*On The Crown

I ended up seeing approximately two minutes of the royal wedding. Believe me, though, I had badly wanted to see the entire thing, especially since it’s been thirty years since we have had bona fide top-hole royal nuptials but, in a move that was highly unusual for me, I was out mixing with people last Friday night. Yes, I turned on the television the second I got home but found that as soon as I had got a load of the wedding dress, I magically no longer wanted to see any more of the proceedings. The thing is that, with any wedding, once you’ve seen what the bride is wearing, the excitement is over. Any woman who is obsessed with getting married should just go get herself a wedding dress, and I’m sure she would find that her urgency about the whole issue would immediately abate.  Besides, leading up to the event, I had partaken of certain royal-wedding-themed television programs that I’d carefully picked out for my delectation, and now I am able to assess them with the benefit of an extremely small amount of hindsight.

Watching the shows gave me the same rich satisfaction that I feel when viewing a disaster movie and the inevitable moment comes that a red-faced man in a position of authority wants to cut corners as a prelude to the whole house of cards coming crashing down. Aside from anything, I was able once more to benefit from the input of Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, a post that she seems to have held since Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was in kindergarten. In William and Kate: Inside the Royal Wedding (Channel Seven, 7.30pm), Seward wore a tartan jacket, while in William and Kate: A Royal Love Story (ABC, immediately after Inside the Royal Wedding) she was bedecked in pearls and a bright-green jacket while giving us such handy information as ‘Everything will be planned to the tiniest detail’ and ‘The wedding is scheduled to start at eleven o’clock, which means it will begin at eleven o’clock.’ I was disgusted by the absence of James Whitaker but a welcome new addition to the royal pundits was the ubiquitous Robert Jobson, the man who authored William’s Princess and who resembles a clean-shaven, talkative, Toby jug. Then there were the interviews with friends of the royal couple, such as Ben Duncan, a former student of the university at which William and Kate met, who spoke authoritatively about the pair, and looked like a cross between an especially depraved merchant banker and Howard Jones. And then there was the time-honoured festival of bet hedging, involving people who might have, but, as it turns out, did not in fact, do the wedding dress, flowers or the cake, making such remarks as ‘Nothing too traditional but she won’t be able to get away with a very modern style either.’ My favourite of all the interviewees, though, was Arthur Edwards, an elderly Sun photographer, who talked cheerfully about royal weddings while behind him was displayed a poster that read ‘Up Yours Delors’.

Another feature of these television programs that made me feel as if I’d at last returned home after having been lengthily lost in the Australian bush was all the re-enactments of William and Kate strolling, for example, down a street, with the explanatory word ‘ACTORS’ slapped on the screen in screaming capitals. And, speaking of which, the show that I unquestionably anticipated the most was the biopic William and Kate: A Modern-Day Fairytale (Channel Ten, 8.30pm, the following night). I knew that I was on to a good thing as soon as I watched Prince William (Nico Evers-Swindell), having newly arrived at university, look quietly content as he surveyed his simple dormitory room. He was, of course, shortly to befriend a rakish young man who resembled a cross between Rob Lowe in Class and a member of UK Squeeze, and who would, much later in the piece, egg William on to become a single man once more. In addition, there were many freshers who managed to look older than Stockard Channing did in Grease but with whom the good times rolled nonetheless (‘If they didn’t want us skating in that fountain, they shouldn’t have filled it with water!’). I very much liked the continuity of Serena Scott Thomas, who played the lead in Diana: Her True Story (not to mention appearing in Relax … It’s Just Sex!), appearing as Kate’s mother, Carole, not least seeing her bring home the fact of her absolute Englishness by tearfully spooning tea into a canister during the dark days of William and Kate’s William-initiated ‘break’ from the relationship. Best of all, though, was the fact that Camilla Luddington as Kate Middleton reminded me of no one as much as Shannen Doherty, and, furthermore, had all the brattish hauteur that Doherty used to display as Brenda Walsh in the great days of Beverly Hills 90210.

We were quickly privy to William and Kate’s intellectual connection, as they exchanged comments such as ‘I like Monet and Cézanne – I love the way they play with light’ and ‘I love going new places and seeing how everyone lives’, even though when Kate, getting above herself, started advocating the concept of the royal family’s modernisation, William was forced to caution her that the Queen ‘holds onto the old ways with a passion.’ Furthermore, we saw her lend a hand in the kitchen, when, like Warren Beatty as famous communist John Reed in Reds, William just could not cook dinner without burning saucepans left right and centre. Also highly agreeable was watching Kate having to take part in etiquette classes that were delightfully reminiscent of the excellent, and tragically underrated, Australian Princess, complete with some old bag announcing ‘So many young girls today have no shame.’ The unquestionable highlights for me, though, of Fairytale were the intimate scenes between members of the royal family, such as that in which Princes William, Harry and Charles dined together and, for some reason, had on the table a beverage resembling Lucozade, and Harry knowledgably exclaimed ‘I’m not the heir – I’m just the spare!’ Best of all, however, was a climactic scene in which William really had it out with his father over the Windsor-Spencer-Parker-Bowles bizarre love triangle, with all the fresh outrage and need to go over the facts of someone who had just that day learned of the events through having bought and read a Hello! magazine.

And, speaking of those events, I fail to understand why William and Kate are apparently so keen on, and why they are getting plaudits for, being ‘ordinary’. As far as I’m concerned, the only reason the British royal family, or any royal family, still deserves the largesse of the taxpayer is if it’s coughing up a big old black sheep, such as Princess Margaret, Princess Stephanie or Jack the Ripper, as often as possible. Even Prince Edward is looking exciting in comparison with William and Kate, and not merely because he was the brains behind It’s a Royal Knockout. Apparently, William’s brand-new title of Duke of Cambridge was to be Prince Edward’s when he married, but, in his patented theatrical style, Edward preferred to be given the title Earl of Wessex because he had come upon a character with that name in Shakespeare in Love. If the British royal family can just keep coming up with that sort of thing, surely they can bury the republican movement for all time.

While watching these programs, I also felt nostalgic for the brief period during which William and Kate had split up; that is, the era of feverish speculation about ‘Did they meet five years too early?’ in which I used to engage as eagerly as anyone. It’s the fact that the two of them had come together again after a break-up that was the most enchanting thing about the wedding for me, and this isn’t merely because having broken up with each other is one of the very few interesting things either of these humans has ever done. The thing is that because we’re all, in our heads, playing the lead in our own movie, everyone assumes that anyone who dumps them will one day discover that they’ve made the biggest mistake of their lives, even though the dumper is also, in their head, the lead in their own movie and therefore actually probably feels just great about this decision and, furthermore, will no doubt go on to meet someone they like way better and who might even inherit a whole lot of money at some stage.

But imagine the dumper not merely having to come crawling back (which in William and Kate: A Modern-Day Fairytale involved William having to humiliate himself with public declarations of love in not only an alpine chalet but also in front of a lot of strapping girls on Kate’s rowing team, both of which events I strongly doubt ever occurred) but, before billions of people, to have to promise to love and cherish you for an extremely long time. And then imagine that afterwards you have acquired an eminence that means you will also never again have to wrestle a large box into a recycling bin, or suffer the annoyance of someone in an eatery having the nerve to serve you a blackened toasted sandwich.

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