Sunday, May 1, 2011

Commoners Represent

I just booked some travel arrangements for another wedding – with the muted flicker of ongoing TV commentary about the other day’s royal wedding in the background. I’ve never been able to get impressed with monarchies – in early elementary school, even King Friday and Queen Sara on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood seemed nuts. Could there be a group of more pretentiously purposeless people?

The only thing I find interesting about any of this week’s festivities is the family that’s marrying into the mayhem. William’s wife and in-laws are the non-traditional types who have the potential to serve up some seriously stirring scenes – there’ll be no run-of-the-mill marital infidelities or DUIs with this middle-class consortium. Kate the Great (who refused to utter the word “obey” during her vows) has what it takes to go out and get a job during her reign, or publicly call out the queen during a state dinner after a few too many glasses of sherry. From what I’ve heard and read so far, she’s the best thing to ever happen to that heinous palace (which once canceled its “Changing of the Guard” ceremony the morning I showed up ready for it). In addition to the crazy cokehead uncle, Pippa - the provocative, party-planning younger sister - wore a white dress to a wedding that was not her own, which is something even I’ve never had the nerve to do. With so public of a move like that, she might now be responsible for single-handedly bringing down an out-of-date taboo that should never have been established.

A couple of months ago, Newsweek ran an article about young American women who have all but put their lives on hold to cross the pond and borderline stalk Prince Harry in the hopes of becoming the next princess bride. At first, I thought it was a joke (Newsweek has gone downhill recently) – but it was for real. Fascination with the ways of the leisure class - and the fantasy of breaking into it - is a timeless diversion that’s clung to like a flotation device.


  1. I was hoping you would select this topic this week, as I have been obsessed by "the hats" for the last few days. I'm afraid my take on this wedding is a lot more frivolous than yours. My husband and I even had a "Royal Brunch" at 4:00 a.m., complete with New Yorkers' bagels, cream cheese, and lox. (I was a little annoyed with my husband because he got "reduced fat" cream cheese. Horrible stuff and a serious breach of royal etiquette.)

    My first encounter with the televised British royals took place in 1953 when I was in grade school. School was dismissed (hard to believe, I know) so that students could stay home to see the historic coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. I was only eight years old (third grade), but I stayed glued to that television like you wouldn't believe. I slurped up every moment. I was totally drawn into the ancient pageantry set in a modern world. And to see a woman crowned! That meant a lot to me as a young girl. It was inspiring. I was acutely conscious of history in the making. Also, I had read a book by Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret's nanny called "The Little Princesses," so I had a very real concept of how they had grown up. That book made me very aware that the royals have a very restricted, and to me, uncomfortable way of life. I never wanted to be a princess because I could see the cost even at that tender age.

    The next televised event in my life that involved royalty--although not British--was the wedding of Grace Kelly to Prince Ranier of Monaco. I was ten years old and now it was my fifth grade. It was beautiful, but it couldn't compare with a British coronation. I mean, a coronation is SERIOUS.

    Now I have to fast-forward to 1981: the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Now that wedding was all about the dress. Major souffle. However, I think we all knew that it wouldn't work out when, at the engagement announcement, a reporter asked the Prince about being in love. The Prince replied in the affirmative, but added, with a pathetic little chuckle, "whatever love is." You could just see poor Diana's face freeze. I will never like Prince Charles and I will never warm up to Camilla the Rotweiler.

    Now we have 2011, and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I was very pleased with the whole thing. I know they spent a lot of millions on it (much of that was on security) but it was still appropriately toned down and streamlined, befitting a new era. The dress was beautiful and rather tailored, which worked well for the bride. But THE HATS. Those British women, ya gotta love 'em. Only very self-confident people could get away with wearing those hats. They were by Philip Treacy, who has a shop in London, and who is the darling of the royal set. I spent a quality half-hour with his website after the wedding. As soon as I win the Lottery I'm going to hop across the pond and buy a Philip Treacy hat, but a more toned-down one. At my age I can't get away with the reindeer antler hat worn by Fergie's daughter, Princess Beatrice (or was it Princess Eugenie? I get them mixed up.)

    I have a feeling that my next royal occasion will be the coronation of Prince Charles, as much as I wish the coronation would be of Prince William.

    Overall, I'm very glad I'm not a Brit. It's more fun being an American and watching the strange customs from afar.

  2. I forgot! I left out a wedding! The wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, which was also televised. That's when the American public first saw "the hats" and there was much startled comment, as we had seen nothing like this before. Besides the hats, the other noticeable thing (to me) about that wedding was that Queen Elizabeth went to great lengths not to be photographed standing next to Camilla. After the ceremony, the photographer tried to do a little foursome photo of the Queen and her husband, and Charles and Camilla. Elizabeth switched away from Camilla and made her husband Prince Philip stand next to Camilla instead. In fact, at first she tried to avoid the photo altogether by obviously lingering a few steps behind Camilla and hoping that Camilla would just continue walking, but eventually she saw there was no escape.

    Another amusing concerned the wedding ceremony itself. In the Anglican service (we say the Episcopal church in the U.S.) there is a general confession recited by all present, asking for forgiveness of our sins. So...Charles and Camilla recited the general confession, but the camera was on them, so it looked like there was some sort of special and embarrassing emphasis in what they were saying. Later an American commentator announced on television here that in the Anglican church divorced people had to confess their sins in public in the ceremony in order to be remarried in a church! I really howled at that one! That reporter had not done her due diligence.

  3. Although I didn't have any interest in watching the Royal Wedding, as soon as I turned on the tv, it was captivating. It really looked like a "fairy tale" wedding. I always liked and admired Princess Diana, hopefully this marriage into the family will be better for Kate than for her. I was disappointed that Sarah Ferguson was not invited to the wedding. (actually she was asked to "disappear" by the Royal Family).. Also, everyone keeps referring to Kate as a "commoner" but she comes from an enormously wealthy family. That's not exactly a "commoner" where I come from..