British Stiff Upper Lip Goes Wobbly For Will And Kate

“Where there’s a Will, there’s a day off.” That was the clever slogan on a t-shirt worn today by a woman in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during one of the 5,000 street parties taking place across Britain to celebrate the Royal Wedding. It perfectly encapsulated how most people in this country had been feeling in the run-up to this grand occasion. A mixture of irreverence and grudging appreciation: “Don’t really care about the wedding, or the royals, but I’ll take two extra public holidays, thanks.”

For the past week, journalists on Twitter and friends on Facebook had all been feigning indifference to the biggest Royal Wedding Britain had seen in 30 years because, well, we’re past all that pomp and circumstance aren’t we?

But then Friday morning came, and it became a different story. Thousands of people got early cabs to the Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace, to try and catch a glimpse of Will and Kate. More descended on Hyde Park to watch the wedding on big screens. After all, when they had a day off work there wasn’t anything better to do. Except maybe watch the whole thing on TV.

I had been determined through the week to not to care about the Royal Wedding, I even told an anti-royalist friend to check out the anti-Royal wedding party on Red Lion Square, because I might be going for the irony of it all. Yet for some inexplicable reason my eyes at 7am this morning found their way to the television, and a colorful array of random wedding guests shuffling into Westminster Abbey. For the next four hours there was a valiant running commentary from the BBC’s Huw Edwards on stuff that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t look away.

My anti-royalist friend also ended up snubbing Red Lion Square, for the party in Hyde Park instead. Such is Britain. We spend 95% of the time rolling our eyes at the royal family and insisting we could do without them, the other 5% peeking through tear-stained hankies at wedding proceedings like today’s.

Kate and Will were for years nothing more than fodder for the tabloids, especially during their temporary split in 2007. Today, the pomp and circumstance, the global media attention, with millions watching on YouTube and the adoring, colourful crowds of people dressed in union jack flags and wedding attire, suddenly elevated them to a celestial status.

You got the feeling, for instance, that it didn’t matter what Kate ended up choosing for her wedding dress. A mumu would have sufficed. I personally didn’t know what to think of all the lacy bits when I saw her emerge from London’s Goring Hotel this morning – perhaps it was a little demure? But there was no question for the news commentators and members of the crowd, who praised the thing for its classic simplicity and elegance. I found I suddenly rather liked it. It was becoming increasingly hard not to like everything about Will and Kate.

Brits recover from celebrating the royal wedding in Hyde Park

Then the newlywed’s balcony appearance dashed any of the country’s remaining cynicism to smithereens. “We might just get a kiss!” the BBC’s Edwards cried in the nail-biting minutes before they emerged from the front facade of Buckingham Palace. And then, the country’s heart collectively leapt – there it was! A one and a half second smooch between the two (not that I counted), marginally longer than the one-second peck between Charles and Diana in 1981 (not that I’m comparing). Will blushed and the nation blushed with him. A few moments later, as if we hadn’t had enough, the pair treated us all to a second kiss. Two kisses! The crowds from Buckingham Palace, to Hyde Park, to Belfast, roared with delight.

Wait, was this the Britain that didn’t care about the Royal Wedding? The one that was only in it for the day off? Now people were tweeting things like “Marriage, FTW!” I headed over to Hyde Park to see the last of the revellers and get a feel for the atmosphere, maybe catch an anti-royalist or two with placards.

Instead, there were union jack flags everywhere, flowing behind toddlers as capes, hanging from a dog’s neck, pinned into the ground to surround a picnic. Among the buttercups and pink cherry blossoms, there were neat rows of porta potties. At 3pm, well after the balcony appearance, thousands of people were still lounging around the park drinking wine and eating cupcakes. Every so often they would erupt into cheers. I soon realized they were watching re-runs of the wedding ceremony on two big screens. One girl skipped across to her friends shaking a flag and tunelessly sing the chorus to God Save the Queen. No one really seemed annoyed with the royal family anymore.

I stumbled across three huge plastic bins with a few cupcakes inside – the cupcakes’ source. A few entrepreneurial young women had been selling them for £1.50 each and managed to get rid of nearly all 350. Aside from making money, people were here because they had the day off, because there was a fleeting chance they might catch some sun and because, well, they wanted to celebrate the occasion. While the Brits feel mostly irreverent towards the royal family, there’s a quiet, genuine regard simmering underneath. The Royal Wedding stirred up those nascent feelings along with dare I say, a bit of pride and even romance. I noticed a few more couples than usual canoodling in Hyde Park afterwards.

The anti-royalist party will no doubt have been good fun. Somehow though, I’m satisfied at having got swept up in today’s royal romantic reverie, and rather glad I didn’t go.

Source: Forbes

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