When Prince William and Kate Middleton exchange vows on April 29 in Westminster Abbey there will be millions of pajama-clad Americans tuning in to watch and I am not ashamed to admit that I will be one of them.
I am not a huge Royal follower. But I was a Diana follower. As a fifth grader in 1981 a Royal Wedding was the Most Important Event Ever. Diana and her 25-foot-long train was the real deal – a living, breathing combination of Cinderella (whose wedding we never got to see) and Maria from “The Sound of Music.” The purpose of Diana’s long walk down the aisle of St. Paul’s Cathedral was not, in my eyes, to become Charles’s wife. It was to become a Princess.
I am fairly certain that quite a few of the 750 million viewers who tuned in that day felt similarly. And of course, after that I was committed to her storyline and followed her hairstyles, her hats, and her tours through Africa. She bore the burden of being the only good-looking person in the Royal family and I think they all hated her for it. I can say these shallow things because even though the Royals have a historic and important role in the history of civilization they will never be more than two-dimensional characters for me to criticize and worship from across the Atlantic.
I feel a little badly about this because I am sure they are all very nice people who have very demanding roles to fill.
As Princess Diana moved through her disappointments in life and marriage she forced all us Real Princess Watchers to mature along with her. She was living out the story of Not So Happily Ever After and surviving, which was perfect timing for those of us fueled by ultra self-awareness as the third wave of the feminist movement rolled across college campuses in the 1990s.
I remember exactly what I was doing in 1981 when Diana married Charles (I had ridden my bike home from the pool to watch a rebroadcast of the wedding on TV) and I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard the news of her death in 1997 (I was cleaning out the basement of my first apartment).
Kate Middleton has not captured my imagination in the same way. Not even close. And ultimately I feel affection for Prince William only because he is Diana’s son. Kate and William seem more normal and stable than anything I’ve witnessed coming from Buckingham Palace and I thank them for it. I do not want anymore drama, please. I am too tired.
So really, I am watching the wedding tomorrow for Diana – because she can’t be there.
Diana ruled and broke my heart with her poofy meringue wedding dress, a husband who didn’t love her, two handsome sons, and an untimely death. This is why I will be enjoying a traditional English breakfast as I watch William and Kate take their vows on April 29.
Once, when I was needing a gentle space to move past a romantic breakup, I walked alone for a few days in England’s Lake District. I slept in a tiny, single room beneath the stairs of a bed and breakfast near Lake Windermere. And each morning I sat down at a table set for one to a plate of baked beans, sausage, bacon, toast, eggs, mushrooms, and dreaded broiled tomatoes. I do not like hot tomatoes for breakfast one bit. But I forced the whole plate down because I knew I needed the fuel for the day. I stayed full until supper.
In the end wandering among sheep and stone walls in the soft air of an English spring comforted by sturdy meals was just what I needed to feel like myself again, to feel real.
So here’s to you, William and Kate, and your somewhat normal beginning to a life together. May it be long and mostly boring – and may your love grow to feel as comfortable as an old wool sweater on a damp, chilly morning.
Real English Breakfast
2 eggs, scrambled or fried
Mushrooms, quartered and sautéed
Tomatoes, brushed with oil, salted and then broiled or grilled
Bacon (Americans will have to use Canadian bacon, it’s the closest we’ve got)
Large cuppa tea
Prepare the best you know how. Deep breath. Dive in.
Related post: Proper English Scones