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      Volume 10 |Issue 17 | May 06, 2011 |


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Elementally British

Shah Husain Imam

Great Britain, the chosen venue for the Olympics 2012 is moving full steam ahead preparing for the Olympics 2012. This also is the year for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the British Queen's reign.

Against this foreground took place the royal marriage between Prince William and commoner Kate Middleton at the Westminster Abbey in London last Friday. So, what an ambience Great Britain is building up into in these hard times for the country otherwise.

Drawing parallels is not always odious; sometimes there can be poetic justice to it. Major sporting events like the Olympics and the football and cricket World Cups draw worldwide imagination and emotional participation of people from almost everywhere. So captivating are these long-scheduled processes that they can even bring about temporary lifestyle changes including a shift in the work ethic.

The royal couple: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Photo: AFP

Such high profile sports are appealing to the mind and the heart and the countries performing at the top are fiercely combative to excel over another. At the end of the day, it can either be heartbreak or glory, more perhaps for the participants than the spectators. Again, it could be amusingly the other way round. In any case, games are fun and recreation for the sport-loving people.

Not so a royal marriage. Quite in a different category has been the wedlock between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Seldom the soul of a nation got completely enraptured by an event as it did in Britain centering around the royal marriage. It drew worldwide attention like in major sporting event; but the distinct difference here is in the sheer volume of human interest it generated for being uniquely personal, private and yet so public, the British people and TV watchers around the globe riding through the garden path of a well-scripted fantasy enacted in real life through the Westminster Abbey.

Pageantry, invocation of holiness, populism and regal royalty were the stuff of which the wedding was made. It was truly and elementally British – traditional yet modern, monarchist yet democratic in something so private being aesthetically so public; so sharing of the bounteous joy flowing, as it were, from a fountain.

Full 30 years ago, when Prince Charles married Commoner Diana, which though publicly appealing drew criticism for then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher for the cost that Britain, detractors thought, could ill-afford in 'hard times'. The current Prime Minister David Cameron with his austerity cuts in social sectors not going down well with many people may also draw flak.

But the gains for the British people have been immense. The aura of the marriage with its symphony of details playing in concert sank in the public mind as they identified with the event and felt at home with it. It was not one thing of a beauty being a joy forever but things of beauty and bucket fulls of joy.

In fact, the negative hang-ups over the royalty due largely to paparazzi's snooping into the private lives of Princes and Princesses may well have been lifted through the public-endearing William and Kate marriage. Also the so-called image-tarring depiction of private lives in a way betrayed the human side of the royalty in that perhaps they are as much vulnerable to human frailties as anyone else. This may have helped to rationalise the Ivory Tower image of the royalty without a scar on the inherent respect for the traditions of monarchy. In fact, with this latest royal marriage the succession of monarchy has been secured with William after Charles scenario in place.

The British have always kept a lively interest in the royal family, both immediate and the extended. The public curiosity and interest have been so intense in the royalty that this has given rise to interesting human, somewhat unsavoury, stories.

Take these for example: Michael Fargan managed to get into the Queen's bedroom in Buckingham Palace in 1982 creating a huge stir; Marion Crawford, once the governess for both Princess Elizabeth and Margaret evoked sharp reactions from both when she published her reminiscences after retirement; and Jeannette Charles is learnt to have made a living off bearing resemblance to the Queen's look.


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