Since they announced their engagement back in November, Kate (call me Catherine) Middleton and Prince William have been under the most intensely detailed kind of media scrutiny and criticism. But now that the big day is upon us, the media pundits seem to have settled down and concluded that perhaps the royal couple have done rather well after all. Commentators have started to congratulate them on their attitude, their choices and their financial pulling-power. Now that the Syrian ambassador’s invitation has been withdrawn (after the Foreign Office decided that his presence would be “unacceptable” in the light of the killing of pro-democracy demonstrators in recent weeks) and the rain looks set to hold off, there’s just one problem: What should we drink to to toast the happy couple?
- The incorrect beverage: Why the wedding guests should drink beer. Independent columnist Guy Adams mulled over the news that beer will not be served at the wedding reception — champagne is deemed to be more appropriate. Adams wondered why that was. “What exactly is supposed to be so wrong with beer?” he asked. Britains quaff roughly a third of all global exports of champagne, “Yet champagne is surely one of the most overrated drinks available.” It is “sharp,” “one-dimensional,” “sprayed by racing drivers, romanticised by rap artists.” And the entire consumer image of champagne is a “charade.” Beer, on the other hand, is the only true British drink. It helped build the empire and it should be drank at royal weddings. But sadly young royals, along with “dodgy African diplomats and Middle Eastern dictators,” have come to expect champagne.
- The correct guest list. Much criticism has been generated by the fact that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, both former prime ministers, were not invited. But is it any wonder? Virginia Blackburn at the Daily Express reminded us about the time when Blair claimed he “saved the monarchy” after the death of Diana. Then Cherie published tales of how she conceived Leo at Balmoral, because she was too embarrassed to pack her contraception when staying with the Queen (“but not too embarrassed to go on about it afterwards.”) It’s hardly surprising that they have not been invited. Yes, Blackburn appreciated that this isn’t just any old family wedding, and future heads of state sometimes have to invite undesirable guests to their nuptials. But Kate and William are going to have to live lives that are “controlled down to the last comma” and “this is their final chance to do what they want rather than what they have to.”
- Spend and God will Send. Kate’s uncle, Gary Goldsmith, drove her mother, Carole, “perilously close to having a heart attack” in 2009, reported the Daily Mail. Pictured in his £5 million home, (La Maison de Bang Bang) Goldsmith was caught with a cocaine habit, boasting about his warm relationship with the Royal Family. Branded the “black sheep,” Goldsmith went to rehab. But now the “errant” uncle has been welcomed back into the fold, said the Mail. He was pictured topping up his tan at a sunbed centre in London ahead of the wedding. And — just happening to roll up his t-shirt in a nonchalant fashion while on the phone outside the salon — Goldsmith, just by chance, displayed his new back tattoo, “Spend and God Will Send” to Daily Mail photographers. Wise words indeed, Gary.
- Let’s hear it for brand Britain! Britain’s hard power may not be achieving much in Benghazi and Helmand, mused MP and historian Tristram Hunt in the Financial Times, but British soft power (through TV and Facebook and Twitter) is enjoying “a stellar boost – thanks to Buckingham Palace.” The marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton is monarchy as “commodity and a brand vehicle for Britishness.” It “draws others towards us too,” said Hunt. Harry Potter, James Bond, Burberry and the BBC World Service are all British exports that sell the idea of the UK abroad, so too are Kate and Wills. On April 29th “our Common Prayer, our hymns and history, our ancient abbeys and royal palaces” will be displayed on TVs around the world. Viewers from Mumbai to Melbourne will see on display British sportsmen and designers, artists and actors. “It will be a carefully crafted Britain, uniting social mobility and modernity with history and heritage. But in turn, it is hoped, viewers will want to study and invest in Britain.”
- The people’s princess? Kate will make the UK richer wrote think tank director, John Berlau, in the Wall Street Journal. Princess Kate will not be the people’s princess – like Diana — but more of the “entrepreneur’s princess”. For centuries in Britain, commercial activities were looked down upon by the aristocracy, whose wealth lay in landownership. But Kate and her family grew rich through commercial activity and entrepreneurship. They emoby “a noble, if relatively modern, tradition of their own, a tradition of bettering oneself and one’s family while improving the lot of society at the same time.” And Berlau predicted that if the royal family were to utilize Kate’s background to help encourage and spread this culture of entrepreneurship, “the effects in Britain—and possibly much of the world—could be incredible. The people of the United Kingdom would be much richer, and not just in material terms.”
- The God bit. In the Daily Telegraph the Archbishop of York guided readers carefully through Kate and Will’s wedding vows, and the facts behind the institution of marriage in the modern age. “At a time of economic uncertainty, I think this wedding will help give the nation a sense of renewed hope and confidence for what lies ahead.” But above all, the wedding of Kate and William may serve to remind us of the importance of the institution of marriage, he said. The Archbishop signed-off thus: “Let us share in the hope and joy. The blessing in their marriage service can be prayed for every married couple: God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love, Defend you on every side, and guide you in truth and peace; And the blessing of God almighty, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Be among you and remain with you always. Amen.”
Where to watch the wedding
- Kick off time is 10 am BST (9 am GMT, 2 am PT, 5 am ET). Prince William and Prince Harry will leave Clarence House for the Abbey at 10.10am (BST), followed by the Royal Family. Kate is due to arrive at the Abbey at 11am (although traditionally brides are allowed to arrive a little late).
- The service at Westminister Abbey will follow (a transcript of the marriage service is available here); at about 12.15 pm, as long as no one’s late and weather permitting, the newly-married couple will leave the Abbey in an open-top State Landau carriage. In the event of rain, the enclosed Glass Coach will be used. For an up-to-date local London weather forecast, click here. The party will leave the Abbey and take the north side of Parliament Square, travel up Whitehall, through Horse Guards Parade and up the Mall to the Palace. Click here for a video tour of the route.
- At 12.40pm the Queen will host a champagne (not beer) reception for 600 guests.
- The couple will appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at 1.30pm to coincide with a flyover of a Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane. The scene is expected to be sealed with a kiss. The souvenir wedding programme is available to download for free as a PDF from the official Royal Wedding website. The booklet will be also be sold for £2 a copy along the processional route on the day of the wedding, with proceeds going to the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.
- Big screen TVs will be erected in Hyde Park, near Marble Arch. There is also room for about 5,000 people to watch events on screens in Clapham Common, South London. Click here for a list of other official Big Screens will be placed around the UK. Belfast is the only major city in the UK that will not be publicly screening the event.
- The wedding will be streamed live via YouTube on the Royal Channel from 10 am.
- It will also be tweeted from @clarencehouse (but not from the Abbey where signal-blocking technology has been installed).
- The BBC will provide the “official” coverage of the event live on BBC One, BBC World News, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. BBC correspondents will be tweeting the events @BBCPeterHunt, and @BBCRoyalWedding. ITV and Sky will also have extensive coverage throughout the day both on screen and online. Here the Daily Mirror weighs-up whose coverage will be better; BBC, ITV or Sky?
- In the US, ABC News will be streaming live coverage on ABCNews.com, Facebook, Hulu and on the ABC News app for iPad. Fox News will be streaming the wedding on foxnews.com, and on its apps for iOS and Android.