One thing is for sure – you don’t see much at a Royal wedding unless you’ve been personally invited, you have a press pass or you’re prepared to camp out on the pavement two nights before, and I couldn’t check any of those boxes. What you do get though is a real sense of occasion, a memory that lasts a lifetime and being able to say with a good deal of pride: “I was there!”
Weddings are generally happy occasions and it was clearly evident that was the case for the one million well-wishers squashed in front of Westminster Abbey and lining the route to Buckingham Palace, up Whitehall and down the Mall, plus an overflow crowd in Trafalgar Square who watched on large screens and were entertained by Boris Johnson, London’s flamboyant mayor as soon as he’d scooted back from the Abbey.
How do you plan an event such as a Royal wedding? It was an event that had two significant challenges: 1) it was only announced at the end of November, just five months before, and 2) statistically it’s mind-blowing – a service in Westminster Abbey (a place of worship for over 1,000 years) for 1,900 dignitaries; at Buckingham Palace a wedding breakfast for 650 high-ranking guests of Champagne and canapés followed by an evening dinner for 300 of William and Kate’s friends, with dancing; 8,000 accredited journalists; 5,000 police officers and an army of “event personnel” providing crowd control that ensured the size of the crowd was at all times contained and manageable; a few hundred army, air force and navy personnel and those impressive Household Cavalry with very large horses; a fly past, at exactly 13:31, of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight -- two Spitfires and one Wellington Bomber, followed by four Tornados, flying over Trafalgar Square, the Mall and the Palace; …and don’t forget the technical aspects of providing live feed to the two billion who watched it all on TV around the globe! And a whole lot more.
Also, one of the wonderful aspects of the Royal wedding was the way in which so many more than the million along the route were able to be engaged and participate by way of the countless wedding parties – village parties/street parties /block parties/house parties, from the Barking Road in Camden Town, to Battersea to Bucklebury (Kate’s home town), where 2,600 locals reveled in their village green festivities.
“It was nice …fantastic, legendary planning…” , said Peter York, writer/royal journalist on a BBC-TV morning chat-show the morning after. Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, raising his glass of Champagne to toast the happy couple and imploring the rest of us in Trafalgar Square to do likewise, even though the rest of us didn’t have any Champagne, said the wedding was a “complete triumph, bringing people together as a community”.
There was no one single organizer of course, in spite of the fact that Pippa Middleton, Kate’s chief bridesmaid and stunning sister, owns her own event company called “Table Talk”, and her parents have a (now) well-known, on-line, party supply company. It is reported that Pippa played a hand in the organization of the wedding breakfast and dinner at Buckingham Palace, but that’s just one small part of the mosaic that was the Royal Wedding. Ultimately it came down to the personal wishes of William and Kate, both of whom were very much involved, supported by all those who had their own specific responsibilities, from Church to crime, from Team Middleton to traffic control …an almost infinite list. What was really impressive was that given the enormity of the task how impressive an event it was.
A few interesting anecdotes:
The Choirboys from the Westminster Abbey Choir, and the Choir of the Chapel Royal, will each receive £7,500 ($US 12,300 approx) in royalty payments for their broadcasting rights around the world. The Choir of Westminster Abbey is made up of 30-dedicated choirboys who attend the Abbey’s Choir School and 12 adults known a Lay Vicars. The Choir of the Chapel Royal is made up of ten schoolboy choristers and six adults, known as Gentlemen-in-Ordinary. The boys all attend the £4,350 ($US 7,100 approx) per term City of London School.
There was surprise that William was in the uniform of a Colonel of the Irish Guards, not the RAF, for whom he is a full-time Search and Rescue helicopter pilot. Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, who designed the dress, lives and works in London and it’s anticipated that it will be a shot in the arm for London fashion for years ahead. Bookies heavily favored odds on the Queen wearing a yellow hat …and they were right! The open top car that William drove Kate from the Palace the half mile to Clarence House after the wedding breakfast, complete with “just married” cans on the back, the number (tag) plate JU5T WED and the red “L” (for learner) on the front, was Prince Charles’ 1969 Aston Martin Volante, a gift from the Queen on his 21st birthday.
Two intrinsically “mean spirited” aspects of the wedding that left their mark: the lampposts in Trafalgar Square were resplendent in their fresh “anti-climb” paint and children hanging off the very same lampposts were covered with generous, hard to get off, dollops of paint. And the fact that, traditionally, still-living prime ministers are always invited to official events of this magnitude. David Cameron, John Major and Margaret Thatcher were indeed invited, while Tony Blair and Gordon Brown weren’t! The difference – those invited are Conservative and those not are Socialists. It was seen as a particularly mean snub to Tony Blair who had done so much after Princess Diana’s death to convey the mood of the people to an initially indifferent Queen.
And lastly, it was a bit of a surprise that rather than Kate’s expected official title of Her Royal Highness Princess Catherine, the Queen conferred on William the title of Duke of Cambridge and so Kate becomes Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge. It could be thirty years until William becomes King though, and Catherine his Queen, so we common folk have been told its okay to refer to the couple as Prince William and Princess Catherine. That’s a relief.
The Monarchy is an institution that remains at the core of British life and in spite of a dramatically changed demographic and the media revolution since the wedding of Princess Diana to Prince Charles which has changed the way we see the royals, one statistic claims that 80% of the British support the monarchy in the UK. “The British people turn out for the Monarchy regardless of whether they’re Republicans or Monarchists, because it’s Britain at its best”, said Arthur Edwards, the Royal photographer for The Sun, a popular British tabloid.
While for the most part the 1,900 guests at the wedding in Westminster Abbey looked decidedly short on the common man and heavy on the old-school elite – “looking forward to nostalgia” as one commentator described it, it probably is a fact that William and Kate have injected new vigor into the Monarchy. Even so it’s possible that this “strange fascination for Britain’s longest running soap opera by the British…”will as a result only be extended by another 20-years or so before its inevitable collapse imposed by a multi-cultural society that no longer relates to the Monarchy and demands its leaders be elected by popular vote.
True or not, there’s no denying the Royal Wedding was one hell of a party and the vast majority of us wish the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a long and very happy life together. Long live Prince William and Princess Catherine!