Royal Wedding a source of celebration, frustration for Britons

Much of the United Kingdom celebrated the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton with large public parties, but some find the grandiose affair socially irresponsible.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and commoner Kate Middleton locked lips in marital bliss in front of billions on Friday, but not everyone in the United Kingdom was moved by the occasion. Although a large percentage of British citizens watched the wedding and celebrated in street parties throughout the UK, a much larger number of people watching from abroad engaged with the wedding as well.

Photo: Eric Vilas-Boas
Wedding spectators cheer as they witness the married couple's very first kiss.

“I think as Americans we’re fascinated by royalty, because we don’t have it,” said wedding-watcher and Charlottesville, Va. native Dee Dee Greer. She arrived with her family in front of Buckingham Palace at 8:30 a.m. GMT to wait five hours to see Will and Kate’s first kiss as a married couple.

The wedding celebrations saw a divide between royalists and republicans – those British citizens who support the monarchy and those who do not.

One republican, protest artist Kaya Mar, used the exposure he could get from the royal wedding to set up camp outside of Westminster Abbey, holding up canvas paintings satirizing Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and other politicians.

“What you see is a farce,” Mar said. “You have a bankrupt country, people don’t have money, people don’t have jobs, people don’t have futures, and they spend millions of pounds for a razzmatazz.”

But many royalists point out that the wedding brought revenue in through tourism, product sponsorship, Will & Kate memorabilia (widely sold throughout the UK) and the global media attention. In the end, the UK is set to bring in £2 billion of tourist revenue from the wedding, according to The Guardian.

The Royal Family financed the entire wedding with the exception of £10 million that went to the security detail and the organization of the London parks and public spaces devoted to the celebration. The Department of Media, Culture and Sport hoped to recoup the costs by charging broadcasters £60,000 for prime spots in front of Buckingham Palace from which to report.

The wedding consumed London, the rest of the UK, and many parts of the world. Spectators sat on the grass in Hyde Park in London watching the event on massive projector screens. They camped out in front of Buckingham Palace or Westminster Abbey, waiting to see the couple’s first kiss or Middleton’s much-discussed fashion decisions. Parties, barbecues and concerts littered the streets of London along with hundreds of thousands of Union Jacks, and overall, the national holiday was a day of rejoicing.

For Mar and other detractors, however, this was not enough.

“People have a lot of social problems, economic problems, political problems, everything,” he said. “Television and the media are trying to create a fairy tale.”

A few royal wedding stats:

  • 24.5 million people watched the wedding in the UK.
  • 2 billion people watched the wedding around the world.
  • Declaration of the royal wedding as a bank holiday cost the UK an estimated £6 billion in overtime and lost revenue.
  • Wedding merchandise sales, including hats, flags, mugs, etc. brought in an estimated £26 million.
  • During the wedding, there were no less than 10,600 Twitter references made to “that dress,” from the UK alone.

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