A YANK AT THE ROYAL WEDDING by RJ Furth
Contrary to the numerous snide remarks to the effect that Sandy and I purposely booked our trip to London in order to attend William and Kate’s wedding, we just happened to be in London the day of the wedding, we did attend it (not the actual ceremony, of course) and we had a marvelous time. If I believed in fate – which I don’t – I might say we were meant to attend. I had booked the flights to London months earlier in order to be in China on specific dates. Our friends in Beijing were on vacation, so we couldn’t arrive before April 9, and we were told to be long gone before the May 1 holiday. We flew out of China April 25 and spent five days in London getting over jetlag and putting our flat in order. I didn’t know that the royal wedding was scheduled for April 29 when I booked our flights; it was only chance that our departure was April 30. With that said, had I know what a special event the wedding would be, I would have made sure to be in London to attend.
Sandy was the one who was really excited about the wedding, though I can’t say for sure why. She watched programs that considered what dress Kate might be wearing, read about William’s love for his mother Diana and his desire for Kate to wear Diana’s ring, listened to speculation as to what Kate’s title would be (Duchess of Cambridge). We flew from Beijing to London on a Monday and Sandy went to the city on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to soak up the atmosphere. Although I didn’t share her passion for the event, I will readily admit that I was fascinated by the whole thing and touched by the widespread support for William and Kate. In a country where most do not support the monarchy, preferring a republic, it was nice to see that people had nothing but good things to say about the event. Sure, some serious anarchists and radical republicans decried the expense of the wedding (imagine the cost of security alone!), but most people were as excited as Sandy.
I returned from China with a cold and didn’t feel great on Tuesday. Although I began to feel better on Wednesday and Thursday, I did not commit to joining Sandy for the big event. By Friday morning, though, I was as eager to join the festivities as she was. Thursday night the BBC kept reporting on the considerable number of people who were spending the night celebrating the wedding. People were shown setting up tents and drinking beer, wearing outrageous outfits decked with the Union Jack. Numbers in London were swelling by the hour and I was infected by the spirit of the day. In fact, rather than leave the flat as planned at 9:30, we were out the door by 8:45. To our dismay – happy dismay, thrilled by the sheer numbers – we couldn’t get close to the route that led from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey and back. Our initial plans dashed, we decided to head to Trafalgar Square to watch the procession and ceremony on one of the big screens that had been set up there. Trafalgar was crowded when we got there and only got more crowded as the morning progressed. Rather than feel mashed by the crowd, we were buoyed by their enthusiasm. Although mostly British, there were also many Americans, French, Italians and countless others.
I can’t remember the last time – if ever – I’ve attended an event that was so joyous, so filled with love, at least not an event attended by one million people. There were no sides, no divisions, no chants for victory or defeat of the enemy/opposition. Everybody was there to celebrate. When William and his brother Harry got into the car to be driven to the Abbey, the tens of thousands in Trafalgar Square cheered. A particularly throaty cheer went up when Queen Elizabeth got of our her car at the Abbey. (I’ll admit that a tear welled up in my eye. I’m not a royalist, but I was caught by the emotion of the moment.) Cheering continued. People showed their approval when Kate emerged in her stunning wedding dress, showing more cleavage that I would have expected at a royal wedding. The crowd laughed when William struggled to get the ring onto Kate’s finger. We cheered when they were announced to be man and wife. I left Trafalgar Square with a grin on my face.
What is it that touched me so much? Simple: It is so rare to see a nation so united with the support of so many around the world. There was no down side to the event, no partisan bickering, no sniping or bitterness. William seems the nicest of guys. Kate is sweet and appears like any other normal young woman about to marry a prince. I have become jaded with US politics, so turned off by the birther issues and the Republican policy of saying no to everything and Obama’s continued failings as president. I am weary of the endless stories of revolution and repression and tribalism and selfishness around the world. The news on all fronts has been so endlessly grim for so long that I’ve begun to despair at ever seeing a day dawn without some grim reminder about how unpleasant humans can be to each other. April 29, the wedding of William and Kate, was one of those days. It didn’t rain, it was warm, everybody had a kind word for each other, made room for each other, smiled. My only problem is trying to decide what wedding present to buy for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. I’ll borrow a page from the 60s and send them good vibes. It’s the least I can do.