As I reached my local train station early Friday morning to head into central London, a couple and their young son were waiting on the platform next to me. The boy tugged at the sleeve of his mother’s coat, asking, “Mummy, can I see the binoculars please? I want to watch for the train.” We were both there for the same reason, to get as close to the action for the Royal Wedding as possible, but they’d brought their own fold-up silver step ladders, one for each parent, and a camera whose telephoto lens was long enough to rival that of the paparazzi. I’d brought chocolate chip muffins and cans of cloudy lemonade.
I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I’d got my priorities wrong.
All worries faded, though, as soon as I reached Hyde Park, where I joined friends and a modest gathering of 120,000 other people for an official celebration sponsored by the Royal Parks organization. Besides having three giant screens set up on which to view the ceremony and the even-more-anticipated procession, there were stalls selling wedding cake, champagne, cups of fruity Pimm’s, and Union Jack flags. Confetti shot into the sky as William and Kate left Westminster Abbey; a live band was on stand-by, ready to play as soon as the televised commentary was over and the Parks’ director had us trying to win the title for the largest organized dance in the world. The atmosphere was truly electric, a carnival abuzz with colors and costumes.
What was perhaps most extraordinary about the experience, though, was how the entire nation seemed to be behind the couple. As an American, this kind of unity over a public figure is a strange concept to understand. The faces of Will and Kate were everywhere in the lead-up to the big day, replicated on yards and yards of bright bunting hanging from houses and stores, on t-shirts and trays, plates and postcards—indeed anything that was deemed worth retailing by souvenir shops. The only thing I could compare this to was the well-known stenciled “Hope” poster of Obama that emerged during his presidential campaign, where the face of a public figure becomes an icon, but the wedding frenzy in London lacked the polarizing effect of politics. This was about more than political parties; this was about a national celebration. No one had any time for humbugs on Friday.
Indeed,the only dissenting voice I heard all day was from a straggle of people walking down Oxford Street with a loudspeaker, pointing at various passers-by: “Did you have thirty million pounds for your wedding? I bet you had thirty million pounds, didn’t you? Did I pay for it?” They were followed by two or three neon-coated policemen, but they hardly posed a threat.
I know I, for one, paid them little mind. The country had better things to do that day, like toasting the wedding of a royal couple who looked like they might actually get their happily-ever-after.
Candace Rose Rardon is a freelance writer, part-time photographer, sometime musician, and full-time lover of mochas and Moleskins. Although originally from Virginia, she is now based in London, where she is studying towards a Master’s in Travel Writing from Kingston University, and recent published stories have covered working in New Zealand, saving money in Macau, and cycling in Denmark. You can join her on the road less taken on her blog, Rare Travels, or follow her adventures on Twitter