openDemocracyUK

The Royal Wedding Reality Check

The Royal Wedding Reality Check invites you to express your genuine opinions on the event, whether you're a republican, a monarchist, or would never define yourself by either term
Clare Sambrook Niki Seth-Smith Oliver Huitson
27 April 2011
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OurKingdom invites you to express your opinions on the event, whether you're a republican, a monarchist, or would never define yourself by either term. We have begun publishing the most interesting and challenging responses, below, from Clare Sambrook, Olly Huitson and Gareth Young followed by a report linking to their survey of opinion carried out by YouGov .

Please send your responses to:

niki.sethsmith (at) opendemocracy.net. 

NAME:

AGE:

OCCUPATION:

  1. Are you attending a street party? Have you been invited to one?
  2. Will you watch the wedding itself?
  3. How do you respond to the suggestion that the wedding is: 

- a genuine lasting class moment, reinforcing loyalty to the upper classes - a levelling moment, breaking down class boundaries irreversibly
- a celebrity moment that may either soon be forgotten or make a lasting shift towards our being ruled by celebrity values
- … what is your own view?

  1. Do you believe the wedding is an important moment in British history? Do you feel it incarnates British values and if so what are these: loyalty, family, Britain’s got talent, or…? 
  2. This is being proposed to us as an occasion to lift the mood at a moment when the cuts are coming in and the decline in household income continues; will it lift the mood; will it favour the Tories?
  3. Do you feel the date has been set for political reasons?
  4. The wedding takes place a week before Scotland and Wales vote for their parliaments and is being projected as a British event. Could it be part of the project to renew a sense of Britishness? 
  5. Is Kate another Diana? If so, why; if not, why not?
  6. Does the wedding make you proud to be British? Will it increase a sense of nostalgia and loss? Or make us look forward to a thriving royal future?
  7. Do you feel that foreign interest in the wedding stems from a genuine affection and identification with the British? If not, why is there such interest from abroad?
  8. Will the wedding make you, or other people, feel happier? If so, do you expect this feeling to last?
  9. How do you feel about the monarchy? Would you call yourself a monarchist or a republican? Or do you not define yourself in those terms? 
  10. In your personal experience,

- do you remember Diana’s death? Did you cry? Did you watch or attend her funeral? If so, what was your reaction?

- can you please name any books/films/plays you have read/see about the monarchy? 

11. Do you think your attitude is representative of the British people?


Responses...

NAME: Gareth Young 

AGE: 37

OCCUPATION: Scientist

1.     Are you attending a street party? Have you been invited to one? There are two street parties in Lewes, which seems good considering its republican connections, though I haven’t noticed too much bunting.  I haven’t been invited to either but I think I’d enjoy them if only for the sheer kitch-ness / naff-ness of it all.

2.     Will you watch the wedding itself? Maybe, but if it’s good weather I think we’d rather spend the day outside.

3.     How do you respond to the suggestion that the wedding is: 

- a genuine lasting class moment, reinforcing loyalty to the upper classes - a levelling moment, breaking down class boundaries irreversibly
- a celebrity moment that may either soon be forgotten or make a lasting shift towards our being ruled by celebrity values
- … what is your own view?

I think that too much is read into the sociological effects of the Royal wedding.  It is what it is, and for most people it’s just an excuse for a four-day bender, as I suspect Royal weddings have always been.  The Royal family adapt to suit the prevailing public tastes, I don’t think that what the Royals do or don’t do is that important; they’re part of the mix, more influential than a common-or-garden commoner like me, but probably not much more influential than the Beckhams.

1.     Do you believe the wedding is an important moment in British history? Not unless something awful happens.  Do you feel it incarnates British values and if so what are these: loyalty, family, Britain’s got talent, or…?  No, and despite Gordon Brown’s Britishness campaign I don’t believe we know what Britain’s values are, or what Britain is for that matter.

