I am looking forward to April. I hope, sometime during the month, the snow will disappear, the temperature will rise, and I can put my boots away. Even better, I can begin to devour every detail about the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
I have been following royal weddings since I was 10 years old when the young Princess Elizabeth married the dashing Prince Phillip. (It is hard to believe that Phillip was ever dashing or Elizabeth ever young). My sister and I woke up at 5 a.m. and listened to the ceremony over the Zenith radio that sat on the night table between our beds.
The differences between the wedding of Elizabeth, her son, Charles, and his son, William, show that the British monarchy is slowly moving into the modern era.
I listened to the radio when Princess Elizabeth wed. Thirty-four years later, in 1981, I watched the ceremony of Prince Charles and Lady Diana on television rebroadcast at a reasonable hour, and was joined by an estimated global television audience of 750 million people. Even thousands more will be able to see the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton not only on television, but on the computer, the BlackBerry, and the cell phone.
At the time Princess Elizabeth married, divorce was prohibited for the royal family. Her sister, Princess Margaret Rose, then second in line for the throne was denied permission to marry the handsome Peter Townsend because he had been divorced. The girls’ uncle, King Edward, chose to abdicate the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorcee.
Now Prince William’s father, Prince Charles, is not only divorced himself, but is married to a divorcee, and he will still ascend the throne if he can manage to outlive his mother.
The rules for the selection of a royal spouse are not as strict as they were in 1947. Princess Elizabeth’s groom was also a royal. Through his father, he was Prince Phillip of Greece and Denmark. When he married, he renounced both titles.
Diana’s father, the Earl of Spenser, was a member of British aristocracy. Kate Middleton’s mother was a flight attendant and her father a flight dispatcher before he started a mail order firm named Party Pieces.
One thing that has not changed is all the mementos that are for sale. I have a souvenir book of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding sent to me by a pen pal in England. After the wedding of Charles and Diana, friends of ours visited Britain and brought back a pillow case commemorating the nuptials. This year in addition to the usual tea towels, mugs, and paper dolls, people can purchase a copy of the sapphire and diamond engagement ring on The Shopping Network or the Britannia Scratch Trivia Cards launched by Party Pieces, Mr. Middleton’s own company.
Why are we so interested in the marriage of William and Kate? Maybe it is because people of Great Britain and the rest of the world need to forget civil wars, natural disasters, and shrinking budgets, and think at least for a day about something light and happy, just as the wedding of William’s grandmother and grandfather gave a boost to the morale of the British people after years of war and austerity. Or maybe it is just that everyone likes a fairy tale.
For whatever the reason, I will enjoy the festivities and hope that the future king and queen will live happily ever after.