Kiss Me, Kate: Our Fascination With Royal Weddings

Released: 25-Apr-2011 9:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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Newswise — Robert Travers, Cornell University associate professor in history, was born and raised in England. He teaches modern British and European history. In regard to the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, he says:

“The main significance of the wedding might be the international audience. For Britain, it’s very important to retain its global brand. We don’t export a lot in England, but weddings seem to be some of our best products.

“In another context, this is a very important event for the British monarchy – when compared to the wedding of Charles and Diana. The way Charles’ marriage ended was a disaster. With William and Kate, it seems to be the Monarchy’s way to patch a toxic event.

“This couple is projected as very modern. William and Kate are trying to behave in a less aristocratic and regal way, and presenting a more middle-class, sensible image. It helps that Kate was born a ‘commoner’ not an aristocrat. She will be driven in a car to the wedding, not in a state carriage. They’ll have a buffet for the wedding not a banquet. While they are living under elite circumstances, they are trying to make themselves less estranged from ordinary people.

“The British still have very mixed views about the monarchy. But there is a lot of interest and personal sympathy with William and Kate. If the wedding and the marriage appears to go well, it could also make Charles and Camilla seem more sympathetic, and make it an easier transition for Charles to become King.”

Rachel Weil, Cornell associate professor of history, studies politics and culture in early modern England. She explains our fascination with the impending wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton:

"Monarchs have always been a product of their subjects’ imaginations. Even in medieval and early modern times, the power of monarchs rested on the faith of subjects, their willingness to subscribe to certain fictions – that the King could do no wrong. And so the wedding bling and glitz is not just window dressing, it constitutes monarchy itself. The institution hinges on perception, performance and illusion. Perhaps that is why – even though monarchy is so old – it resonates with modern sensibilities and concerns.

"Given that all royals are creatures of our imagination, it is fascinating to look at what people choose to see in Will and Kate, the stories they tell, and what that tells us about ourselves. Privacy and publicity are issues right now in the world – we are concerned with the effects of Facebook and Wiki-Leaks, and so it is not an accident that so much media coverage of Kate and Will has concerned their complicated negotiations with the media itself.

"The wedding also provides an avenue for us to express our ambivalence about class privilege: Rooting for Kate, who is “commoner” - a descendant of coal miners - lets us revel in our egalitarianism, but paradoxically we would not see Kate’s marriage as a triumph for commoners if we did not accept the premise that it is desirable to join the ranks of the aristocracy!"


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