2.     This is being proposed to us as an occasion to lift the mood at a moment when the cuts are coming in and the decline in household income continues; will it lift the mood; will it favour the Tories? Yes, I think it will lift the mood, but it will be a short-lived fillip with no lasting political effect.  The good thing about monarchy, as opposed to a presidency, is that can trancsend party politics.

3.     Do you feel the date has been set for political reasons?  It can’t be a bad thing that many people can take 3 days off work to enjoy an 11 day holiday, so maybe that fact will help engender good feeling towards the Royals.  But I don’t think there’s anything more sinister to it than that.

4.     The wedding takes place a week before Scotland and Wales vote for their parliaments and is being projected as a British event. Could it be part of the project to renew a sense of Britishness?  I find it more sinister that the AV referendum was set on the same day as the Scottish and Welsh elections.  I don’t see how the Coalition Government benefits from the proximity of the wedding to the Scottish elections.  The main Unionist party in Scotland is Labour, so it would be Labour who benefited from a feeling of Britishness.  Scotland under a Labour administration would be more problematic for the British Government – and therefore the Union - than Alex Salmond’s government is.  The same applies in Wales but to a lesser extent.

5.     Is Kate another Diana? If so, why; if not, why not?  I don’t think so, and I hope not.  She has more life experience and will be conscious of Diana’s trevails.

6.     Does the wedding make you proud to be British? Will it increase a sense of nostalgia and loss? Or make us look forward to a thriving royal future?  It doesn’t make me proud to be British.  It won’t make me nostalgic or make me speculate about the future of the Royal family, I’m fairly agnostic about the Royals. 

7.     Do you feel that foreign interest in the wedding stems from a genuine affection and identification with the British? If not, why is there such interest from abroad?  I think that there is some sense of affection for Britain and its history, and a sense of connection to the Royals from the Anglosphere nations (America, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, etc.).  But mostly it’s a fascination with celebrity and pomp and circumstance.

8.     Will the wedding make you, or other people, feel happier? If so, do you expect this feeling to last? I expect that I’ll feel happy for the couple and toast them, there’s no point in being po-faced about it.  I expect the feeling to last for a day.  I like the buzz that national occasions generate, whether it’s the Grand National, Cup Final Day, the Calcutta Cup or even a general election.

9.     How do you feel about the monarchy? Would you call yourself a monarchist or a republican? Or do you not define yourself in those terms?  I’d call myself an agnostic monarchist.  I’ve met Prince Charles and Princess Anne and I can’t say that I was excited by the experience.  I prefer the idea of a constitutional monarchy to a presidential republic, but I’m not particularly fussed about the Royals themselves, if that makes sense.

10.   In your personal experience,

- do you remember Diana’s death? Did you cry? Did you watch or attend her funeral? If so, what was your reaction?  I remember where I was when I heard that Princess Diana had died. I was in bed. I'd just woken up, it was about 5am and I'd dozed off with the TV on. We'd been out clubbing at Wobble in Birmingham, and now here was an ashen-faced Hugh Edwards, or someone like him, telling me that Diana had been in what seemed to be a fatal car crash.  I nudged my girlfriend awake and informed her that Diana was dead and then went back to sleep.  I felt deeply sorry for the two princess but I found the outpouring of public grief to be sickening, mawkish and tedious.

- can you please name any books/films/plays you have read/see about the monarchy? 

Katherine by Anya Seton, David Starkey’s Monarchy, and films like Elizabeth, Madness of King George and the Other Boleyn Girl.  I haven’t yet seen The King’s Speech but I’m looking forward to it.

11. Do you think your attitude is representative of the British people?  I think my view is probably more representative of English people than British people, I think Scottish and Northern Irish society is far more polarised over the Monarchy.  Not sure about the Welsh.

