Belfast Telegraph

Royal wedding fairytale weaves a truly magical spell ...

By Gail Walker

In the end it all went off beautifully. The bride looked poised and ravishing in her Sarah Burton ivory satin and lace dress, the groom every inch the prince that he is, a mix of naturalness underscored with a sense of the history, obligation and duty his role demands.

And it wasn’t just the ancient nature of the ceremony or the grandeur of Westminster Abbey that would have reminded William of the unique position he holds.

The hundreds of thousands who cheered him and his bride all along the route, the millions who watched it on TV, not to mention the global audience, will have brought home to him once more that he is no ordinary new husband, rather a man who will be King and his bride Queen.

Odd as it may seem after all we have been through with the Royals — the war of the Waleses, the shenanigans of the Yorks — there still undeniably remains an overwhelming sense of goodwill and enthusisam for the monarchy.

Yesterday, if you slightly closed your eyes, you could almost have confused it with traditional loyalty and convinced yourself that you were living in a Britain of 50 years ago. Yet there is no mistaking that William and Catherine are a very modern couple, breathing new life into the rather fusty corridors of Buckingham Palace.

Respectful and aware of the weight of the occasion they may have been, but they also somehow carried themselves with a winning air of informality.

Here was a couple who could not hide their joy that this day had finally arrived. There were smiles at the altar, with lipreaders saying that Prince William greeted his bride with the words “you look stunning, babe”, and quipped to his father-in-law: “Just a small family affair.” There was constant chit-chat in the couple’s carriage on the return to the Palace.

There was heartfelt awe at the goodwill towards them: as they walked onto the balcony for that kiss (and then another) the radiant bride mouthed “Oh wow!” at the crowds massed in the Mall below. And there was fun: the couple left their afternoon reception at Buckingham Palace with William at the wheel of his father’s open-top Aston Martin, which had been decorated with balloons, an L-plate and a ‘Just Wed’ numberplate by Prince Harry.

Surprisingly, William and Kate looked like any other couple on their wedding day, determined at the very least to enjoy it. Curiously, too, while it was a global phenomenon and formal state occasion, there was also something quite intimate, moving and rather human about it all.

Prince William must have missed his mother — the unseen but ever-present guest at all these major milestones in his life (and what would she have worn?) — but this was not a day shadowed by sorrow, rather infused with a sense of all the good things the future might hold.

Dare it be said, but at a stroke even wily old cynics suddenly found themselves wanting to believe in fairytales again. And, of course, those require a princess. Which leads to the one slightly disappointing aspect of the day, namely that although William and Kate will become Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, she was not officially made a princess in her own right. Instead protocol dictates that Kate should be called Princess William of Wales rather than Princess Catherine or Princess Kate, because she was not born with Royal blood.

But there is something cumbersome, cold and ungainly about bestowing the title of Duchess on a beautiful, radiant young woman. Duchesses are like Camilla; they are older, austere and more matronly.

Above all, the decision not to grant the title of princess struck the only discordant note, because this was the day when princesses were made. And the fact that already in the media and by the public she is being referred to as Princess Catherine, in exactly the same way Princess Diana got her people-given title, shows where popular feeling lies. Namely, that if you marry a prince you become a princess, and that is all the more romantic and true when you start out as a — that hated word — “commoner”.

Still, talking of which, it must be admitted, even by diehard snobs, that the Middleton family carried off the whole event superbly. Those who sniggered at the “doors to manual” jibes at former air hostess mother Carole and gawped their way through recent TV documentaries pointing out her inauspicious lineage, will have had to begrudgingly admit she looked elegant and classy in her Catherine Walker outfit. Her husband Michael performed his duties as father of the bride masterfully, while daughter Pippa was a stunning matron of honour and son James read the service’s only lesson with a professionalism that would have shamed many a seasoned actor. If he had nerves, he certainly didn’t show them.

Assured, polished and appropriate just about sums up the whole day. Even those balcony kisses — moments so redolent of other Royal couples whose love turned sour — was carried off with modest aplomb. Not for this couple a lingering smooch, but rather an astute sense of giving the adoring public (and desperate Press) just enough to keep them happy while maintaining protocol and personal dignity.

This hasn’t been a romance portrayed in the public domain with great passion and impulsiveness, rather a relationship founded in friendship, trust and, well, love.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want, what we all believe in, what we all hope for?

Bizarre as it may seem in 2011, this wealthy, privileged young couple in some way reflect the lives of ordinary people. It’s why, to the uncomfortable astonishment of the BBC, thousands slept out overnight in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Royals as they sped past in their carriages en route to the Palace. Considering the bad Press some of the Windsors have received over the past few decades, yesterday was an undoubted triumph. Even in our modern Facebook, internet and iPhone world, we crave a sense of history.

Yesterday we reminded ourselves that we lived in a kingdom — and we rather enjoyed that fact.

Belfast Telegraph


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