>357 months ago, I woke up after a night of fitful excited sleep to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. It was 2 days before my 14th birthday and I’d followed the build up and the early years of their marriage with a fervent, almost obsessional anticipation. I’m not kidding – there was a point where if you showed me a photo of Diana, I could have told you exactly when it was just from her outfit. Mind you, I also knew the seats and majorities of all Alliance MPs. I just liked to fill my head with nonsense.
To me Diana was beautiful, lovely and kind. I couldn’t, for the life of me, think what she saw in Charles, a man who couldn’t even say he was in love with her. Maybe I thought she’s lighten him up a bit. My interest in her was pure escapism for me at what was otherwise a pretty miserable spell in my life.
As time drew on and we really started to understand the pressures Diana was under, my admiration for her grew. She wasn’t perfect by any manner of means – but as I don’t reach that high standard myself, I can’t really complain. She did, however, instinctively, right from the start, break out from the conventional royal patronage of children’s charities to raise awareness of AIDS and HIV and to help homeless people. Her later work on land mines completely embarrassed Governments the world over, including our own. Excellent stuff.
And, yes, I know that a monarchy is not the idea way to run things and if I had the choice, I would much rather see a republic, but I’m way in the minority here so I’m going to have to put up with the Windsors for a while longer. And I might as well enjoy it.
My sense of excitement about the marriage of Diana’s son today has taken some time to get going. I do feel sad that she isn’t here to see it and every time I see her ring on Kate’s finger, I fill up a bit if the truth be told. I can see why he gave it to her, as he said, to make her part of his day and life, but I hope that at some point he gives her her own ring, too.
In 1981, Diana and Charles hardly knew each other and they seemed to have completely different interests. Laurens Van Der Post and Wham can co-exist in the same universe – but in the same household? I’m one to talk, given the divergence in mine and Bob’s musical tastes, but there’s enough room for both of us to do our thing.
Before the engagement was announced, Diana had spent half a year being thrown to the media wolves who parked outside her flat and was expected to adjust to life in the staid and repressed Royal Family with little support and understanding and while her husband was still at the very least emotionally attached to somebody else.
The crucial differences between that day 30 years ago and today give me cause for optimism. This is no “marry someone suitable and produce some kids” affair. William and Kate have known each other for almost a decade, she’s not had to undergo as much of the day to day harassment that Diana did, and she’s been eased into it all much more gently and, you would hope, more on her terms. Their relationship also has a much stronger foundation and common interest.
I just hope that once today is over, they will be able to get on with their lives as they wish. I won’t hold my breath though. If Kate puts on a pound, she’ll be pregnant, ten pounds, she’ll be obese but if she loses weight she’ll be anorexic according to the tabloids. I hope she’ll have the good sense and confidence to do her own thing as she sees fit.
There are some elements of the festivities today that annoy me. Much as I loathe Blair, as a former PM he should have been invited and the same goes for Gordon Brown. Their exclusion shows that the Palace is still out of touch with reality, mired in a protocol that has no relevance today. If you invite all the ex Tory PMs and exclude all the Labour ones, it screams out that the Royal Family and the establishment are all cosy with the Tories. It shouldn’t happen.
And then there’s the small matter of Kate’s title. Ok, so all the press will refer to them as Wills and Kate, but why does her official title have to rob her of her name? Why can’t she just be Princess Catherine? The Duchess of Cambridge sounds like a pub, not a young woman in her twenties.
And, of course, there is a certain annoyance that someone whose birth I remember is old enough to get married. You can’t really do anything about the laws of nature, though.
Whatever, though, I am currently enjoying everyone arriving at the Abbey. I love the hats, the dresses, the body language. I haven’t seen anyone sighing at the thought of being behind one of those trees, though. They look lovely on tv, but I can’t imagine they’re much fun to be near.
With just over an hour to go, though, I am excited and looking forward to the ceremony, the balcony and all the traditions we associate with Royal Weddings. I remember almost every detail of Charles and Diana’s so I’m thrilled that Kate will be walking up the aisle to I was Glad which was the anthem 30 years ago. It’s a very evocative and rousing piece of music.
I do feel sad that Diana’s not there, though – even after nearly 14 years, I miss her from our national life. I have a feeling, though, that she’d be pleased that the lessons of history seem at least partly to have been learned.
I would be very surprised if I got through the whole service without blubbing – so I have plenty tissues to hand.
Here’s hoping that Kate and William have the day they want and a happy life together to follow. And that everyone who’s celebrating with them – either at home, or in the Abbey – has a lovely day too. And that those who aren’t watching – for example another William, Willie Rennie, Mid Scotland and Fife Liberal Democrat list candidate, who is delivering leaflets for the tv cameras in Perth as I write, and my darling husband, who’s headed over to Dunfermline to take my place at the Great Stuffing of Envelopes – enjoy themselves too. It’s more the fact that I have 3 children to look after, rather than the wedding, that’s keeping me away, honest. I did actually try to persuade the kids to stuff some envelopes for a while before a trip to the park, but they were having none of it.