So it’s finally happened. A twenty-something with a receding hairline and a racist grandfather gets engaged to the girl he met at university, and it becomes headline news.
Commemorative tea-towels are being printed, a national holiday has been announced and bridal magazines are plastering Kate Middleton’s simpering image across their covers because with their help, we too can have a fairytale wedding! Even countries who dispensed with all this monarchy nonsense a good few centuries ago are getting in on the act. The Lifetime Channel, once a source of my deep and bitter envy when compared to our paltry televisual output of costume dramas and time-traveling police boxes, is reported to have cast Katie Holmes as The People’s Princess 2.0. One enterprising manufacturer has even brought out limited edition royal wedding condoms. London, we are told, will be brought to a standstill on the great day itself, such is the number of people expected to be lining the streets. But you know what? London also gets brought to a standstill by snow, heavy rain, tube strikes and student protests, and no one’s asking me to be happy about that.
Forgive my bitterness, readers. It’s just that William and I have something of a history.
You see, the ruddy-cheeked student prince and I almost crossed paths on numerous occasions when we studied at separate Scottish universities. Just think, if fate had not stood in our way (and had I not been batting proudly for the other team), Britain could be preparing itself for an entirely different Queen Catherine. I could be writing this on a diamond-encrusted laptop surrounded by courtiers, instead of a tea-stained Macbook and an asthmatic cat.
You may think I’m exaggerating. You would be correct. But in the heady days of the early 21st century, Wills-mania was at epic proportions. He was studying at university, just like us! He went to bars with people who didn’t have titles and huge tracts of land! (Note: those people were called ‘bartenders.’) Yes, in those days, St Andrews and Edinburgh were a great melting pot, where the upper classes mingled with the slightly-less-upper classes, and nobody went to Glasgow in case they ran into an actual Scottish person.
At my alma mater, bumping into Wills wasn’t just a pasttime for some people, it was an all-consuming obsession. Leggy girls with cut-glass accents piled into the clubs he was rumored to frequent on weekends, swigging miniature bottles of champagne and generally ruining it for those of us who were there for the music; students started hopping on the train to St Andrews ‘just for some sea air, yah?’ and when our water polo team was up against the future king himself, players dined out on stories of his chest-hair for weeks.
Call me unromantic, but I just can’t get excited about the wedding of two people I don’t know, especially when the best man thinks that a Nazi soldier’s uniform is acceptable fancy dress. Not when the very social mobility that allowed the Prince to meet his future bride is in jeopardy because our current government don’t think that students from poorer families deserve to go to university. Not when the coverage of rioting, disenfranchised people outside the Houses of Parliament has been replaced by heated debate about what Kate Middleton’s wedding dress will look like. It’s bread and circuses for a celebrity-addicted age.
I wish them well because damn it, meeting The One in your twenties is hard. It’s hard even if the only people criticizing you are your parents who think you’re settling down too young, let alone the national press (of the nation you’re supposed to rule one day, no less). Like William, I met my fiancée at university in Scotland, broke up once or twice in a soap opera kind of way before getting back together and am now on course for marital bliss. Like him, any discussion of my forthcoming nuptials invariable includes the phrase “What a pity your mother isn’t alive to see this”, as though the thought hadn’t actually crossed my own mind until now. But sympathies aside, I resent being reminded that two people with all the privilege in the world are seen as more deserving of the media’s attention than the communities losing their libraries, or the gradual dismantling of the National Health Service.
So whilst I’m crossing my fingers for their future happiness, I shall be celebrating by going on holiday and waiting patiently for my fellow countrymen to realize what the Americans and the French already know – that lauding someone whose job is essentially just to wave from a carriage whilst wearing a bit of antique bling is no way for a sensible nation to behave. And I will take great comfort from the knowledge that there’s only one thing more British than two posh people in tiaras getting hitched, and that’s rain on a bank holiday. Commemorative umbrella, anyone?