Until Thursday night I was utterly unmoved by the prospect of a royal wedding; the wall-to-wall media coverage, the “buildup” and the “anticipation”, the mindless speculation about dukedoms and dresses; I could scarcely have been less interested. No, that’s not quite true; in fact, I was enjoying being scathing, cynical and generally sceptical about the whole affair. It was, after all, irrelevant, expensive and a waste of everybody’s time, jamming yet another bank holiday into what is fast becoming a two-week period of uninterrupted sun-drenched lazing about; fine if you haven’t got much to do, but not a lot of use for those of us trying to get people in offices to actually pick up the phone from time to time.
Then, lo and behold, I saw the news footage of William going for an impromptu walkabout on Thursday evening to greet some of the (how to put this kindly?) enthusastic fans preparing to camp out to keep their places on the crowd control barriers outside Westminster Abbey. This, we were told, was no planned PR stunt but a spontaneous decision. From then on we were supplied with a steady stream of moments like this that reminded us that this was the coming of age of a new generation of royals. William and Harry arrived early, leaving time to talk to their friends before the ceremony. When Catherine reached the choir and Harry looked over his shoulder, his impish grin spoke volumes. We are told by a forensic lip reader employed by a news agency that William’s words to Catherine at the altar were “You look stunning, babe.” How very human. How unlike his father, who one senses could have summoned neither the emotion nor the words for such a moment. The newlyweds’ departure from Buckingham Palace in a gorgeous blue Aston Martin DB6 Volante, borrowed from Charles, was a moment of delightful spontaneity, the sort of youthful impetuousness we had learned not to expect.
I also saw what a lot of other people seem to have seen today, a young couple in love. They’re excited about this, just as much as any of the people who camped out on the Mall. A generation of Britons scarred by the footage of Charles and Diana’s wedding, replayed over and over with the benefit of hindsight, has had its fairytale renewed, amplified even, by the intervention of a relatively ordinary girl from the Home Counties who today managed to look a million times more poised, prepared and comfortable than the terrifyingly young Diana did in 1981. (more…)