British cartoonists draw inspiration from royal wedding
Sunday 24 April 2011
Britain's satirical cartoonists are sharpening their pencils for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, but are likely to keep their cruellest portrayals in check.
Partly reflecting the British obsession with class and status, the butt of most cartoonists' jokes are usually those occupying high office and the monarchy, so a royal wedding is fertile hunting ground for mischievous illustrators.
Prince William's cartoon depiction is usually defined by a thinning hairline, rosy cheeks and lantern jaw, but the young royal's unremarkable ears and nose mean he escapes much of the ridicule heaped on his father, Prince Charles.
Newspaper illustrators have mostly shunned characterisations of Kate Middleton, but the 29-year-old will come into range after she joins the country's most famous family.
Peter Brookes, cartoonist for The Times, said the wedding and surrounding hysteria provided an unmissable opportunity, despite the generally positive feeling towards the event.
"On the day there will be nothing else you can do," Brookes told AFP. "Quite often the goodwill transfers itself into mawkishness and total sentimentality and everyone's going to be over the top."
The illustrator, who was last week named cartoonist of the year at the British Press Awards, admitted he had no concerns over offending royal enthusiasts.
"No, no no, absolutely not," he said. "First of all you don't have to worry about it, there's no such thing as doing a cartoon in praise of somebody, you're always knocking them down.
"The only thing I would say in balance is that it's hardly their fault the country goes mad - and it's two people for whom it's the happiest day of their lives so you're not going to do anything that's personal."
Any cartoon must instead focus on the "over the top nature of this whole wedding," he said.
The couple have avoided most unwanted attention due to their "down-to-earth" image, but the fact there have been more obvious targets during a chaotic economic and political period in Britain has also helped.
"When it was announced, The Times and everybody else went absolutely mad," recalled Brookes.
"I didn't do a cartoon because I didn't want to join in the circus," he added. "I did one related to it a day or two later bringing in the (British public spending) cuts and (finance minister George) Osborne.
"I've done things before that people have complained about with royalty because they have a particular place in people's affections and if you criticise them, it doesn't matter whether someone was justified or not, people are going to get annoyed," argued Brookes.
Another of Britain's best-known illustrators, Matt Pritchett of the Telegraph, explained to AFP that he too had few worries about upsetting high society.
"A couple of years ago a reader said I'd gone too far with one of my royal jokes," Pritchett, who goes under the pen-name "Matt", recalled.
"But I was able to tell her that someone from Buckingham Palace had asked for the original drawing. That shut them up."
Pritchett admitted that popular figures, such as William, were tricky subjects.
"One of the most difficult cartoons I had to do was when (US President Barack) Obama was first elected - everyone loved him and it was a difficult thing to mock," the Telegraph sketcher said.
Most of Pritchett's work portrays the "quintessential" married English couple who are "powerless in the face of modern life, or baffled by it".
Pritchett revealed on the day he would "probably make a joke about the public watching the wedding" while Brookes said he would wait to see what other political events of the day could be incorporated into his work.
Outside of the papers, the most high profile cartoon about the couple's romance has been "Kate & William - A Very Public Love Story", a 60-page comic collaboration between British artists Rich Johnston and Gary Erskine.
The story follows an imaginary diary written by Middleton during her youth, and mimics the earnest style adopted by seventies schoolgirl magazines such as "Jackie" and its male equivalent "Boy's Own".
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