 ________________________________________________________

NAME: Clare Sambrook
AGE: 40s
OCCUPATION: WRITER


1.     Are you attending a street party? No Have you been invited to one? No

2.     Will you watch the wedding itself? No

3.     How do you respond to the suggestion that the wedding is:
 
- a genuine lasting class moment, reinforcing loyalty to the upper classes I think that’s the plan

- a levelling moment, breaking down class boundaries irreversibly Ho ho. 

- a celebrity moment that may either soon be forgotten or make a lasting shift towards our being ruled by celebrity values 
Definitely reinforces celebrity values — elevating that self-serving alliance of people who trade on celebrity got by virtue of birth, royal connections, inherited wealth. And shifting more power —  airtime / newsprint — to those journos who are part of the celebrity crowd.

Ask of those reporters: are they working to secure their own access, perhaps position themselves for a life-changing lucrative biography contract? Are they serving privilege, rather than serving the public, their readers, the publicservice broadcasting license payers?
 
PS: In my view the genuine celebrity (in the word’s older form) achieved by talented, hardworking actors, musicians, is a different thing, put to work as part of the business of promoting something real — a film, an album. Less pernicious. It’s when celebrity gets detached from the talent/effort/cultural product that it becomes so corrupting.

4.     Do you believe the wedding is an important moment in British history? Do you feel it incarnates British values and if so what are these: loyalty, family, Britain’s got talent, or…? Yes, it’s important. It refreshes our willing subservience to the Crown. TV images of cheering crowds affect the way we perceive ourselves as a nation.

5.     This is being proposed to us as an occasion to lift the mood at a moment when the cuts are coming in and the decline in household income continues; will it lift the mood; will it favour the Tories? A good street party celebrates the street and the people who live in it. Let’s have more of them.

6.     Do you feel the date has been set for political reasons? I’ve no idea.

7.     The wedding takes place a week before Scotland and Wales vote for their parliaments and is being projected as a British event. Could it be part of the project to renew a sense of Britishness?  Cameron’s class wd be mad not to exploit this.
 
8.     Is Kate another Diana? If so, why; if not, why not?
Evidence from both sides — Charles and Diana approved biographies — suggests that Diana aged 18 / 19 believed it was love, a real marriage, and that Charles only required a posh fertile virgin. The Kate/William relationship looks real. 
 

9.     Does the wedding make you proud to be British? Certainly not. Will it increase a sense of nostalgia and loss? What have we lost? The monarchy is going strong. Or make us look forward to a thriving royal future? If shares in the The Firm were publicly traded, they’d be rising. 

10.  Do you feel that foreign interest in the wedding stems from a genuine affection and identification with the British? If not, why is there such interest from abroad? Foreign media interest doesn’t necessarily reflect specific interest from the people. People enjoy circuses ;  this should be a good one. I feel embarrassed that people in other countries may see the coverage and think oh, so this is Britain.

11.  Will the wedding make you, or other people, feel happier? If so, do you expect this feeling to last? A good street party is a happy thing, it’s real, it nurtures friendship between neighbours, it enhances the cultural memory of the street / the community. How about we have more street parties for their own sake?

12.  How do you feel about the monarchy? Would you call yourself a monarchist or a republican? Or do you not define yourself in those terms? I’m a republican.

13.  In your personal experience, do you remember:

- watching a film or reading a book about the monarchy?
Films: The King’s Speech, The Madness of King George, Mrs Brown, Shakespeare’s history plays

Books: Charles / Diana / Sarah Ferguson biographies ; Foord, Trevelyan, Churchill. 

- Diana’s death? Did you cry? Certainly not. Did you watch or attend her funeral? I watched. If so, what was your reaction? It was of course a personal catastrophe for her sons; I felt for them. 

As for the wider story, there was so much to provoke disgust. 

The pomp (we paid for it)  and the slavish, maudlin coverage of the whole business is troubling. 

The way that reporters described as ‘mourners’ all those people gathering at Buckingham Palace & Kensington Palace. Who knows how many had gone along just to witness the spectacle? 

Opportunists made political and other forms of capital out of Diana’s life and death; Blair’s actorly statement — the studied pauses — come to mind.
 
