|Fairytale Wedding, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, 1981 (source)||Ceylon Sapphire, Royal Engagement Press Conference, London, 2010 (source)|
One of my dearest friends recently got engaged. Invited to her family’s home in Jamestown for Thanksgiving, I was treated to a guided tour of the future site of her wedding. The ceremonial grounds teetered on the edge of a craggy cliff, ocean waves breaking twenty feet below. A breathtaking panorama of rugged New England coastline with its ubiquitous lighthouses and seagulls surrounded us. ‘The guests will sit along that hill and we’ll be standing here’ they told me, pointing to a spot even closer the edge of the precipice. They were getting married on the edge of the world. Their edge of the world. It turned out that in choosing the location my friends had declined an almost equally beautiful coastal site a short distance away. ‘It’s where my mom got married’, the bride-to-be explained.
This desire for unique settings for the fabrication of memories recurred to me as I flipped through the pages of US Weekly on my way back to New York on the Bus. Kate Middleton and Prince William had just announced their engagement and were expected to tie the knot at Westminster Abbey. This seemed to me a perverse choice, given that the Abbey was the location of William’s mother’s somber funeral in 1997. I wondered why they had not considered St. Paul’s Cathedral, the location of Charles and Diana’s ‘fairytale wedding’ in 1981 (watched by a global audience of over 750 million). St. Paul’s seated a greater number of people, permitted a longer processional route for public viewing, and was more representative of the British people (relative to the stodgy, regal Westminster). Having formulated my arguments, I imagined William sitting next to me on the Megabus, eyes rolling and an echo from earlier that day: ‘It’s where my mom got married’.
E. Sean Bailey
As one might expect for an old couple, joined by contractual obligations, the relationship between the monarchy and the public in Britain is a complex one. Two recent developments add their weight to the ever-shifting dynamic between the pair. Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement narrows the gap between the rulers and ruled as a bride of common stock crosses the threshold into the realm of aristocracy, through marriage. Meanwhile, Prince Charles and the Tories are working counteractively to add depth and breadth to any point which distinguishes the two parties. Amongst a medley of tools that actively serve to separate the Prince of Wales from his subjects, he uses architecture, most recently with the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment’s inappropriate bid to taking over where the government’s Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment left off. While the upcoming royal wedding may signify a subtle integration of the monarchy back into the public realm, Prince Charles’ undertakings may push and pull to both reinforce distinctions and perhaps incite the public to further diminish royal authority.
Erandi de Silva
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