The Broad is Back!

April 29, 2011

Best Wishes, but I am so glad it’s over!

Usually, after the last toast has been made and the last piece of cake played with (I mean, really, who ever eats wedding cake?), the bride and groom’s families are heartily relieved the thing is over and done with. Anyone who has ever had a family wedding knows this–from the smallest backyard do to the grandest ballroom extravaganza, weddings are taxing. It seems that everything revolves around that one day for months and months beforehand. And once it ends, people kick off their shoes, heave a sigh of relief and start speculating about babies.

Well, for William and Catherine’s wedding, I think the whole world is heaving that sigh. It’s over. We can stop talking about it all the time.

Because it seems the whole world went crazy. I don’t really understand why. One blog I read (can’t remember where), attributed it to the “Diana factor”–that people are interested in William because of his mother. Maybe.  That might have been part of why I watched, but then I’m an 18th century British literature scholar by training. I think I’m contractually obligated to be interested in British pomp and circumstances.

But back in 1981, Diana fascinated me because we were the same age. I was far too young to be serious about a guy at that age, and there she was, marrying a prince. Cool. Odd, but cool. Then came William.  I was working as a reporter for a news service at the time, and my boss was covering the Saratoga horse sales, a big annual event. She always sold a lot of stories about it, so she invested some good money to stay there for the week and get lots of details.  She came back from that trip so mad she was sputtering. “All that investment, and that damn baby had to come and blow the horse sales news out of the water.” Papers were full of the new royal heir with no room for horse stories. I wonder if she’s forgiven him yet.

When Diana died, I was actually dating a man who had worked at Highgrove, Charles’s country estate. He had known her and was devastated at her death. Totally gutted, actually. He had told me stories of young William that made the prince seem more like a person to me. But more than that, I lost my dad  at 11, so I knew what it was like for the two young boys to lose a parent so suddenly and so young. Frankly, it is horrible. Yet, I was also a mom, so my heart went out to them from the adult perspective, as well.

But the boys grew up fine, more or less, and frankly, I don’t really care about them either way. I wish them no ill, but I don’t pay much attention, either. But as I wrote last week, a wedding is a wedding. So yes, I was up at 5AM watching the arrivals and then the ceremony. Just as the bride and groom arrived back at the palace, I had to dash out to work.

Frankly, I can understand dishing about it now that it’s over. That’s the fun part, the rehashing and the looking at the pretty pictures. But why did the world go so mad? Are we so overwhelmed by all the bad that’s happening that we have to get caught up in other people’s lives? Have we become such a celebrity-driven culture that a Windsor wedding, at the top of the celebrity heap, so to speak, draws all focus? Is it the Diana factor? Probably a mixture of all. 

I can understand the British going mad, but why did the American media whip up such a frenzy? I remember the first time I “experienced” a royal wedding.  It was Princess Anne to Mark Philips in November of 1973.  There was enough mention that a 12-year-old girl in America knew about it, but  back then I was also a huge Tudor geek.  I was obsessed with the Tudor family for some reason, so royalty interested me. Oh, and I saw a picture of the bride-to-be’s younger brother, Andrew, who was just about my age and, in to my 12-year-old mind, cute. So I got interested. I got up early and watched the wedding (and to my everlasting delight, Anne’s dress was an Elizabethan design–cue the Tudor fan-girl swoon).  But what’s the big deal to Americans? Why the unrelenting press coverage?

Princess Victoria of Sweden’s wedding barely made a splash over here. And she’s just as pretty as Catherine. And she’s next in line to the throne, not third like William. Why do Americans worship the Windsors? We certainly don’t understand the least thing about royalty. I was looking at People Magazine’s coverage of the wedding (pictures!), and was struck at how many nuances of royalty the reporters seem to miss. OK, and I was struck at how much I actually know.  But why the madness? 

Is it jealousy? Do we want royalty? I don’t think so at all. Based on talks I have with people and what I hear, most Americans have no idea of what it really means to be a subject, not a citizen. A hereditary head of state goes against everything we believe in as a nation. And really, this obsession is a relatively new phenomenon. Maybe it is the “Diana factor”.