The outpourings of grief, although exaggerated by the media, did provoke questions about how the dominant ethnic group experiences loss in this country. Diana’s death seemed to unleash a lot of trapped / deferred grief. We might be a healthier society if, instead of Fifteen Minutes’ Dignity at the Crem, we did more wailing and collective mourning when personal loss strikes. 
 
14.  Do you think your attitude is representative of the British people? 
I don’t think my views are remotely original; a lot of people feel this way.

This Summer, many many thousands of people in Britain will take part in music festivals, sports events, scout camps; there’s more meaning, commitment, happiness, passion and hope in all that.

 

 


NAME: Oliver Huitson

AGE: 27

OCCUPATION: Account Manager 

1.     Are you attending a street party? Have you been invited to one? No plans to, but have been invited to one. I had assumed there'd only be a handful in the country but it seems lots of otherwise sane people are doing them. Someone should hold a Tom Paine party in Trafalgar Sq - thats the only party that might tempt me.

2.     Will you watch the wedding itself? It hadnt crossed my mind to watch the wedding, but looks like it might be hard to escape it.

3.     How do you respond to the suggestion that the wedding is:

- a genuine lasting class moment, reinforcing loyalty to the upper classeswith some sympathy, the deference to Royalty reinforces class dynamics and the supine nature of the British public.

- a levelling moment, breaking down class boundaries irreversibly- have you been drinking?

- a celebrity moment that may either soon be forgotten or make a lasting shift towards our being ruled by celebrity valuessoon forgotten distraction for the proles as they are shat on from great height.

- … what is your own viewMoney down the drain on an over-indulged, archaic and offensive institution. Even more worrying is the public's reaction - they actually seem thrilled to be paying for a millionaire'swedding. 

4.     Do you believe the wedding is an important moment in British history? Do you feel it incarnates British values and if so what are these: loyalty, family, Britain’s got talent, or…? not important moment, but indicative of British values, yes, both modern and historical: deference to ruling class, obsession with pomp and ceremony, any excuse for a piss up, and the modern pathology of celebrity worship.

5.     This is being proposed to us as an occasion to lift the mood at a moment when the cuts are coming in and the decline in household income continues; will it lift the mood; will it favour the Tories? People should be mortified that money is spent on this while nurses and teachers are being laid off and libraries closed down, instead I think it probably will aid the Tories - not only by providing a distraction from cuts but it will fit their narrative of restoring "national identity" 

6.     Do you feel the date has been set for political reasons? Absolutely.

7.     The wedding takes place a week before Scotland and Wales vote for their parliaments and is being projected as a British event. Could it be part of the project to renew a sense of Britishness? That is how the Tories will play it, but no, not any sense of Britishness worth renewing at least.

8.     Is Kate another Diana? If so, why; if not, why not? Yes she may be able to grow into the role - vacuous, dull, devoid of charisma, she has the raw talent from the glimpses I've seen of her ;)

9.     Does the wedding make you proud to be British? Quite the opposite. Will it increase a sense of nostalgia and loss? No. Or make us look forward to a thriving royal future? King Charles will hopefully kill off the idea for good.

10.  Do you feel that foreign interest in the wedding stems from a genuine affection and identification with the British? If not, why is there such interest from abroad? God knows. They like laughing at the Brits and our ridiculous pomposity and deference?

11.  Will the wedding make you, or other people, feel happier? If so, do you expect this feeling to last? I suspect i will feel a profound indifference and this will last some hours.

12.  How do you feel about the monarchy? Would you call yourself a monarchist or a republican? Or do you not define yourself in those terms? Very much a republican. 

13.  In your personal experience, do you remember:

- watching a film or reading a book about the monarchy? No

- Diana’s death? Did you cry? Did you watch or attend her funeral? If so, what was your reaction? Fleeting surprise, little interest, disgusted by the national outpouring of conspicuous grief - i am still trying to forgive my nan for attending the funeral, in tears, and signing the remembrance book.

