When my eyes popped open of their own accord at 4:52 on the morning of April 29th, I had to admit something that has been troubling me for weeks now.
I care about The Royal Wedding.
Typically, there are few things I find less interesting than modern celebrities, and I couldn’t understand my urge to pore over wedding-related coverage. I skipped most coverage on things like wedding dress conjectures and the reception in favor of stories about the questionable cost of the event’s security given England’s parlous financial state, the wedding’s effect on anti-royalist organizations, predictions on the economic impact of the spike in wedding-related tourism and souvenirs, and American columnists’ calls to boycott all royal-watching on American principle.
And stories on how the prince proposed in Kenya with Diana’s sapphire ring, which is almost as big as the apple I just ate while typing.
Perhaps it’s because, like most teen girls of the late nineties, I swooned over pictures of Prince Will in Seventeen, when he looked less like Charles and had all his hair. I have the same interest in him as I would any influential, real-life figure from my youth. Kate Middleton hit my radar a few months ago, and she seemed like an even-keeled, intelligent and elegant person.
Perhaps this royal shindig really was historic. Perhaps, years in the future, I would regret not watching the wedding for myself. Since the royal paroxysm is likely to continue for several days at least in all major news outlets, it was my duty as a self-important commenter on the world to stay in the loop by watching it.
I turned on the TV just as Will and Harry were getting into that royal fishbowl car.
It was totally worth it. Who can get enough of those guys marching in the tall, furry hats? Prince Harry proved that there is no earthly occasion which will compel him to comb his hair. He was outfitted in so many gilded ropes and cords that he could have fashioned his prodigious jacket cuffs into sails and taken right to sea. Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters’s nattering was also priceless. As Prince Will entered, they shared how glad they were that Diana had gotten some attractive “Spencer genes” into the family, and what a joy it was to have such handsome princes – in fact, Will was downright “kingly”. In their praise of the princes’ mien among the Windsors, they did everything but exclaim that Charles and Phillip are trolls. They waxed lyrical about the boys’ tender love for their stepmother Camilla, but as the ceremony commenced, they said now nice it was that Kate did not have to look anxiously for Camilla, as Diana did. In fact, the whole broadcast was a fascinating linguistic gymnasium dedicated to comparing Kate Middleton with Diana without predicting that her marriage will explode before the press harangues her to a gruesome death.
And the hats! Some women are content with clouds of quivering feathers, while others turn their heads into celestial orbs rimmed with mesh brims as splendid as Saturn’s rings. And if nothing else about the royal wedding appeals to you, I give you the woman who sat directly behind Her Majesty the Queen:
If you did not watch the live broadcast of the ceremony, you missed the TV debut of the Minotaur Hat, and I am sorry for you.
A few days before the ceremony, when wedding coverage followed me to the TVs in the gym, a commenter and supposed friend of Kate Middleton contrasted her with Princess Di, saying that Kate had no “hidden inner turmoil”. This struck me as inane. How could a woman feel no turmoil before a wedding which marks the beginning of a life which will be daily scrutinized by millions? I was overwhelmed enough at my own wedding, where, in front of two hundred people, I went from Miss Johns to Mrs. Mabaso. But William’s wife, in one day, went from Kate Middleton to Her Royal Highness the Countess of Strathearn, Duchess of Cambridge, Baroness of Carrickfergus and future Princess of Wales.
Most of the coverage on Kate purports to show an incredible journey from faceless commoner to extraordinary personage, a unique and historic figure bringing her impeccable style and personal panache to the world stage. But as Diane and Barbara pointed out the hours of rehearsal that guided each step of the day, the details of royal rank, and who was required to curtsey to whom at what times, and the former Miss Middleton took on the ranks of Countess, Duchess and Baroness in one day, it seemed like a terrifying, self-abdicating journey I would never want to take.
Billions of women probably covet the amenities of the uncommon life Kate is beginning. But the most mundane features of the modern couple are remarkable allowances for Will and Kate: a university education for a royal female, an autonomous household, a “Best Man” for the groom, the omission of the bride’s vow to obey her husband. Kate will be granted audiences with her husband’s grandmother, provided she addresses her correctly. With widespread comment on how unusual it is, Kate was allowed to have her own sister as her maid of honor while her brother did a reading, and the groom –who knew he could drive himself?? – was at the wheel of the getaway Aston Martin.
After the wedding, the future Prince of Wales meticulously pulled on gloves whose whiteness could be glimpsed from space for his ride in Edward VII’s carriage to Buckingham Palace, because that is the proper uniform for the moment. As the newest Royal Highness re-activated a demure wave to the crowds, having conformed with utmost grace to all the pomp of a royal display, an ambitious and interesting young woman disappeared into the jaws of a calcified and obsolete institution.
To me, that carriage ride into Buckingham Palace was less like an entry into an exclusive, enviable life and more like Han Solo’s dip into carbonite. We finished The Empire Strikes Back wondering if Solo would ever be thawed back into a living person. I’ll watch the years ahead for the royal couple with a similar interest.
But still – I have to admit – there was a magic to the wedding. Kate was the opposite of bewildered Diana in a giant coconut cupcake of a dress. Kate has been courting royalty for years, and if she’s not ready to be princess of Britain and the media, who is? I heard that she requested donations be made to an anti-bullying charity in lieu of wedding gifts – another eyebrow-raiser for older royals, but an admirable move to everyone else. It’s clear she and Will have a genuine, well-founded love. Maybe they can give the British monarchy positive relevance in the modern world.