Friday, April 29, 2011

Monarchist musings

Sap that I am, I actually took the day off work so that I could watch the entire royal wedding this morning, live. : ) I have gotten up early (& cheerfully) to watch every royal wedding of note for the past 40 years, starting with Princess Anne's (the first one, lol), in -- what? 1973? when I was about 12 -- & continuing through to Charles & Diana, Sarah & Andrew, Edward & Sophie, Charles & Camilla. (Not to mention the funerals of Diana, and the Queen Mother.) I felt a little silly asking for the day off, but decided that now wasn't the time to abandon tradition. ; ) (I have lots of accumulated vacation time I need to use up, too.)

Although the culture was not yet saturated with Disney princesses, I most certainly grew up listening to fairy tales & drawing pictures of queens & princesses in beautiful long gowns with crowns on their heads. When I went to school, we stood at attention & sang or listened to "God Save the Queen" at the end of every schoolday (it started off with "O Canada" & the Lord's Prayer and -- until I got to junior high -- even a daily Bible story)(!), which was common practice at the time (although I don't believe it is anymore -- pity). In Grade 1, I remember quite clearly that we had a team of "practice" teachers who did a unit with us on royalty -- kings & queens, & our Queen in particular. I was hooked. I started keeping a scrapbook about kings & queens -- Princess Grace, even the Shah of Iran, as well as the Windsors. I found it while cleaning out my parents' basement a couple of summers ago, & couldn't quite bear to throw it out just yet -- set it aside in my "keep" box.

Anyway -- as I lay in the dark this morning just before the 4 a.m. alarm rang (I'm normally up at 5, anyway, so 4 wasn't a huge deal), I thought back to those dim memories of Princess Anne's wedding, & watching with my mother & sister in our PJs. (I think we even had our colour TV by then.) I thought of little girls and princesses, and their mothers & sisters. And then I realized that Katie would be 12 today -- & I would very likely have been watching with her, either letting her skip school or go late, if need be (most of the wedding was done by 9 anyway). And I got very teary & emotional.

Dh gave me lots of hugs. Even though he claims he has absolutely no use for royalty, he loved "The King's Speech," encouraged me to take the day off, watched the motorcade to Westminster Abbey with me before heading off to work, & pronounced Kate's dress as "beautiful." ; )

*** *** ***

It WAS a beautiful dress. And a beautiful ceremony. Nobody does pomp & ceremony better than the Brits. I loved being able to sing along with all those wonderful old familiar Anglican hymns that I have heard since childhood. And to see that gorgeous, historic Abbey gave me chills.

I know some people love the royals as celebrities. They were a real-life soap opera ("Palace" vs "Dallas," I remember people calling it), long before current reality TV, and today more than ever, women & little girls alike (rightly or wrongly) seem to be enthralled by princesses. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little enthralled by those things too. ; )

But I also love the royals for the 1000 years of history that they embody, the continuity and the tradition, and their commitment to duty and service (something you most certainly must credit the current Queen for, if not some of the others).

*** *** ***

Until today, I think Chuck & Di's was definitely the most memorable royal wedding I've watched. Maybe because Diana & I were almost exactly the same age (me born in January 1961, she in July 1961).

(One of the young girls in the office said she's exactly the same age as Kate, which made me feel ancient. But even worse: "My parents told me Charles & Diana's wedding was lovely," said another, and I realized she wasn't even born then. Erk. Anyway...)

My own wedding dress (four years later) certainly had some similarities to Diana's --it had a big full skirt & long train, short, puffed sleeves & a long veil with a sort of tiara headpiece, although mine was just made of lace. The processional music they used (Trumpet Voluntary) was what I used for the recessional at my wedding.
The summer of the wedding (1981), my sister & I had found summer jobs & were sharing a basement apartment in the town where we had gone to high school (my parents had since moved to a different town). We only had a small black & white TV set -- we each had one in our dorm room at school, I imagine it was one of those -- so my sister's best friend invited us to stay overnight (at her parents' house), so we could watch the wedding with her (& her sister & mom, if I remember correctly) in colour. (This is a detail that I know REALLY dates me. I suppose most kids under the age of about 30 couldn't envision a world where TV didn't come in anything BUT colour.) I can't remember what time we had to get up -- 3? 4? 5? -- but it was an ungodly hour. I can remember my sister shaking me & saying, "The carriages are getting ready to leave the palace..." We watched the wedding -- & then went to work!

Years later, when the marriage started falling apart, I thought about a dream I had had when I was at university, sometime in late 1980 or early 1981, before the engagement was announced. I dreamed that I was at Buckingham Palace, coming down a staircase, & the Queen & Prince Charles were standing below, arguing. The Queen was scolding Charles & telling him it was time he got married & settled down. "Fine," said Charles, turning & pointing at me, "I'll marry HER." I froze & thought, "I'm going to be QUEEN!!"

Not long afterwards, Charles & Diana announced their engagement, & I thought how funny it was that I had dreamed about Charles & a wedding, & now there was going to be one. It wasn't until the truth about the marriage started coming out, & realized that that my dream had been more of a premonition than I had realized: he was under pressure to get married, & she was the first naive young virgin with an acceptable background to come along, be dazzled & say yes.

