Royal nuggets for life

Royal nuggets for life

Grand The wedding procession of Duke William and Dutchess Kate of  Cambridge in England was a fascinating display of royal traditions.

It was from her that I had learnt about how King Edward abdicated his throne because he was denied permission to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Even though I was very young, this romantic tale of sacrifice deeply fascinated me. Later, when I developed an interest in biographies, I went on to read The Heart has its Reasons, authored by Wallis Simpson, and A King’s Story by Edward (who later took a dip in his title to become Duke of Windsor) to understand his compulsions better.

My mother had grown up in colonial India and learnt, “God save our Gracious King” before she learnt what is presently our national anthem.  Needless to say, she now and then sang the earlier one too, along with the other songs in her repertoire, and I picked it up routinely!

I have a recollection of her dragging my siblings and me off to the top of the road to stand in line for the motorcade of the then Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi and his Queen, Farah Diba. A quick shot on an old Agfa recorded that personal viewing, in black and white, for posterity.

But, what is really etched in my memory is my mother’s excitement over the arrival of Queen Elizabeth to India and then our home city, Calcutta. She hustled my siblings and me to her sister’s place and all of us made our grand procession to some old high-rise building of those times. It was chosen for its vantage view of the Queen’s motorcade, as she drove past and waved to the crowds lining the streets to greet her with flags and waves. Surprising that even in those days, sans media hype, there were many people interested in royalty! My other memory is that the ropes tied across the balustrade were just about my height and as I looked out, it hurt parts of my face. Though a child, I did not protest, as I was totally caught up in the excitement of the moment, as most children are. What I did ask though was, “Did the Queen see us wave to her?”

Many years later, a friend and I found ourselves barricaded across a bridge because Prince Charles’ motorcade would be passing by any moment. This incident happened in Madras, when the two of us found ourselves isolated on one side of the bridge, with the police and the rest of the people on the other. This time when the motorcade passed us, we had a ringside view of the then dashing Prince and we could actually say that he gave us a cheery wave and smile because we were truly the only two ladies standing there, conspicuous in our bright, airline saris!

So with the interest in royalty coursing through my genes, there was no question of my missing out on the spectacle of the Kate-Will wedding on television. The first thing that struck me about watching it thus was that, it was nothing like being a part of the crowd which was witnessing the actual nuptials at Westminster Abbey. The thought that I had sat in the very same pews to listen to a choral music recital did create a feeling of connection though.

But then the disappointment followed! Why was the media, including the ones from the once colonised countries, referring to the now Duchess of Cambridge as a “commoner”? Are we not united in the commonness of humanity and does the giving of a title take that away from it? Do royals become less human then? It struck me also that had King Edward not abdicated, his niece, Queen Elizabeth, would not have been Queen today! Also, the history of England is replete with violence and fratricide so there is no guarantee as to the purity of the House of Windsor or its Divine Right to Rule! This fact truly hit me when all in the Abbey stood up to sing the National Anthem, including Prince Philip, the consort. The Queen stood silently, of course! The words were, “God, Save Our Gracious Queen! Long Live Our Noble Queen. Send her victorious; happy and glorious, long to reign over us…” It beat me why the Queen was expected to be happy all the time (should she not enjoy the royal right to feel sad, especially when the first and second in line to the throne marry below expectations?!) and what should she really be up to, that will crown her with glory and help Britain gain victory from?

But still, there were things to learn from the wedding. It was just a one-day affair whilst people across India are going in for four and five-day ones, which puts heavy pressure on the bride’s family, more so when they don’t have the means. And even if they do, why not do something more useful with it, rather than wining and dining those who can afford it themselves? Wouldn’t it be a great idea to involve the less privileged by, say, serving one of the wedding meals at an orphanage? The other fact that was glaring was the simplicity of the bride who chose to wear a borrowed tiara (lent by the Queen) and a pair of diamond earrings gifted by her parents. The only gold was on the ring placed on her finger. Contrast this with many Indian brides who look like walking jewellery stores and one wonders why there should be this vulgar display of wealth? Is the flaunting of one’s wealth a path to achieving royal status even whilst royalty is under pressure to play down its acquired wealth to identify with the people?  

It was the “Will he, won’t he” aspect to the couple’s relationship that also got me interested in this wedding and it was really good to hear Kate’s brother offer a reading from the Bible. The chapter from The Corinthians spoke on all the positive aspects of love. To strike a balance was the sermon from the Bishop of London, which is worth pondering on. He spoke of the burden of expectation on each person in a marriage, in a Western society steeped in materialism and out of touch with its spirituality. Veritably, romantic love can have its pitfalls and it seems quite sensible for a young couple to be reminded of their responsibilities and warned of its dangers, as they start their life together. So, rather than getting carried away with mehendi and ladies’ sangeet ceremonies, it might be a good idea for the elders in the family to share their wisdom at the wedding in a language that can be understood by all.

That is how the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had me reminiscing and looking at the up and downside of royalty watching!

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