It has to be said that the British monarch and newspaper columnists are diametric opposites: in 59 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II has never expressed a public opinion on anything.No wonder she’s so popular. Even in an age when the royals are busy putting servers to work (Facebook and Twitter are their new domain), this head of state retains a strand of mystery from another age. Britain has no written constitution yet excels in constancy.I resisted. I did. I ignored all the amblers in the parks saying, “What are you doing for the wedding?” I averted my eyes from the bunting along Regent Street, the stands outside Buckingham Palace, the commemorative China. I was not, whatever the pressure, going to write a column about the royal wedding. It’s hard to say when I buckled. These are not things one likes, as a small-r republican, to talk about. Perhaps, it was a businessman friend, after a conversation with colleagues in Bombay, telling me all India cares about is the wedding. Perhaps, it was radiant Kate from Central Casting with the touch of whimsy in her hats. Or was it ‘The Evening Standard’s’ screaming headline, “Kate to Say I Do Live on YouTube,” that tipped the balance?
There are some serious things to say about the union of Prince William, second in line to the throne, and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton — but they elude me. I will say this: At a time when Brits are learning to live without public libraries (not to mention jobs) as a result of budget cuts, they are enthused by this lavish ceremony that will see the daughter of millionaires (a commoner in local parlance) wed to the helicopter pilot who will one day head the sprawling enterprise royals call the Firm. Bread and circuses, the Romans noted, are what people need. Circuses, it seems, are what they need most. No nation can script a feel-good moment, a global fantasy, quite like Britain, where class is the sediment of centuries. In the age of “Celebrity Apprentice,” the British royals are the time-honed pros.There’s been a nod to straitened times. Kate will forsake a horse and carriage for a car. Prime Minister David Cameron, who flew the budget airline ‘easyJet’ for a recent break in Spain — Michelle Obama, take note — was to wear a lounge suit in his ongoing campaign to prove he’s not what he is: an Eton-educated toff. That was before vociferous complaints led Downing Street to say he’d don tails.
America is entranced. As Hamish Bowles, who will cover the wedding for Vogue, told me, “There’s something mesmerising to Americans about the idea of a society structured with this impenetrable citadel at the top.” A US society whose self-defining myths include the myth of classlessness needs the spectacle of class at work.So Kate, at some level, is a 29-year-old Cinderella, the commoner ushered into the citadel, the pretty girl who now has her own coat of arms (three acorns separated by gold and white chevrons.) She’s played her hand well. As Bowles noted, “There’s something of a kind of poised and manicured Upper East Side girl about her, with classic dress sense. A KM dress has iconicity: understated, pared-down, a dramatic solid colour.” And then, of course, there’s the hat.I think that’s what the Brits like — as well as the chance, with Easter and then the wedding, to take an 11-day break on just three days’ leave at multi-billion cost to the nation.
In fact, they like the couple so much they want to skip Charles (who may be in his 80’s before he gets the top job) and go straight to William. That won’t happen. On abdications the royal view is: been there, done that, didn’t like it.Of course, King Edward VIII’s decision to quit has been much aired in the movie, “The King’s Speech.” And there, as a little girl, is the present queen! She’s met, as monarch, with every prime minister since Churchill — 12 of them. Another sharp contradistinction with columnists is she really knows what’s going on.In truth, that’s what made me snap: her ever-presence. Just to remind myself of the British miracle, I strolled through Westminster Hall, its magnificent timber roof arching over the flag-stoned expanse that has seen coronation banquets from Richard I in 1189 to George IV in 1821, trials including that of Guy Fawkes, and Winston Churchill lying in state.The genius of Britain is continuity, a very serious idea of which William and Kate now become part. It’s enough to make a republican dabble in monarchism. – Khaleejnews