Wedding invite list contains serious political snubs

Guy Ritchie, David Beckham and Mr. Bean were all invited to the wedding. But why not two former prime ministers?

By Ian Johnston

The crown prince of troubled Bahrain, David Beckham, Madonna's ex-husband and even the actor who played the comic character "Mr Bean" all received a much-coveted invitation to Britain's royal wedding.

But, in what one commentator described Wednesday as "a snub of historic proportions," two rather conspicuous figures did not: the U.K.'s last two prime ministers, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

That might be bad enough, but it gets worse.

For while these two former leaders — both members of the traditionally left-leaning Labour Party — were not asked to Prince William and Kate Middleton's marriage, former Conservative Party prime ministers Sir John Major and Baronness Thatcher did receive invitations.

Speculation about the reasons and accusations of political bias were growing Wednesday with even columnists in normally Conservative-supporting newspapers suggesting a mistake had been made.

According to Buckingham Palace, there was no reason to invite Blair and Brown.

This wedding, unlike that of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981, is not a state occasion because William is not first in line to the throne and "so there is no protocol reason to invite former Prime Ministers," Nick Loughran, a spokesman for Prince William, said in a statement emailed to msnbc.com.

So it's simply the marriage of two young people in love, in front of 1,900 family and friends. Oh and the Zimbabwean ambassador to London. And Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and King Mswati III of Swaziland.

Slideshow: Who's invited to the royal wedding?

The invitations to Thatcher, who declined for health reasons, and Major were made as they are both members of what is essentially a club for royalty and their friends dating back to the 14th Century.

"Sir John Major and Baroness Thatcher were invited as they are both Knights of the Garter, along with Prince William," Loughran said. "Furthermore, Sir John Major has a personal connection to Prince William, as he was appointed Guardian to Prince William and Prince Harry following the death of the late Diana, Princess of Wales."

When contacted, Hugh Peskett, editor-in-chief of Burke's Peerage and Gentry, which describes itself as "the definitive guide to the genealogical history of the royal families of Europe," began listing the reasons why Blair and Brown didn't have to be there.

"It's his (William's) personal choice, it's not a state wedding, not a state occasion because he is the grandson of a monarch, not the son of a monarch," Peskett said.

But then he admitted "it’s all sort of a bit airy fairy ... they've invited all the ambassadors and things. There is a contradiction I can see in this."

"I think I'd have said 'hmm, it might have been tactful to invite them,'" Peskett added when asked what he would have said if he had been asked for advice.

A Labour Party lawmaker, Denis MacShane, has tabled a formal question in parliament to ask what role Conservative government's officials played in selecting the guests, BBC News reported Wednesday.

"If you look at the guest list, it's huge, and it's just slightly odd that two men who've occupied the highest office of the land aren't on it," MacShane told the BBC, adding that "denigrating Tony Blair and Gordon Brown seems to be an obsession" of the current prime minister, David Cameron.

An emerging theory is that William dislikes Blair because of his handling of Princess Diana's death.

Click here for a slideshow of Prince William through the years

Blair, as prime minister when William's mother died in a traffic accident in Paris, christened her the "People's Princess." Some felt he captured the national mood of mourning. Others felt he took the chance to score political points.

"He certainly did," Peskett told msnbc.com. "He was never one to miss an opportunity like that. It must have been dreadful time for Prince William and Prince Harry as well. This man (Blair) was trying to make political capital out of it."

Damian Thompson, writing a blog on the Telegraph newspaper's website, said William simply "cannot stand Tony Blair."

"The Prince has a long memory and a capacity for cold fury," he wrote. "We catch a glimpse of it in the section of Blair's memoirs relating to the week after Diana's death: 'I had also spoken to William who was not only still grieving but angry. He knew, rationally, why the week between Diana’s death and the funeral had to be as it had been. But he felt acutely the conflict between public position and private emotion.'"

Brown, he reasoned, was not invited to avoid bringing "the feud into the open" and to allow the Knights of the Garter cover story to be deployed.

But Stephen Glover, writing in the Daily Mail newspaper, said there was a serious side to all this.

"The Queen has been so adept at remaining impartial above the political fray that it is difficult to believe she vetoed the invitation of these two former leaders out of spite, dislike or political prejudice," he wrote.

"Whatever the explanation, this is a decision that will damage the monarchy more than the feelings of Mr Blair and Mr Brown," Glover added. "Once the Crown appears to be taking sides — and that is the impression, if not the intention — our delicate constitutional arrangements are imperilled."

A "last-minute invitation" to both men might help repair the damage, he suggested.

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