On April 29, the world witnessed Prince William of Great Britain marry Catherine Middleton, whom he met while at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. Not since Prince Charles married Princess Diana has there been such anticipation about a royal event.
Why are we such big fans of the royal family and British royalty? Didn’t we fight a war to get rid of them about 235 years ago? Maybe we are drawn to it because we don’t have all the pomp and circumstance that they do, and the glamour that accompanies it. It also doesn’t hurt that our tax dollars are not paying for it.
The royal wedding, starring Kate ‘Middleclass’ Middleton, also feeds the Cinderella fantasy with which almost every girl grows up. We went through this 30 years ago with Princess Diana. Despite her aristocratic background, she was a kindergarten teacher who lived in the ‘real world’ for the first 19 years of her life. She went to great lengths to see that her sons, William and Harry, saw the ‘real world,’ as well. William and Harry went to (private) schools with other children, they stood in line at McDonald’s, they interacted with homeless people on the streets and visited sick people in hospitals—all things previous royal children never did.
Thanks to Diana’s efforts, William and Harry appear to be ‘normal’ guys. Obviously they’re not, but their appearance as such has made them much more acceptable and appealing to the public, in a way Prince Charles never has been or never will be. Ironically, Diana, whom the royals would probably say did irreparable harm to the monarchy, actually may have saved them by raising William to be so down-to-earth. He went to University, met and fell in love with a commoner, holds down a job in the Royal Air Force, and comes across as a ‘real person.’
The wedding itself was spectacular. Held in 1,000-year-old Westminster Abbey, it was a spectacle that only the British can mount. Compared to Charles and Diana’s wedding, held at the larger St. Paul’s cathedral, it was a bit more modest, with the bride and groom arriving in cars (albeit a Rolls Royce and Bentley, respectively) instead of horse drawn carriages, and Kate’s dress appearing simpler, and with a much shorter train than Diana’s. At a time when Britons are being asked to cut back and pay higher taxes and fees, this more modest display was undoubtably more acceptable to the British taxpayer.
Gaynor Gaunt of north London says, “I have had many discussions with people about the wedding, and the conclusion was that we could all associate ourselves with it, as it was relatively low key and more normal despite the queen being in the audience. I also thought it was very normal that Wills went back to work and Catherine was spotted in the local supermarket doing the weekly shopping soon after the wedding. I hope she is able to keep her normality.” Reportedly, they have no household staff and only a couple bodyguards. Prince Charles allegedly has a staff of 124 people. The queen has many more.
Had the royal family continued in their stuffy, traditional, extravagant ways, they may have lost support from current and future generations of Britons, which could have meant the end of the monarchy, or at least a great change from what it is today.
With my automotive background, I loved how William drove himself and Catherine from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House in his father’s 1969 Aston Martin DB6 Volante MkII (which Prince Charles has converted to run on bio-ethanol)—another ‘common’ touch that shows how grounded William is.
William also has the advantage that he is the heir to the heir. His father is—and has been—the immediate heir since he was two. This difference should give William some breathing room and the ability to chart his own course for a while longer. Hopefully, he and Catherine will be able to enjoy a ‘normal’ married life while he is stationed with the RAF and before he starts devoting more of his time to royal duties. They also will likely support many charitable activities, as is traditional amongst the royal family and was brought to unparalleled prominence by Princess Diana.
It appears that William and Catherine will usher in a new more modern monarchy in Britain that will look more like the modern royal houses of continental Europe, which operate on a much more modest scale. Of course, if and when they have any children, it will be big news, but based on William and Catherine’s upbringings, it is most likely that their children will get to enjoy a childhood as close to normal as anyone in that situation could have, and will hopefully continue the British royal family well into future. LN
Robert Paster majored in European history with an emphasis in British history, studying and doing research for a time at University College London. He writes a monthly automotive column for Ladue News. He also is an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate, see robertpaster.com.