Notes from a Royal Wedding

By Brown, Tina | Newsweek, May 9, 2011 | Go to article overview

Notes from a Royal Wedding


Brown, Tina, Newsweek


Byline: Tina Brown

William and Kate are a thoroughly modern couple, but their soap opera looked mighty familiar-with a few twists.

The great thing about a royal wedding is that it's the ultimate national Groundhog Day. All those cartoon faces doing all the same things, except it ends in a gloriously different way. And however cynical you feel at the outset, it's impossible to resist the potent images of historical bonding. The glimmering veiled bride, driven slowly on her mystical journey from Kate the commoner to Her Royal Highness; the tall, virile prince in the scarlet military uniform who awaits her at the altar; the queen herself, tiny and implacable in daffodil yellow. The soaring sounds of "Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer," beloved by the Welsh rugby crowds.

You just succumb. You just roll over. Nothing to be done except count up the score of past versus present. The couple--their chemistry lit up the screen. Compare it with the tango of uneasy body language every time Charles and Diana appeared as a couple. When Catherine's eyes met William's over the marriage vows at the Abbey, there was a powerful vibe of contented sexual understanding. Her gaze was level and demure, secure in the long years of his affection. He returned it with a look that said, I trust.

The Middleton family

Catherine's mother, Carole, can say goodbye to all the tabloid sniping about her origins as an air stewardess. She looked so naturally chic in her stone-blue Catherine Walker coat dress. Let the tabs just acknowledge that Mrs. Middleton's aspirational parenting has been flawless. During eight years of scorching press scrutiny of the woman they sneeringly tabbed "doors to manual" (an airline joke), there's been no leaking or trashing from this supportive family circle. I sensed no social triumph in Carole's demeanor as the wedding progressed. Instead I saw a mother pensive with the knowledge of how completely she will now yield up her beloved daughter. However deep their bond, from this day the mighty Windsor machine inevitably takes over. Kate will henceforth be addressed by others as Ma'am. She belongs to Them, and also to the nation.

The Dress

It perfectly expressed the slinky image of classical modernity. It was a daring high-fashion designer choice in Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton, but the tight-fitting bodice and cautious nine-foot train managed to be seductive and regal at the same time. The veil was a light dust of snow over the glow of her face. Thank God no frightful experimental updo, or a burqa-like swath of taffeta like the one that hid Diana's blushing young face. Kate's decision to keep her usual glossy brown cascade pinned back by the queen's discreet 1936 diamond Cartier tiara was another example of her instinctive good taste. Everything about her actions, to and for William, is about creating a feeling of safe continuity: You know me. I am here.

The best single takeaway from the wedding is how fast Catherine has morphed into a future monarch. The new Duchess of Cambridge has a sleek, natural poise. Forget her new status as a duchess and a princess. This woman with no patrician forebears is ready for the throne already. The irony, new for Britain, but so familiar to Americans, is that her strength derives from those very humble origins. The fact that she comes from flinty, northern coal-miner stock. Her grandmother Dorothy always said she wanted to be the "top brick on the chimney." Her mother's dynamism built the family fortune with a party-favor business she threw together on the kitchen table. Catherine's stoic temperament was evident in that endless eight-year courtship. What was not evident was something perhaps William saw before anyone else--that Catherine was the kind of gorgeous, equable woman who, like his great-grandmother the Queen Mother, would stay in London during the Blitz.

The Guests

Wounding for Tony Blair not to make the cut.

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