That awful Saturday night in August 1997, dh & I were home -- I think I was on the computer (even then!!) & he was watching TV -- & he called up to me to say CNN was reporting she'd been in an accident & they thought her boyfriend was dead. We watched TV until about 1 a.m., I think, when they pronounced her dead too. All I could think was, "those poor boys." :( When we woke up the next morning, the paper on our doorstep had a huge headline, all in capitals: "DIANA DEAD." It all seemed so unreal. I remember thinking, when I heard she had taken up with Dodi, that he didn't seem right for her & it would not end well. I just didn't know how "not
well" it would be.

I took a bouquet of white roses to the Princess of Wales Theatre downtown at lunchtime that week & signed the condolence book there. I've never done anything like that before but I'm glad I did.

*** *** ***

Years later, five or six years ago now, I think, the travelling exhibit from Diana's childhood home, Althorp, visited Toronto, & my boss somehow snagged free tickets for everyone in our group (which otherwise cost $25 -- a little steep, although part of it went to charity). We called it a "team building exercise." ; ) Eight of us (all women) went together one afternoon during a slow week at work. We quickly got separated -- the young ones charged on ahead, but my boss (who was in her 50s at the time, now retired) & I took nearly an hour to go through the exhibit, which included about 20 of Diana's dresses on display, plus items & photo albums from her childhood & old home movies, her brother's handwritten notes for the funeral eulogy, & notes handwritten by Elton John & Bernie Taupin for the version of "Candle in the Wind" that was sung at the funeral. They also had some of the Spencer family jewels, which were quite spectacular. I'm sure a good part of the ticket cost was eaten up in insurance & security expenses!

And, of course, there was The Dress. My boss & I both spent a good 15 minutes, just staring at it, and the video clips from the wedding. My boss laughed & noted that one of our coworkers was only about six months old at the time of the wedding. Obviously, Diana didn't hold quite the same level of fascination for them. "I suppose we'd have been just as interested in a display about Princess Margaret's wedding at their ages!" she said.

*** *** ***

Here's hoping this one works out. If today is any indication, they're off to a good start. : )


  1. Thinking of you and wishing you'd been able to curl up with your Katie and watch this.

    I hope this marriage works out, too.

  2. I LOVED the wedding today. I didn't get to see it all but have it on my PVR and plan to absorb more tonight. They were just beautiful.

  3. I wanted to PVR the event myself but instead found myself online all the media websites catching all the latest info. I did watch some of the footage at lunch time. But I think tonight I'll watch the CBC recap. It is a fairytale wedding indeed. So happy for them. But I can't help but wonder...will they suffer from IF and pg loss? THat's what I think of every time I see a bride and groom. God forbid they are spared...

  4. I didn't get up early, but I did watch what I could today of the newest lovely royal couple. I am one of those "darn Americans" who does love all the pomp and circumstance of the monarchy. My hubby thinks I am silly -- but he did ask me tonight about the kiss and Kate's dress…. (so secretly he's interested too). My daughter is 4 years old. I had her watch some of the ceremony. She thought that the new princess was pretty and she said, "I'm glad she has brown hair, like me" and then said "Why do a lot of princesses have yellow hair". I thought that was cute. Hopefully she will remember watching it with me someday. We had a playdate this morning or I would have had us "dress up" for the whole thing. I remember watching Diana and Charles too. I thought… Wow, she's so shy.. how will she be Queen? But she came into her own… and was a wonderful mother. I remember my husband waking me up to tell me about Diana's death… it was actually one time when I was really mad at him because I thought he was teasing me -- and I didn't think it was a funny joke. It wasn't a joke. On a more positive note, I think that Kate will be a wonderful Queen someday and has had so much more training and practice. And her and Will truly love each other -- which makes the whole thing so much more wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading it.

  5. I couldn't wake up in time to catch it so I recorded it instead... my goodness I didn't mean to actually have tears, but I did!
    It was absolutely beautiful.
    And I pray the royal couple will live the rest of their lives in true bliss

  6. I really enjoyed reading your memories of the royals. It seems like they act as touchstones for various points in our lives. I too remember what I was doing the day I heard Diana died, and we lived in London when the Queen Mum died. We lined up and saw part of the recessional. The flyover was pretty unbelievable.

    Great post.

  7. I have anglophilic leanings, dirty thoughts about Prince Harry, and a good understanding of precedence, so I wasn't going to miss the royal wedding! I got up at 6 (CST) and caught up on the 4 hours of BBC telecast pretty quickly. It was a beautiful wedding. Of course it was planned down to the half-minute, but people didn't seem all that stiff; I've been in American weddings that seemed more formal. At 7 I was on the phone with my dad (LOL), who had woken up at 5 AND taken the day off work, discussing Kate and Pippa's dresses. Apparently my dad has a weakness for royal weddings. He also had a weakness for Diana and took off work for her funeral.

    It was a good day for brunettes. : )

    The girls' babysitter has a serious long-time boyfriend, and she is somewhat obsessed with weddings, so I asked her to keep me posted on whether this dress affects wedding gown styles (it had better...!).

    BTW, babysitter immediately said, "I heard she's pregnant." And so it begins.

  8. Because you and I are contemporaries, I always enjoy your historical posts because the milestones are the same for me.

    I think it's awesome that you took the day off to celebrate this happy occasion. It did have such a different feel than the 1981 wedding, but maybe that's me, the observer.

  9. Her dress was okay, much more conservative than I thought it would be. Can't be too racy I guess.

  10. Her dress was okay, much more conservative than I thought it would be. Can't be too racy I guess.