5 May 2011

The British Royal Wedding 29 April 2011

I would have preferred if my post-wedding comments were published shortly after the ceremony took place, but as I have mentioned earlier, I had decided to take a long break from my blog during Easter to spend time with family and friends instead. Several family events took place during the break, including one the day after the royal wedding, and then I had to travel all the way up from Mandal to Oslo again on Sunday. The days that followed have also been busy (I am on parental leave after all!). Under normal circumstances I would of course have posted my comments on the published guest list, the then Miss Middleton’s coat of arms and the document in which Queen Elizabeth II gave her consent to the marriage (see also my blog article from 19 February this year) among others much earlier. I will get back to the guest list later in this blog article.

One advantage of posting my comments so late is of course that I have been able to read others’ news coverage and comments to the wedding and thereby have the opportunity to comment on those as well. The British Royal Wedding was such a big scale event and the media coverage so massive that it is really a challenge to make a summary of it. I will not even try, and have chosen to limit myself to a few main points before moving on to other topics (hey, there is another wedding – a princely one this time – in July! And the list of cemeteries I have visited is almost endless...).


Ever since engagement was announced back in November 2010, if not before, there has been speculation about whether Prince William would receive a ducal or not. Several traditional royal ducal titles were suggested, including Cambridge or Clarence, as well as more original suggestions, such as St. Andrews. The bride and groom have both studied at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

Clarence House announced a couple of hours before royal wedding took place that the Queen had conferred upon Prince William the titles Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. This meant that upon marriage the bride became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge. This was in my opinion a sensible decision, as otherwise the commoner-born Kate would officially have been referred to as HRH Princess William, which seems a bit old-fashioned. The announcement seems to have created some confusion, at least for the Norwegian TV commentators, who thought that Prince William’s ducal title meant that Kate did not become a princess and claimed that the Duchess of Cornwall was not a princess either. This misunderstanding was corrected later in the broadcast. Prince William was prior to the wedding day styled as Prince William of Wales, but was nevertheless a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As a British woman would (normally) get her title and rank from her husband, Kate therefore became upon marriage Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but is to be styled HRH Duchess of Cambridge. She is of course also a Countess of Strathearn and Baroness Carrickfergus.

The Daily Telegraph
published on 1 May 2011 an interesting interview with Paddy Harverson, the Prince of Wales’ communications secretary, who claimed that «the public [was to be] be encouraged to use the names Prince William and Princess Catherine if they preferred». The secretary then went on to say that «I think it's absolutely natural that the public might want to call them Prince William and Princess Catherine and no one is going to have any argument with that». This would mean that although «Princess Catherine» would not be an official title, but, as the Daily Telegraph writes, «... the title, as with other women marrying into the Royal Family, is a courtesy rather than a right.»

I wonder though, whether this is only the private opinion of Harverson, or also the court’s. Yes, I know, Harverson is a member of the court, but it would have made more impact if the comments were made more formally in form of a press release or something similar and published at the official website(s). Harverson could have been lead away by the journalist’s questions.

Anyway, according to Cambridge News
, the city’s top politicians seem to be happy about the new title for Prince William. Councillor Sheila Stuart, the mayor of Cambridge City, was said to be delighted about the news: «It is great news for the city and I hope that what it now means is that ultimately we are successful in our bid for Lord Mayor status which we are applying for». The MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert was also delighted, hoping that the city’s status internationally might be boosted.

The local newspaper has also revealed Cambridge’s royal connections in a follow-up article

The wedding and all – ceremony and celebrations

HRH The Duke of Cambridge was married to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on Friday 29 April 2011, with 1900 people present, and as I had expected everything seems to have gone as planned and was received well by the people, as the massive turnout in London could tell. The event was well organised and had all the pomp and circumstance one could have hoped for. It was a wonderful celebration of young love and a solid manifestation of the popularity of the British royal house and monarchy.

The wedding ceremony seems to have been very traditional (see the program). A beautiful ceremony, nice hymns and a well decorated church. The bridal couple was perhaps not so emotional as we have witnessed in other royal weddings lately, but people are who they are, and their happiness was evident to everyone. It was impressive to see how calm they both looked despite the special occasion. The new Duchess of Cambridge seems to be a mature and confident woman who will do well in her new role.

This time I chose to follow the Norwegian TV channel TV2’s broadcast of the wedding, as I was not too impressed by NRK during the royal wedding in Sweden last year. I would probably have settled for BBC under normal circumstances, but the others I was together with preferred Norwegian commentary. Vår Staude and Oddvar Steenstrøm were the leading commentators, helped on by among others the Norwegian King’s former assistant private secretary, Carl-Erik Grimstad, the freelancer and London resident Jostein Pedersen and Pastor Torbjørn Holt from the Norwegian Church Abroad in London (Sjømannskirken/«The Norwegian Seamen’s Church»), who were in studio in turns. Holt was the one who impressed me the most. He revealed a great knowledge about both the British royal family and the British society as a whole and spoke with great confidence, giving many valuable comments throughout the show, for instance about the Church of England and its rituals. The main commentators did fairly well, but seemed a bit insecure at times and together with Carl-Erik Grimstad I would have expected them to recognize more of the guests, especially the royals, than they did. Grimstad was at times a bit too critical, especially when he thought some of the hymns were either «too imperial» or «tasteless», remarks that really were uncalled for.

The average TV viewer was probably satisfied with BBC’s production, but personally I was not too impressed by some of the camera angles during the ceremony. How could BBC for instance miss the moment when Kate’s veil was removed? As a non-British TV viewer I would also have liked a little bit more focus on the foreign royal guests when they entered the abbey and when seated. I was happier with the TV production of the weddings in Norway, Sweden and Spain. But all in all, it was a spectacular «show» and the images of the bridal couple will be remembered by millions of people for years to come. By the way, if you also feel that you missed out on the foreign royal guests, see The Daily Beast’s photos (especially no. 24).

