As a republican Id like to steer clear of the royal wedding. That doesnt seem to be an option, says Guardian columnist Gary Younge
The royal wedding, as we now know it, was born in 1922. The marriage of Princess Mary to Viscount Lascelles was, it is said, less an arranged union than a forced one. Lascelles bet his friends that if he asked King George Vs only daughter to marry him shed say yes. Mary was not keen. But the king insisted. Whatever private anxiety there might have been was buried deep beneath the public ceremony.
Monarchies elsewhere had fallen foul of popular uprisings; Britains royals felt they had to work for their privileges. Five years earlier, during the first world war, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had rebranded itself the House of Windsor to establish some distance from their German lineage.
Marys wedding was another opportunity to connect with the public. For the first time in a long time a royal wedding was held at Westminster Abbey, with a full procession and coverage by Path News. It is now no longer Marys wedding, wrote her brother, the future George VI. But (this from the papers) it is the Abbey Wedding or the Royal Wedding or the National Wedding or even the Peoples Wedding.
Royal weddings are no more about two people being in love than a presidential inauguration is about a politicians first day in a new job. That doesnt mean the couple in question dont necessarily love each other. Only that it is not a prerequisite for the ceremony.
When it comes to royal events it is not individuals but the institution the monarchy that really counts. So the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are a private ceremony only in the formal sense that it is not an official state occasion. It will be televised, has received acres of newspaper coverage, has 600 guests, costs 32m, and 1,200 commoners have been nominated to join in.
I wish it was private. Then they could have their seclusion and I could ignore it. But then what would the point of that be? To be invisible, wrote the 19th-century constitutionalist Walter Bagehot, is to be forgotten To be a symbol, and an effective symbol, you must be vividly and often seen.
I for one have already seen enough. Im a republican for all the obvious reasons. A monarchy establishes inherited privilege at the heart of government and embeds patronage at the centre of power. The royals are a class act. And thats the problem. Im not a very passionate republican many things bother me more than the monarchy. But as principles go it is unwavering. We have a class problem in Britain and the monarchy exemplifies it. If its a guilty pleasure Im after, I dont turn to betrothals in real-world feudal dynasties: I have Netflix. The political scientist Benedict Anderson described countries as imagined communities. Call me a misery guts, but Id rather imagine one in which I am born a citizen, not a subject, and others are not born to govern me.
Id be fine leaving the whole thing alone; the trouble is it wont leave me alone. Last week Harry and Meghan showed up in both my kids book bags theyd been invited by their schools to celebrate their wedding by wearing red, white and blue or buying cupcakes or both.
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