Originally published in The California Aggie
Despite their fondness for London double-decker buses, Davis residents have remained decidedly free of “royal wedding fever.” Yes, that is the official name for the rest of the world’s obsession with the so-called “wedding of the century” between Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton.
Prince William and Middleton, who met while studying at St. Andrews University in 2002, will tie the knot at 11 a.m. Friday in Westminster Abbey. Thousands of tourists will travel to London for the occasion, and Britons will enjoy a four-day holiday.
Two billion viewers are expected to catch the action on television, if they’re not one of the 1,900 invited guests. The wedding will be broadcast live on BBC America and YouTube at 3 a.m. and repeated on network television in the evening. But don’t expect many UC Davis students to tune in – many claim they’re just not that interested.
“It’s a wedding, so that’s nice. Good for them,” said senior biochemistry major Smit Shah. “But I’m not following it very closely. I’m not British, so it doesn’t affect me at all.”
In fact, first-year geology major Veronica Moreno hadn’t even heard of the wedding at all and guessed mostly “older people” would be interested in the festivities. Junior geology major Olivia Oseguera agreed that she doesn’t keep up with the British monarchy, though she admitted to enjoying marathons of the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress,” airing in honor of the wedding.
“It’s interesting because I like weddings, but I don’t follow it that much. I have friends in England who are excited, though,” Oseguera said.
Even for British people, the wedding’s true significance is unclear. Stanford University history professor Peter Stansky described the wedding as a soap opera; that is, it is fun for British people to watch, but will ultimately have minimal effects on everyday citizens.
The elected British Parliament, headed by the prime minister, governs the nation. In fact, the monarchy performs only ceremonial tasks and must remain politically neutral.
“What I think is paradoxical about the monarchy is that it’s not very important, [but] everything is still done in the Queen’s name,” Stansky said. “It’s the Queen’s government and it’s Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. That all sort of means something. How much it means is hard to say.”
While Americans remain on the outside of the wedding spectacle, London residents have seen their city transformed into a Mecca of William and Kate wedding preparations. Sophomore medieval and early modern studies major Katie Kerr-Carpenter is currently studying abroad in London, and said the city is full of royal wedding souvenir shops and bustling with clean-up in preparation for the big day.
After living among Londoners for a few weeks, however, Kerr-Carpenter discovered that they are not as enthusiastic about the wedding as one would think. Their interest, she said, is mostly due to their love of Prince William’s mother, the late Princess Diana.
“The British want to look good for everyone else, which is why the wedding is such a big deal,” Kerr-Carpenter said in an e-mail interview. “The only people who care about the wedding are tourists or people from outside [London], like suburban or country types. They love Diana though, and that fondness has carried over to her two sons.”
Still, Kerr-Carpenter plans to watch the festivities at a pub before taking advantage of the long weekend and leaving town. UC Davis English professor David Robertson, also currently living in London, said he and his wife enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the event and intend to watch the wedding on a screen in Hyde Park.
Americans interested in the British monarchy may secretly wish that they, too, had a royal family to admire, Robertson said.
“Americans are far more religious than the British. Americans generally think of God as King. But America is a democracy. The two don’t mesh all that well,” Robertson said in an e-mail interview. “No one thinks of God as president. So many Americans deep down would like to have a King.”
Whether Davis residents watch the royal wedding at 3 a.m. or not at all, interest in the royal family will likely survive. The monarchy has been able to maintain two contradicting yet intriguing identities, Stansky said.
“[First, they say] ‘We’re just a family, we’re like everybody else.’ The second message is that ‘We’re really different. We’re apart, we’re grand, we’re special,’” Stansky said. “What strikes me is that the monarchy is both dysfunctional and terrific. I’m sure there are a lot of people in Britain that will watch [the wedding]. It’s a great spectacle. It’s fun, it’s a soap opera. Why not?”