Guest list

Earlier this year we were told that the court would not release «the names of individual invitees» in connection with the royal wedding, but despite this statement a selected guest list for the wedding service at Westminster Abbey was released on 23 April. No complaints from me! I should perhaps have realized in February that a list of invitees and a list of confirmed guests are two different things, but as I have been told guest lists have not been published at similar events earlier on.

Anyway, now as we both have a selected guest list and also have watched the royal wedding, there is plenty to comment on! We know by now that Sarah, Duchess of York was not invited, while Princess Michael was, despite the many claims that the Prince of Wales had made sure that the wife of his first cousin once removed should stay away.

Invitations were sent to all the monarchical heads of state with spouses. Norway was therefore represented by King Harald and Queen Sonja, while the King and Queen of Sweden stayed home and sent Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel instead. There was for various reasons no representation from the imperial/royal/princely houses of Japan, Bahrain (invitation was declined after the guest list was published), Bhutan, Liechtenstein, Jordan and Cambodia. Representatives of the former royal houses of Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia (Serbia) and Romania were also in attendance. It should be stressed that this was a selected guest list. As has been noted by contributors to the Nobiliana Forum, also other former royal or princely houses were at the wedding, including Landgrave Moritz of Hesse, Princess Yvonne of Hesse, the Prince and Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and the Margrave and Margravine of Baden.

There has been some criticism concerning the guest list from political quarters, the media and «royal watchers». One topic of concern to many royal watchers was the rather confusing order the various royals entered in at the church and the equally confusing seating order. I will not go further than that, just noting that the British like to do things their way and differently than the other courts. And I guess there is nothing wrong with that...

Another matter was the royal representations as well as envoys from various more or less despotic regimes. Interestingly enough the wedding invitation for the Syrian ambassador to London was withdrawn because of the Syrian regime’s crackdown on protesters, while envoys from Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe were invited. Apart from that, I kind of like the idea of the king and queen of Norway meeting up with Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said of Oman and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi! An assembly of the labour union of the princes, so to speak! And the king of Tonga came all the way for the wedding! Fascinating!

Concerning the politicians attending the wedding, I am not sure if it was a very wise decision of the court to invite former Tory prime ministers Baroness Thatcher (she did not attend) and Sir John Major, while at the same time ignoring the former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, even if there was
«no protocol reason» include the latter. Even if it was not the court’s intention, its decision could be interpreted as being politically coloured. The court should have realized that its decision would be questioned.

An explanation given, cf. The Daily Telegraph 29 April 2011 is that Thatcher and Major were invited because they were both knights of the Garter, but this would have made more sense if it had been confirmed that all the (non-royal) knights had received an invitation.

It should be added, though, that the leaders of all the leading political parties – Cameron, Clegg and Miliband – were all invited and were present at the wedding. And while former Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused to comment, his predecessor Tony Blair didn’t feel snubbed at all, graciously reassuring that he was «quite happy not to be going to the wedding», adding in the interview with a Colombian TV station that it was «completely sensible to invite people from different walks of life instead of politicians». And asked if he was offended, he replied: «Absolutely not at all. It’s not an issue and I wish them every happiness».

Then again it would not have looked very good if he had complained publically about not being invited, would it. Former foreign secretary Jack Straw didn’t see this point when he said that Blair and Brown should have been invited, but he was not personally affected either.

Official wedding photographs

The bridal couple photographed by Hugo Burnand in the Throne Room.

TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the centre with attendants (clockwise from bottom right): The Hon. Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Miss Eliza Lopes, Miss Grace van Cutsem, Lady Louise Windsor, Master Tom Pettifer, Master William Lowther-Pinkerton.
The photo was taken in the Throne Room by Hugo Burnand.

The Royal Wedding Group in the Throne Room with TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the centre.
Front row (left to right): Miss Grace van Cutsem, Miss Eliza Lopes, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HM The Queen, The Hon. Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Lady Louise Windsor, Master William Lowther-Pinkerton.
Back Row (left to right): Master Tom Pettifer, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Henry of Wales, Mr Michael Middleton, Mrs Michael Middleton, Mr James Middleton, Miss Philippa «Pippa» Middleton.
Photograph by Hugo Burnand.
The photographs, all taken on 29 April 2011, were released on 30 April 2011, for editorial use only.
The smaller photo at the top of the article shows the cover of the special commemorative issue of Time (16 May 2011), which I received the other day.

For more information about and other's coverage of the British royal wedding, see the official website (which gives lots of details not commented on here, as for instance the wedding carriages from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, the lunchtime and evening receptions etc., besides photos and videos), Nobiliana.de, Netty Royal, the website Prince William and Kate. A Fairytale Wedding – A Prince marries a Commoner and Taki’s Magazine’s article Killjoys Be Gone. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Get Hitched.
Updated on Saturday 7 May 2011 at 16.30 (typos corrected).

1 comment:

  1. "[...] it would have made more impact if the comments were made more formally in form of a press release or something similar and published at the official website(s)".

    I see your point, but on the other hand I think this was the most suitable way to do it - in an informal manner they let it be known that the informal style "Princess Catherine" is acceptable but not the official style. These days, when Letters Patent seems to have been dispensed with and Queen Elizabeth II has simply "let it be known" for instance that the children of the Earl of Wessex are to be styled as the children of an earl rather than as the prince and princess they are, an announcement in writing from the court would come (dangerously) close to seeming like an official recognition of the style "Princess Catherine" and not only an acceptance of it being used informally.