll be going behind the bunting to discover what the Royal Wedding really means to Britain, the world, and women in general—and taking a look at some of the odder aspects of this most aristocratic of affairs.

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Comments

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wedding madness

I didn't understand the hoopla when it was Diana and Charles, and I especially don't understand it now....my only response continues to be "WTF!" And it isn't just the Brits. I was at a meeting and in the time waiting for all to be present, a colleague told me she wanted to stay home on the 29th to watch it all on television. I just thought to myself, huh? I look forward to reading any explanations you might offer, because it's just so out of my realm....

OMFG

I'm SO excited for the wedding, and I have NO idea why! My friends and I are having a big party and everyone is taking the day off from work to watch it live! (We live in Europe one hour ahead of the UK, so this is totally feasible.) What does it mean?? Why do we care?? Love of spectacle? Fascination with celebrity? For the fashion? Because none of us had traditional weddings of our own, if any? A good pal just brought me an ugly kitschy tea towel from London with Will's and Kate's faces on it! It's the most amazing item in my life at the moment!

Yay for you! Yay for this series! EXCITEMENT!!

wedding hysteria

As much as I am happy for the extra day off, I certainly will not be watching wedding. Just last week the UK government was talking about how oportunities for young people should not be about who your dad is and who he knows... And yet we have the Royal family!!! And in these times of austerity, as far as I am aware the Royal family is paying for the wedding, but we, the taxpayer. are paying for the security. Here in Glasgow, the only wedding street party has been cancelled due to lack of interest. I think this pretty much says it all.

Spectacle

Thanks for this article, Kaite! It's appalling that something this trivial is receiving so much attention in the midst of terrible economic and environmental crises. Sociologically though, I wonder if like team sport, it allows people to buy into something much bigger than themselves and thereby feel good about themselves irrespective of how their lives are at the moment - a much needed distraction for the elites from tackling real problems. "Spectacle" and not religion is the opiate of the masses!

Re: Spectacle

I completely agree with you. This type of thing serves as a distraction from other, more pertinent issues. In a similar vein, I am convinced the whole paparazzi/celebrity 'obsession' that has emerged over the years is directly linked to denying/avoiding thinking about the wars in the Middle East, as well as the foreclosures and/or unemployment in both the US/UK.

More than that, I think this Royal Wedding is just a PR campaign to re-instate interest/nostalgia in the British monarchy - towards which there is known apathy.

I guess I'm just one of those

I guess I'm just one of those people who really cant get into two people getting married, especially when those individuals have nothing to do with me! When one of those British royals decides to come home with a broke, black girl, who looks like me, that's when I'll show some interest.