Friday, 19 November 2010

Big Willie and Babykins

Obviously it's exciting. For them. But should the rest of the country be excited too?
I'm talking Royal nuptials, of course. Those of Big Willie and Babykins. (And there was I thinking that Catherine Middleton had a right to be ticked off by the fact that journos always referred to her, familiarly, as 'Kate'.)
I noticed today that Gerry Hassan and John MacLeod, two of Scotland's politically opposed opinion formers aka bloggers aka newspaper pundits, have been discussing the cool Scottish response to the news that the Queen's grandson, second in line to the throne, is to tie the knot with his commoner girlfriend.
Hassan thinks it has an 80s sheen to it all. People have commented on this already: Tory government, rising unemployment, recession, cuts... and a Royal Wedding. It's 1981 redux. I saw similar chat on Facebook at the time of the announcement.
Superficially, I think that's a funny observation. But this is no repeat of history, things are quite, quite different. And I don't just mean: she's six months older than him, he's not a berk like his father was etc.
MacLeod, meanwhile, is a great defender of the monarchy. He says that anything other than monarchy would be a lot worse. Which as standpoints go strikes me as being simultaneously pathetic and utterly sensible.
The most interesting commentators I've yet heard on the wedding have been Starkey and Schama who did a sort of wonderful, highbrow double act on Newsnight early this week. I increasingly think it is a bit sad when commentators react to every event with a prescription for how the world should change for This Sort Of Thing To Be Done Away With.
When Schama and Starkey spoke about William and Kate you got a sense of what was really happening: this isn't just a day off work and a street party. This is a dynasty renewing itself. So sit back and try to understand it, rather than wade in with some half baked opinion.
The choice of Kate isn't trivial, though you might think it with a glance at the tabs, it is in fact crucial: she has to be everything Diana was, and everything Diana was not.
Honestly, do you think that engagement ring was about William being sentimental? "Hey dad, I really like this girl, where's that £100,000 plus priceless ring you gave mum?" Not a bit of it: it was hugely symbolic, chosen to highlight the fact that as far as the Royals are concerned, they know they did bad, but this is a new beginning with different people, and you're bound to like these ones even more...
Even her surname: Middleton. She's Middle Class. She represents Middle Britain. Middle of the Road. Don't scare the horses. We're taking a Middle Line. Historians of the future will wonder whether even it was a coincidence, or whether it was somehow planned too.
Of course the vast majority of Mirror, Sun, Heat and Hello readers will look at the wedding as just that: a wedding. They'll discuss the dress, they'll read articles about her choice of hairdresser, and they'll debate whether the honeymoon should be in St Barts or Australia.
That is the Royal Family doing one of the things they do, in order to stay in power: they give people a sense of ... well, family.
If the more serious among us, The Guardianistas, left wing bloggers, artists and writers, shrug and say 'that doesn't matter' or 'who cares' or 'hang 'em', then that's understandable. Similarly, if the Scots Nats, Republicans, socialists or the whoever choose not to join in with the general sense of well being, well, as far as the Royals are concerned, that's a shame - but in the scheme of things, it's no great loss.
The marriage of Big Willie and Babykins isn't just about two horsey yahs getting hitched - as some seem inclined to dismiss them. It's about the continuation of the Royal story. And it highlights the fact that Britain remains in its thrall.
We might see ourselves as a radical, progressive country. We Tweet, we Facebook, we Blog. We have iPhones and SUVs, mortgages and ISAs. We watch HDTV and eat microwaved organic ready meals from Waitrose. But we are still steeped in the past, our feet weighed down by the clay not just of the last couple of decades: but of hundreds of years of precedent and privilege. That is what this wedding should remind us of.

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