Why I’m coming out as a secret royal wedding fan

I cry at weddings. It doesn’t matter who the couple are or what they represent: I’m glad for them

John Rentoul
Saturday 19 May 2018 14:19 BST
I'm an agnostic republican, but I have to admit that these two touched my heart
I'm an agnostic republican, but I have to admit that these two touched my heart (Getty)

I’m an agnostic republican. I’m against the hereditary principle in politics, whether it is George W Bush or the Prince of Wales. It would have been better if Al Gore had become president in 2000, and I am not keen on Prince Charles being king.

Now Levi Sanders, son of Bernie, is standing for Congress in New Hampshire; and Jeremy Corbyn’s operation, employing his son Seb, proves there is nepotism on the left as well as the right.

For me, the strongest argument against the monarchy is that it is a form of child cruelty. It seems wrong to bring up children as objects of public fascination. Adults such as Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton can choose to join the royal family. They know what they are doing. The children, though, are born into a world in which they are condemned to have fairy stories read to them that seem to be about themselves. Diana Spencer, 19, was a borderline case. Nominally an adult; no idea what she was letting herself in for.

Considering what they have been through, though, I think William and Harry are all right. I may be the victim of a good public relations exercise on this one, but they had a rough time when their parents divorced and when their mother died. They seem to have come through it surprisingly well, and the things they do on mental health are impressive.

I’d rather not have another generation brought up in that gilded cage, but, if Harry and Meghan have children, they will be well back from the line of succession, and have a chance of escaping the full glare of intrusive public interest.

So I approach this wedding with mixed feelings. I’m sympathetic to the spirit of Andreas Whittam Smith’s early Independent. “Couple get married” is good enough as a news story for me. I’m happy for them. Meghan and Harry came across well in that joint interview with Michal Husain. I assume they were heavily coached, but I don’t think you can fake their warmth.

Meghan is an American and a divorcee, which is a modernising echo from the 1936 abdication crisis, and her mixed-race heritage takes that modernisation and pushes it right up to date. If you’re going to do symbolism, symbolising diversity and tolerance is a good place to start.

Meghan and Harry lovingly mess about during their first interview

I admit I did watch some of the celebrities turning up for the last royal wedding, and I wrote a serious article about why Gordon Brown and Tony Blair weren’t invited, although Margaret Thatcher and John Major were.

I don’t think I will watch this one – I don’t think I’ll recognise many of the arrivals. But I’m happy about it because it’s a wedding. I cry at weddings. It doesn’t matter who the couple are or what they represent: I’m glad for them. I’m not interested in the dress or the fuss or the circus of celebrity, but they don’t offend me.

Complaining about the monarchy is a bit like complaining about the weather: it comes with the territory, in this case a united kingdom in which continuity is sometimes better than change. Arguing to abolish the monarchy seems to me a diversion from more important matters.

In any case, what is the alternative? An elected president would be tacky. I like the flexible British constitution and all the stuff about the Crown in Parliament and the Queen’s government. The current monarch is a brilliantly dry comedy act. The next one won’t be as good, but I doubt he can do much harm and I agree with him about modern architecture. And the one after that seems a decent, self-effacing public servant.

So I have no problem with a monarchy, as long as it is purely ceremonial and it doesn’t cost too much.

But if it’s ceremonial that means there will be ceremonies, so weddings are part of the deal. Best wishes to the happy couple.

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