A Right Royal Perspective

With April 29th 2011 now entered into the history books, even future generations will be somewhat affected by this day as they study the Royal nuptials of Prince William of Wales and his ordinary, middle-class beau, plucked from countryside obscurity and elevated into the position of future Queen. Not bad for a girl from a village called Bucklebury.

It was a day that held true importance to only a handful of people and yet two billion people around the world were affected; which means that almost a third of the world’s population were watching this very British occasion.

So what was it like to watch the event outside of our grey little island?

I happened to be in America at the time of the wedding and I can safely say that American television loved it. Many networks began broadcasting the festivities at four in the morning, streaming high definition of the gathering red, white and blue crowds to pubs and restaurants full of tiara-donning Americans.

The hype had been building up for months, brick by colonial brick, the excited eyes of a people who annually celebrate their break from the tyrannously taxing British monarchy all on our future king. I’ve always found the American fascination with our Royal family to be a tad odd. I’m not trying to make a sweeping generalisation here, I know that there a lot of Americans- most likely the majority- who have little to no interest in our quaint regal traditions, but for those that are… Is it because they have no true equivalent, no blue-blooded speeches to sit through on Christmas day, no elegantly gloved hand to wave from a carriage window? Is it because some subconscious part of them wants to feel a part of an intricate tradition? It may be, but in that case, why do they not have the same enthusiasm for the royal family of, say, the Norwegian monarchy (that’s King Harald V, according to my reliable sources on Wikipedia).

I don’t think there is any real answer to this question. However, having witnessed first-hand the American reaction to this most recent Royal Wedding, I feel I can suggest why, this time, at least, so many were swept up in the ‘pomp and circumstance’ (a phrase favoured by several US television presenters throughout the day); they were entranced by the reality of what they saw to be a twenty-first century fairytale.

So many of us, girls in particular, were brought up on Disneyfied images of romance, unsuspecting and everyday girls swept up into beautiful ballgowns and porcelain palaces by handsome princes. We grow up not to expect this. I think it’s safe to say that Kate Middleton, the daughter of two former air stewards, did not turn leave for university at St. Andrews expecting to become engaged to a real life Prince within the next ten years of her life. And the American people love this.

It was a sincere affair, respectful and dignified. American channel ABC teamed up with BBC for their coverage of the wedding and, whereas their footage was shared, their commentary was not. I’ve seen only brief clips of the British coverage of the wedding, all with dour faced Huw Edwards commentating in his lilting Welsh tones, clearly losing track of his own meaning when his script required he describe women’s clothing. The presenters on ABC were far more enthusiastic and exuberant, with one female presenter, on first glimpse of the dress as the then Kate Middleton delicately climbed into the Rolls Royce, exclaiming, much like a teenaged cheerleader window shopping, ‘Oh, she has nailed it! She has absolutely nailed it. I couldn’t be more proud of Kate right now!’ This is without a doubt not what Huw said.

Other elements of the American coverage were interesting too. I particularly enjoyed a video montage of Anglesey, a square-jawed American male stood, windswept, on the isolated Welsh coast, attempting to understand the accent, the double l’s and just why the royal couple would choose to live there, of all places. The quiet home of our future King and Queen was always introduced with some scepticism: ‘And after the wedding, their Royal Highnesses will be living in… Wales.’

We may not all care about this Royal affair, but it is now a signed and sealed part of our collective British history. There has been much speculation to suggest that William could be the King to modernise the monarchy and his marriage, outside of the aristocracy, already seems like a step in a more contemporary direction. It would seem that particular individuals within the United States will be keeping just as much of an eye on future events as the British public will and, whereas they may treat the subject with an entirely different decorum, it was certainly interesting to see us from their perspective for a day.


Image © British Monarchy Flickr.