We talked in my Brit lit survey Wednesday about the spectacle of British royal weddings, specifically Diana and Charles’s wedding in 1981. It came at a time of huge economic and social turmoil in England, and the wedding projected, at least, a form of cultural solidarity that did not in fact exist. One of my students wondered why it was such a huge television event, and my answer linked back to Queen Elizabeth II coronation ceremony. Her coronation was one of the first televised events; the coronation actually made people go out and buy televisions in England in 1953. According to Arthur Marwick, “At least two million people turned out in the streets to watch the coronation procession; but the new twist was that almost twenty-and-a-half million people, 56 per cent of the adult population, could watch, and did watch, the entire proceedings on television” (British Society Since 1945 79). To give you a little perspective here, England was still using parts of the foodstuffs rationing system from the Second World War during the coronation; the rationing of meat ended in 1954. Diana and Charles’s wedding was another such televised event, giving people thousands of miles away ownership of the Royal family.
The doings of the British royal family are public property in a certain sense; it’s part of how the British monarchy transformed itself in the nineteenth century as Parliament gained more and more governing control. Queen Victoria’s withdrawal from public view after Albert’s death in 1861 caused enormous problems both for Disraeli and for the royal family. She still performed all of her private duties; Victoria simply eschewed the public ones. The public, however, wanted to actually see her. It’s also the reason for the public outcry over the Royal family’s reactions to Diana’s death. Diana was the “People’s Princess”; the public felt ownership over her in a way that was simply antithetical to the real private grief of the her family. It also the reason why the wedding between Kate Middleton and Prince William is such a big deal.
It’s also producing some fascinating kitsch. There’s a whole Lego city.
And there’s the House of Windsor in wool. I feel like they should also have the knitted characters from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
The whole Tellyspotting article is here.