14.  Do you think your attitude is representative of the British people? Sadly not, in fact I have only recently learnt how much contempt republicans are held in even by many otherwise politically "sound" people. It's a national illness, this love of monarchy.


The YouGov Poll

When surveyed, a majority of respondents (56%) said that they were either not very interested (30%) or not at all interested (26%) in the wedding. However, men and women were divided on the issue with over half of British women saying that they were either very or fairly interested (57%), but the figures fall to fewer than three in ten (29%) for British men.

Despite events failing to capture the interest of the entire nation nearly half of respondents (47%) said they would either probably or definitely watch the wedding on television, rising to 61% of women.

Regarding the level of media interest, more than half of British adults (55%) felt there had been too much media coverage of the royal wedding, though nearly two fifths (38%) felt the media had ‘got the balance about right’.

Despite the level of disinterest in the wedding, Prince William remains a popular figure. Over three quarters of respondents (76%) felt that he would make a ‘good king’ with nearly two thirds (63%) believing that Kate Middleton would make a ‘good queen’.

Two thirds of respondents (66%) believed that there would still be a monarchy in 100 years’ time with 69% thinking that the British monarchy should continue, compared to just one in five (20%) who thought that we should instead have an elected head of state.

When compared to other leading members of the Royal Family, Prince William emerged as the most popular. His net positivity score* of +78% was higher even than Queen Elizabeth herself on +71%, with Kate Middleton just behind on +70% to complete the top three.

Prince Harry (+63%) and Princess Anne (+55%) were the only other members of the Royal Family to achieve a score above +50%

Prince Charles was further down the list with a score of +19%, just ahead of his father Prince Philip on +17%. The three least popular members on our list were Prince Edward (+2%), Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (-9%) and Prince Andrew (-13%), with the latter recently embroiled in controversy.

The list of guests invited to the wedding has attracted some attention. Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both failed to be sent an invitation. 34% thought Blair should have been invited, compared to 48% who disagreed. For Brown, 36% thought he should have been invited compared to 45% who felt he should not. The decision to invite another former Prime Minister, John Major, who is a guardian of Princes William and Harry, was supported by 41% of the population, while 38% disagreed.

In contrast, the decision to invite the current Prime Minister, David Cameron was more strongly supported. 72% felt he should have been invited, compared to only 14% who felt he should not. A further 54% felt Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg should be invited, with 28% opposed. London Mayor Boris Johnson was another political figure to receive positive support. Half of respondents (50%) believed he should be invited, while under a third (29%) disagreed.

Among foreign heads of state, over six in ten (60%) felt that US President Barack Obama should have been invited, with fewer than a quarter (22%) disagreeing. Support for French President Nicholas Sarkozy was far less clear cut. 40% thought he should have been invited while 33% thought he should not.

An invitation for Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, the most significant member of the Royal Family not be invited, was supported by just under half of respondents (49%), but 30% disagreed.

From a list of celebrities, Sir Elton John was the only one for whom a greater proportion of respondents thought he should be invited (48%) than should not (30%). David Beckham (38% versus 40%), Rowan Atkinson (32% versus 40%) and Ben Fogle (29% versus 36%) all fared less well. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was the least popular of the celebrity invitees tested. 54% felt she should not have received an invite compared to only 21% who felt she should.

Nearly half of British adults (46%) believed that senior politicians attending the wedding should wear morning dress compared to 35% who felt they should instead wear a normal suit.

The weeks of preparation for the couple’s big day seem to have not had any discernible effect on the nation’s feelings. Back in November, immediately after the announcement of the engagement, 48% of those questioned said they were ‘pleased’ by the announcement, with exactly the same number saying they were ‘indifferent’. This week the proportion who said they were ‘pleased’ that William was to marry Kate remained at 48%, while those who felt ‘indifferent’ had risen just 1% to 49%.

See here for the full YouGov survey results

 

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