I consider myself an Anglophile. I have an inherent fascination with English life, from its customs to its colloquialisms. I like listening to BBC Radio. My pop culture preferences warmly embrace The Beatles, ELP, Pink Floyd, and all things Python. I’m charmed by E.F. Benson’s Lucia novels and captivated by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I have ancestral ties to Cornwall (my maternal grandfather was born and raised in Truro). Nothing would please me more than to spend a lengthy sabbatical exploring Britain. Yet for all my natural interest in England, I cannot muster so much as a dollop of enthusiasm for today’s royal wedding.
Apparently that puts me in good standing with two-thirds of the British population, the demographic block identified by pollsters as those who will not be watching the ceremony. According to CBS News, half of the United Kingdom claims to be “actively uninterested” in the whole affair, and I share their passionate apathy. The relentless news coverage is bad enough here; I can only imagine how unavoidable it must be in England.
Part of my reluctance to care stems from my ever-increasing disillusionment with the media and its power to brand anything as important. I was a day shy of my thirteenth birthday when Charles and Diana were married, and I recall blindly swallowing the mainstream perspective that the royal wedding was of tremendous significance. It had to be, didn’t it? Otherwise, why did it dominate our televisions with an intensity reserved for moon landings and presidential assassinations? So I watched like everyone else, bored as I would have been at anyone’s wedding, and patted myself on the back for participating in history as it happened.
At that age, it didn’t take much to persuade me that anything was of great importance, so long as it blared from a television or was printed in the authoritative ink of a newspaper. In the days when reality programming was in its infancy and only three television networks really mattered, there would occasionally pop up a primetime special with a title along the lines of “National Driving Safety Test” or “The American Crime Prevention Quiz”. I would sit gravely before the TV during these programs, envisioning the whole of the country glued to their sets. As the stern hosts described various scenarios and challenged viewers with multiple-choice questions, I would furrow my brow and hope to do at least as well as my fellow Americans.
Somewhere along the line, thanks to a steady diet of MAD magazine, Wacky Packages, and other such subversive fare, I stopped accepting things at face value and began to decide for myself whether or not any event merited media attention. I also began to understand that most media content is dictated by the free market. As the unscrupulous purveyors of our crassest entertainment like to rationalize, “We’re only giving the public what it wants.” Of course. Therein lay profit.
So despite the supposedly vast number of Brits and Americans who profess no interest in today’s royal wedding, the worldwide audience is large enough to make the event’s exploitation profitable. Television ratings are going up, William and Kate stories (it is William and Kate, isn’t it?) are garnering astronomical Internet hits, and thus an insatiable appetite is constantly being fed. You and I may not care at all, but plenty of people care a great deal.
Perhaps I would feel differently were I more knowledgeable about the subject, but I confess a woeful ignorance about the Royal Family. It’s almost as though my brain shuts off at the mere mention of the topic. I’m not quite sure what happened between King George III of the American Revolutionary War era and the current occupants of Buckingham Palace. I get confused over lineage, and the whole line of succession is elusive to me. So the Queen Mum was actually Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, but she herself was never Queen? And Queen Elizabeth II is married, but her husband isn’t King? And let’s see…Charles is due to be King one day, and that’s why we were supposed to be excited about Charles and Diana, but now he’s married to Camilla Parker Bowles, so does that mean she’ll be Queen when he’s King, or does she get the same raw deal as Elizabeth’s husband? You see, I’m hopeless, really. I don’t know a Windsor from a Stuart. And when I see a series of historical novels based on the Royal Family, I go running away as though I’d encountered yet another vampire romance.
And while I’m at it, why not mention the Elephant in the Throne Room? Why do the British put up with all of this Royal Family nonsense? Turn ’em out on their ears, I say, and convert Buckingham Palace into a lucrative luxury hotel. I can only surmise that the current arrangement is tolerated simply because that is how it has always been. But what do I know? As I’ve said, not much.
What I would really admire is if the happy couple were to eschew all the grandeur and expenditure, get married privately, and advise those wishing them well to make a charitable donation to a worthy cause. Really, you don’t have to pull out all the stops just because that’s what Mum and Dad did. Take the opportunity to show the world that true love is all that matters, and acknowledge that the Royal Family is as irrelevant to most people’s lives as the next Lady Gaga album (perhaps even moreso).
Forgive me if I sound condescending, as I don’t mean to be. I suspect that most Royals-watchers simply enjoy the diversion of it all, a chance to escape the humdrum of everyday existence and indulge in fantasy and spectacle. That’s no different from someone who gets wrapped up in the success of a sports team, loses track of time in the movies, lives virtually in the alternate realities of science fiction, or pursues any hobby with all-out enthusiasm. Or even someone who has spent countless hours with The Beatles, ELP, Pink Floyd, Monty Python, Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas, and Sherlock Holmes. We all have our ways of coping with reality by removing ourselves from it for awhile.
Best wishes to William and Kate, then, and may those who enjoy such things savor the moment. The rest of us will savor the return of regular programming.