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By Karl Bostic
The royal wedding is a goldmine for the British, allowing them to do what they do best – pomp and circumstance. It's also windfall for the British tabloid press, perhaps the most competitive English-language market in the world.
It’s a tabloid editor's dream, and there is insatiable demand for every last detail. Behind the harrumphing and tut-tutting at the inevitable cost of the celebrations, there is enormous pride that William and Kate are tying the knot. And once you get past the obvious story lines - who will design the dress, who’s invited, where’s the honeymoon – it starts to get interesting, if not ridiculous.
The day after the announcement, the Daily Mail gushed, "We Got There in the End Darling." The Daily Mirror, referring to William giving Kate his mother's ring, was a tad corny: "With this ring...Di thee Wed." Even the Metro, a free daily tabloid given away on the Tube, scored points with "His Girl Friday," a nod to the day itself.
The tabloids have whipped up the country's excitement over the engagement by publishing polls suggesting that overwhelming majority of the country feels that William would make a better king than his father, Charles. While this may be fun to contemplate, the public has no say on who should be the next king or queen. This is not "American Idol."
Meanwhile, the government has declared the wedding day, April 29, to be a national holiday, or as it is known in Britain, a bank holiday. The date falls at the end of Easter week and runs into the May bank holiday weekend, resulting in two consecutive four-day weekends – a nightmare for small businesses, which are already fretting about lost revenues in a sluggish economy.
Lest one think of complaining, the Daily Mirror reminds us that patriotism and love for the royal family should trump these inconveniences.
"The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has produced an outbreak of national whining. What’s the matter with us? Times were very hard when Charles married Diana in 1981.The next year unemployment topped three million. And yet the wedding of Charles and Diana was not greeted with all this mean spirited, spiteful moaning. We have become a nation of Victor Meldrews [think Scourge].”
Eager readers will also enjoy this tidbit: Princes William and Harry will not be having the ultimate royal stag-do. The Mirror, in a deadly serious tone, tells us, that RAF (Royal Air Force) chiefs have also ruled out any last-minute boozing sessions for the princes. ‘I don't think it will be wild as both will be flying and there is the 10 hour bottle-to-throttle rule,’ the source told the Mirror.
But the tabloids don’t restrict their advice to their readers. Kate the "commoner” should take note of the etiquette that befits a royal.
Daily Mail columnist Petronella Wyatt gives her this practical counsel in breathy tones:
"First, when you go racing, as I often did with my late father, Woodrow, who was chairman of the Tote, you might find yourself standing next to the Queen. She is very short, as you know, so do not do as I once did, when I failed to notice she was there, and step on her toe.”
And don’t forget Kate, "one" now has to keep company with a new posse, the "senior royals", and "one" should know a thing or two about their traits. Wyatt, for example notes how Camilla (Kate's future in-law) is actually quite warm but doesn’t suffer fools who know nothing about country life, "or she will, if you are beside her at a polo match, say sarcastically: 'That is a horse. You know what a horse is, don't you?'” Welcome to the club, Kate.
And there is the small matter of ageing, and how to manage it as a royal woman. Wyatt quotes the late queen of British romance author Barbara Cartland: “After 35, you have to choose between your face and your figure.”
When it comes to this couple, everyone has a story to tell. Take the Sun, which recently ran as its lead this juicy story: "I got blame for split...but I'm glad Wills is marrying Kate." We get to read the exclusive tale of 23-year-old Lisa Agar who downed sambuca shots with William, and then danced with him at a nightclub in the run-up to his temporary break with Kate in 2007.
Do we really care? Well no, but we will certainly read the story.
Then there’s the story of Margret Lekartgi, the Masai maid who waited on William and Kate at the Kenyan game reserve where they got engaged. She knew about the proposal even before the queen. The Daily Mail brings us details of her meager $100-a-month salary, leading us to imagine how she could’ve been set for life if she only had the number for the news desk at News of the World.
All humor aside, this is big business and a cut-throat competition for millions of potential readers. Leading the charge are the "royal watchers," commentators on all things royal who feature prominently in each newspaper. The Evening Standard even rated the top ones recently, noting that one watcher had the distinction of being born in the same hospital as Kate, giving extra weight to her authority.
Another watcher noted for his brusqueness had a memorable run-in with Prince Charles, who bristled at the his pushiness: He “protested to Prince Charles that he was only doing his job. ‘Some job,’ retorted his royal highness. ‘At least I've got one,’” riposted the journalist. This is the kind of pluck and derring-do needed to be a royal watcher!
And let's not forget the weather. If no one spoke about the weather for a day, it would be like having a giant mute button over all of Britain. In this nation of punters, there's always a wager, or flutter as it’s known here. The bookies favorite for April 29: glorious sunshine at 5/6 odds, 3/1 for April showers and 100/1 for snow.
As another tabloid wisely observes: "The only consistent thing about April's weather [in London] is its inconsistency." And to go one step further, it's not a tabloid if there's no story about William, and Catherine, everyday for the next 148 days.