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24 April 2017 11:31 (South Africa)
Politics

Forget about the great recession, there's a royal wedding to plan

  • J Brooks Spector
    brooks spector 02 BW
    J Brooks Spector

    Spector settled in Johannesburg after a career as a US diplomat in Africa and East Asia. He has taught at the U. of the Witwatersrand, been a consultant for an international NGO, run a theatre, and been a commentator for South African and international print/broadcast/online media, in addition to writing for The Daily Maverick from day one. He says he learned everything he needs to know about politics from ‘Casablanca.’ Maybe he's cynical about some things, but a late Beethoven string quartet, John Coltrane’s music and a dish of Pad Thai will bring him close to tears.

  • Politics
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Prince William finally popped the question to his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton in Kenya last month, although the world found out about their engagement only on Tuesday. After years of “will he, won't he” speculation, “Waity Katy's” patience has paid off. And, more importantly, the Brits finally have a worthy (or not so worthy) distraction from their country's political and economic woes. Even in the 21st century, nothing cheers the country up like a right royal occasion. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.

Heir to the British throne (right behind his father, Charles, the Prince of Wales), Prince William has decided he and his long-term girlfriend, Kate Middleton, will be married next year. According to Tuesday’s announcement, once they’re married, they will live in the northern part of Wales where William is now on active service with the RAF. The two met at St Andrews University in Scotland when they were students.

This announcement allows us all to finally stop worrying about whether he will or will not marry her – something that has been a staple of the tabloids and checkout aisle magazines that have kept the royal gossip industry afloat for years. And it eventually puts an end to Kate’s snide tabloid sobriquet – “Waity Katy”, a reference to the rumour she has been waiting around for years and years for Prince William to finally get around to proposing.

Now, we can dispatch that question and instead focus obsessively on who will design Kate’s wedding dress; whether they will get married in Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s; how big an engagement ring will she wear; who Prince Harry (William’s younger brother, “the spare” to William’s “heir”) will bring to the wedding; and, perhaps most weighty of all, will she eventually be called Queen Kate or Queen Catherine?

British leaders have quickly weighed in with squeals of happiness over the announcement. Queen Elizabeth said she was “absolutely delighted”; Prime Minister David Cameron said their engagement marked “a great day for our country”; and even lefty Labour’s Ed Miliband chimed in with a “the whole country will be wishing them every happiness”.

Cameron added sternly, however, that William will “have to do his statutory royal duty, his royal bit, but he will be very much a working helicopter pilot with RAF search and rescue for the next three years, and Kate will have to get used to living in North Wales, although I think she's pretty much used to it at the moment.”

Nonetheless, this is going to be a royal couple with a difference. The two began their studies at St Andrews as history of art students (although he eventually switched to being a geography major) and shared residence in a group house while studying. Middleton is popularly credited with convincing William to stay in university after he had had a tough first year.

The pair’s relationship first became public half a decade ago when they were on a skiing holiday in Switzerland. Over the years, they had an off-again, on-again relationship that has increasingly become the stuff of tabloid stories, not to mention photographs.

Middleton is nearly unique as a royal bride in that she’s the first commoner to marry a future king since the Duke of York (the future James II) married Anne Hyde in 1660. Her family has no – zero – zilch – royal or even local nobility connections. For generations, Middelton’s ancestors have all had distinctly normal occupations like country solicitors, builders, shopkeepers and bricklayers. But, this being the future wife of a future king, you can check up on all these ancestors right back for half a millennium online.

As far as Middleton’s parents go, they used to be a airline dispatcher and as a stewardess respectively, but her father and mother now run a very successful mail order toy and party goods company, Party Pieces, that has turned them into millionaires. Kate now works for her parents – although that is going to change, and rather quickly. By all accounts, Miss Middleton is one tough, savvy woman, and she is far better equipped to deal with the saturation of media attention and stress that is her new lot in life than the late Princess Diana ever was. But, regardless of Middleton’s ability to swim in these seas, divorce lawyers have been quick to give her public advice that she should sign a prenuptial agreement before walking down the aisle.

