Regent Street in London, one of the capital’s prime shopping avenues, has become royal wedding headquarters in the days leading up to today’s ceremony. Hundreds of Union flags line the road leading to the Mall, the site of the royal procession following the wedding at Westminster Abbey. Stores on Regent Street are bursting with souvenirs featuring the beaming Prince William and his bride-to-be, Catherine “Kate” Middleton. Temporary television studios have been erected in front of Buckingham Palace, for round the clock coverage of the wedding with an expected viewership of up to 2 billion people worldwide. In short, royal wedding fever has overwhelmed London in anticipation of Britain’s favorite couple tying the knot.
Great Britain largely lacks the strong nationalist spirit found in the United States, but in the wake of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, one cannot walk down the street in London without being overwhelmed by the red, white and blue of the omnipresent Union flag. The procession route has been slowly filling up since Tuesday when the first revelers staked out spots in front of Westminster Abbey.
Most people love weddings, but why are so many British citizens thrilled about the royal ceremony when their support for the monarchy itself is lukewarm? My theory is that many simply cannot resist the allure of the pageantry associated with the royal family processing down the Mall. Perhaps the interest of some has been piqued by Ms. Middleton’s status as a “commoner,” though in reality she comes from a family with money to spare. Also, in a time of national austerity, the chance to hold street parties on a national holiday is a welcome break from the economic uncertainty lingering over the country. Regardless of the cause, today’s royal wedding provides the House of Windsor with a chance to regain some of its lost public support.
I have noticed that Americans, especially those lucky enough to be in London this week, seem particularly excited about the union. There may be no better sign of American interest than the scene in Trafalgar Square where MSNBC has taken over a large area to set up a large television studio for one of their morning shows.
The oft-observed American fascination with the British royal family is frequently attributed to our ability to follow royalty from a distance without having to support them. Personally, I think there’s a very simple cause: Disney movies. The image of a beautiful princess and the fairy tale ending are etched into the minds of Americans from a young age. The British royal family is the closest there is to an incarnation of Disney’s movies, and this royal wedding is the ultimate tale of a commoner meeting, falling in love with and marrying a prince.
While the royal wedding is the television event of the year, it is serious business for the royal family. Most obviously, Prince William has picked England’s next queen (assuming Prince Charles’ wife Camilla doesn’t take the title when Charles becomes king). The marriage of William and Kate has the potential to restore the family’s popularity. Though British citizens are fiercely loyal to Queen Elizabeth II, an incredibly popular monarch, their support for the rest of the House of Windsor is tepid at best. The new youthful couple has the potential to reverse the decades-old trend of waning support for the institution of the monarchy.
Part of that effort to revive support for the royal family is casting William and Kate as a modern couple. Rather than riding to Westminster Abbey in a carriage, as has been the tradition for royal brides, Kate will be arriving via automobile.
While the future of the British monarchy will be an important issue to consider going forward, today is all about Prince William and his new bride Catherine. As up to a million people converge on Central London and billions watch around the world, London will play host to one of the year’s most popular events. I’ll be staking out a spot near Buckingham Palace in the wee hours of Friday morning because, like many Americans, I simply cannot resist the draw of royal pageantry and a beautiful princess.
Brian Shaud is a junior in the College currently studying abroad at University College London and a former member of The Hoya’s Editorial Board.