I’ve made plans to be in the pub tomorrow. Like a lot of guys I’ve about had it with the wedding, royals, dresses, silly radio fillers, pointless TV features, who’s invited, who’s not going, how many police will be on duty and which personalities will lead me through the occasion so as to ensure that I don’t miss a single nuance of this, their special day. I wish them well and on face value they appear a very pleasant couple worthy of all our best wishes and I don’t envy them moving into a world where a royal heritage is increasingly irrelevant and where their life will be lived, not through the pages of Burke’s Peerage, but in the colour specials and superlatives of Hello and OK! magazines.
But in the build-up to the day our public consciousness has lost its sense of priority; at a time when innocent and peaceful protestors are being killed in the Middle East the plethora of coverage across the media – there are estimated to be 12000 journalists in London tonight – troubles me as demonstrating a further lurch towards the trite and the superficial. After all, the wedding tomorrow is not really about the royal family or a public celebration of the monarchy. It’s not even about a couple of young people who want to share a life together, is it? It’s about celebrity. Crowds are literally camping along the route to Westminster Abbey and teenagers and mothers alike are screaming at every glimpse of William, Kate or Harry, as they would a sighting of George Clooney. Rather than an upwelling of public support for the royal family the occasion is a fan-fest that has the feeling of Oscar night. I can’t wait for one of those journalists to ask the flag-wavers for their views on constitutional monarchy or the debate about succession. As I write this the BBC is whining on – in suitably reverent tones – about the people’s love for this wonderful young man and his bride as well as the event that ‘the world has been waiting for’. I’m not certain that’s the case at all and wonder how many are waiting for it in the coffee shops of Syria or Bahrain.
I’m still fairly ambivalent about keeping a royal family, mostly because I don’t hold strong views on why it should be abolished rather than being against it on principle. But I know others feel more strongly and, by the time Prince William takes the throne, we might watch his accession courtesy of Visa and have to suffer Ryan Seacrest as host. The wedding tomorrow further dilutes the royal line; Kate Middleton is truly a people’s princess as, regrettably, she has no royal genes. Perception, however, is being addressed; already a massive publicity machine has worked to have her known as Catherine and tomorrow she will lose that moniker altogether to become Princess William of Wales*, would you believe. In addition the College of Arms has outlined approval of a Middleton coat of arms. She has been able to use it until tomorrow, after which it will be combined with that of Prince William. It comprises three acorn sprigs, a gold chevron, tied ribbon and white chevronels. And very nice too, you might think. This nonsense was justified by the Garter Principal King of Arms, who has explained that the oak tree was a traditional symbol of England and a feature of west Berkshire, where the family has lived for 30 years. I guess it’s a relief that they hadn’t lived in agricultural Bedfordshire or we’d have expected to see sprigs of cabbage or three Brussels Sprouts. Reasonably, the gold chevron in the centre signifies Miss Middleton’s mother, whose maiden name was Goldsmith, while the tied ribbon shows she is an unmarried woman. The white chevronels are a little more worrying as they symbolise mountains, representing the family’s love of the Lake District and skiing. Well, my family loved Southend-on-Sea and jellied eels so it’s probably a good thing that I never married into royalty. Give thanks, then, that the Middletons didn’t love train journeys and children’s books or Prince William would be struggling to maintain his credibility whilst sporting the smiling face of Ivor the Engine on his stationery.
Well, to me it all seems like a bit of a do rather than the solemn preparation of the future king of England for the serious business of knocking out an heir. And, in line with the celebrity status of the event, George Michael will sing You and I to the happy couple, demonstrating that it’s OK these days to have a pop star with a criminal conviction for using drugs taking centre stage at a royal wedding party that around two billion viewers watched from across the globe. I smell the faint perfume of republic in the air.
So tomorrow I’ll be finding the reflections in a pint of Adnam’s excellent bitter far more enjoyable and, in these troubled times, far more relevant than wall-to-wall nuptials. But I will raise my glass to them at one point.
Here’s to William and Kate – may they have health and happiness.
*After writing this piece it was announced that the official titles bestowed upon them are ‘Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’.