Over the past several years, at least when she wasn’t trying to stay out of the media, she has found herself on numerous “best dressed” lists. And in the past few months, the pair have been, as they say, “road-testing” married life  in Wales, where William is stationed – although officially Kate is still living at her parents.

After all the recent depressing news about the UK government budget cuts and the increasingly austere years yet to come, this engagement should give Britons an all-purpose happy diversion. Besides the usual media announcement, “The Firm” (as the royal family is called) also officially announced the engagement on Facebook and Twitter, the engagement coming just days after the Queen herself had signed up for some social networking.

Naturally enough, the BBC has started with saturation coverage of the announcement and travel consultants are already rubbing their hands together, saying the wedding is going to give a huge lift to UK tourism, coming just ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics in 2012. Or as VisitEngland CEO James Berresford said: “The wedding next year will mean that once again the eyes of the world will be turned to our nation.”

While this Windsor-Middleton marriage is almost certain to make all those embossed beer mug and commemorative tea towel manufacturers very happy (and very rich as well), for South Africans the really burning issue may well be which (or, whether all) of President Jacob Zuma’s wives are going to be going to this royal wedding – and what they're going to wear.

And we can’t help ourselves from quoting the last few lines of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, as a way of signing off from this particular bit of news; so sing along with Sir Joseph, Hebe (his new fiancé) and the rest of his jolly crew:

JOSEPH:

I'm the monarch of the sea,
And when I've married thee (to Hebe),
I'll be true to the devotion that my love implants,

HEBE:

Then good-bye to his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts,
Especially his cousins,
Whom he reckons up by dozens,
His sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts!

ALL:

For he is an Englishman,
And he himself hath said it,
And it's greatly to his credit
That he is an Englishman!


The Full Deal – a timeline for the royal romance for readers who simply can’t get enough of their fix

September 2001: Prince William and Kate Middleton meet at St Andrews University

March 2002: William pays £200 to watch Kate modelling a sheer black lace dress in a fashion show

Christmas 2003: Rumours begin that they are dating

March 2004: The romance is exposed when pictures of them together on the ski slopes are printed

July 2005: The pair enjoys a holiday at the Lewa Downs game reserve in Kenya

January 2006: William is photographed kissing Kate in public during another skiing break in Klosters

December 2006: Kate turns up to watch William graduate as an Army officer at Sandhurst

April 2007: William and Kate are said have split but secretly reunite within weeks

October 2007: The couple are pictured back togetherApril 2008: Kate is at William's graduation ceremony from the RAF flight school

January 2010: Kate watches as William graduates from an advanced helicopter-training course

February 2010: William says "You'll have to wait a while yet" when asked about the prospect of a wedding

October 2010: The couple are pictured together at a friend's wedding, driving speculation of an engagement to fever pitch

November 16: The couple's engagement is announced


Read more: the BBC, the Daily Mail, the New York Times and Wikipedia – and every British paper and weekly magazine from now until the wedding happens.

Main photo: Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton pose for a photograph in St James's place, central London, on 16 November. William is to marry Middleton next year, after an on-off courtship lasting nearly a decade, bringing months of speculation about his intentions to an end. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett.

  • J Brooks Spector
    brooks spector 02 BW
    J Brooks Spector

    Spector settled in Johannesburg after a career as a US diplomat in Africa and East Asia. He has taught at the U. of the Witwatersrand, been a consultant for an international NGO, run a theatre, and been a commentator for South African and international print/broadcast/online media, in addition to writing for The Daily Maverick from day one. He says he learned everything he needs to know about politics from ‘Casablanca.’ Maybe he's cynical about some things, but a late Beethoven string quartet, John Coltrane’s music and a dish of Pad Thai will bring him close to tears.

  • Politics

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