All I know is I’m glad it’s over. Back to the every day. Back to the bad news–there’s a natural disaster than needs attention in America’s southland; there’s a space shuttle launch this very afternoon. So time to get back to real life.

But before I go, here’s the dish: loved her dress. Classic style beautifully done. The hats! Really, Beatrice, what were you thinking? The sermon was lovely–full of my favorite words–love, future, hope. And Prince Andrrew is sooooo not cute anymore.

Best wishes to the happy couple. a long and happy life together.

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April 22, 2011

Weddings can bring out the worst in people

There’s a certain wedding happening in a week that is showing me some amazing insight into Anglo-American relations.

We pretty much hate one another.

This is quite strange to me, considering the Revolution ended 228 years ago. But people have long memories, I guess. Or something.

Probably more the something.

There’s a lot of sniping going back and forth over the monarchy and whether people care about the wedding. Two people are getting married. I have no personal insights into either of them, but in my book a wedding is always nice. And royal weddings are fun to watch because they are just done so nicely.  So in today’s world, with killings and war and a country that’s falling apart thanks to inequity in tax laws and education and all the other things plaguing us (America, I mean, but I guess the UK has similar problems) a wedding is a nice respite.

Until I hit the internet. I’ll look at a story, mostly to avoid grading papers, the bane of my life right now, and boom–Americans insulting the British. British people bashing the Americans. Why? I don’t get it. Really, we have more in common than most countries.

The worst, of course, are in the comments people can post.

“Ma! Why do you read them? You know those people are crazy,” my son warns me. He’s right, I know. But I can’t help myself. I am amazed anew at how stupid people are–how hateful, ignorant and just so willing to share that with the world.

But it is also interesting to see the inherent snarkiness when the BBC reports on America. Now I love BBC America, and as a proud Doctor Who fan, I’m glad we have them. Makes my life easier to get my fix. And really, the BBC produces quality television, and I’d be more than willing to chip in and pay a licensing fee to access their materials on-line. But there’s no denying that corporate BBC takes a rather superior tone when discussing Americans. We’re so quaint. British newspapers often take the same tone. We’re just so naive and gullible, oh, and let’s not forget ignorant.  And fat and loud, while we’re at it.

American newspapers and television aren’t exempt from dishing out biased stereotypes. Them Brits–either effete snobs or football hooligans, right? But they do a mean period drama. And sure, most Americans don’t “get” the whole royalty thing. Many Americans I know see the royal family (of anywhere) as just another type of celebrity, and we manufacture them by the cart load over here–no big deal. The royals are just around longer. But I’ve been disgusted with the press on this side of the pond, too.

Why do we hate each other so?  I know why my relatives were a little touchy about Britain, being of Irish extraction. But I also know that the cousins who were the most rabid haters of Britain (and they are pretty much gone now) couldn’t have found Ireland on a map. Of course, they couldn’t have found Kansas, either. They just knew the British are the bad guys. At a family wake, a cousin castigated me for traveling to England. “Why give them a dime of our money?”

Well, because London is a great city?  I love England. I love America, too, and Italy and Ireland and Taiwan, and well, you get the picture.  When I go to England I feel right at home. We share a language, a heritage, and much to the chagrin of a lot of people, a shockingly similar DNA. When I’m in England, most people don’t realize I’m American till I speak, quietly, but with a definite New York accent. No one has said, oh, you’re so American, except for the Welsh ex-boyfriend who commented on my “big, American teeth”. Genetics, buddy. Never had braces or dental work. But I am very American.

There’s really no reason for us to hate one another. But people love to hate, don’t they? And we can do it so well.  Let’s snipe at one another–keeps us from expending energy on fixing what is wrong with our respective countries. It just amazes me that something as benign as a wedding shows the deep rifts between our two countries.  Of course, I’ve never known a wedding that didn’t cause all sorts of sniping and anger, so in this way, I guess poor William and Catherine are having a “people’s wedding”.

But obviously, this hatred is bothering me enough to put aside the grading to write about it.  Although we share a language and aspects of our culture, we have been officially separate countries for 228 years, so why is it a surprise to people that we’re different on a number of levels? And why do we hate what’s different? Oh, right, because we’re humans. And humans are a very strange species.

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