This was my first royal wedding experience in England, seeing that I have not, to my knowledge, been located in England for a royal wedding prior.
There were a couple I recall from my youth. One, the most famous, happened when I was just starting to get mobile, a few others I remember from watching news clips. All of them had the same thing – pretty dresses, carriages, men in uniform, horses (for the carriage and around the carriage), a bunch of needlessly tall fur hats, and one dignified English lady in a nice looking hat, most likely of a bright color.
Seeing that the whole world was looking upon England for this particular wedding of some minor, second-to-the-throne-guy named William, and some nobody, daughter-of-self-made-millionaires Catherine, England spent a grand majority of time pretending like it was no big deal. Sure, you could walk the tourist shops and pound stores and find their faces all over every item known to man kind. Sure, news agencies constantly and never-endingly reported on the most mundane scrap of knowledge about the planning. (Kate’s Mum & Sis go stand outside a random dress shop! Are they possibly going to get a dress from the dress shop that may or may not have something to do with the wedding??? The world waits with bated breath…)
But, if you approached most people in my circle of British friends the reaction was…meh.
Two people getting hitched…meh.
William’s a nice kid but we don’t know him…meh.
So I secretly squirreled away my £2 Primark knock-off engagement ring. Hid and pulled out for personal amusement the little flag and bag I got from my husband. Painstakingly kept out, but did not call out to those who entered my home, the Cath Kidston “Will & Kate” mug in the center of my coffee table.
I had planned for a long day on the sofa with my special mug and a Will & Kate tin filled to the brim with coffee cake. Everyone was meh, nobody wanted to make a fuss. My excitement, I thought to myself, was mine own. A product of not having pomp and circumstance in part of my life for 30+ years.
Then, two days before, all British party hell broke loose.
Meh was replaced by bunting. Lots and lots and lots and lots of Union Jack bunting. And picnic deals, and special Pimm’s and champagne and party popper’s. The friends who were meh suddenly and without warning exploded with British pride. We were to go out! Celebrate in the streets! And by God we would gather on lawns and down at the local palace and watch William and Catherine join in holy matrimony!
And with that the sofa was nixed for a sundress (layered with various other items) and a flowered pin for my hair I set off laden with goods for Blenheim, seat of the Duke of Marlborough.
Along with everyone else.
Really, half of Oxfordshire.
The Royal Wedding had been tacked on to a joust they decided to put up for the locals. Usually during the nice Bank Holidays Blenheim hosts jousting, starring some wonderful stuntmen who really love their jobs. Blenheim, like myself, had probably witnessed the meh, and so they decided to set up what would amount to a small movie screen under a tent. It was located sort of off to the side of the joust, with a thought that perhaps since it was a morning wedding people would wander in but it wouldn’t get too crowded.
Boy, they were wrong.
We packed ourselves like sardines amongst the masses. People had brought entire picnic pop-up tables and chairs which blocked the view. Our friend surrounded us by bunting, and then got told off for blocking people 50 back because she was wearing pink (but not for the bunting). To cap it all off the speakers were broken and so there was zero sound. I would pop my head up every few minutes to see if I could catch a glimpse of arrivals. Mercifully I had printed the entire wedding program and another friend brought her newspaper copy of hers. We contemplated leaving… but that was un-British. British people tough it out. British people wave Union Jacks upon any sighting of a royal (really, I think they shoot out of jackets and pop out of couch arms when a royal appears). British people, who don’t ever want to admit it, love themselves a big royal do.
And so, when out stepped Catherine in her pretty wedding dress we all ooo’d and ahh’d. The service was read out to the crowd by one of our group from the copies we brought, timed pretty well. When they were pronounced man and wife, the party popper’s went and the champagne was corked. When the groundskeeper pulled his truck to the back of the throng so we could hear the distant music and hear the mumbled words people grew more peaceful. And finally, when they fixed the speakers (at the very end, right at God Save the Queen) the crowd stood and sang with all the congregation of Westminster, the city of London, and probably a pretty big portion of the United Kingdom.
And all was well.
Then the crowds dispersed, spraying themselves along the lawn after being so tightly packed, and briefly gathered again to watch two sweet kisses and a few oldie but goodie planes fly over Buckingham Palace. We gorged ourselves on cakes, tea, and champagne and slowly, one by one, drifted back to our homes where we could watch it all again in HD.
Packed into the crowd yesterday, no sound but my friend reading the service, Union Jacks at the ready, I watched two people get married. And I won’t forget it. It was anything but meh.