Barry Everingham reflects on the spectacle of a royal wedding and asks “in the cold hard light of day…what did the event really mean to Australians?”
There’s no doubt about it — the Brits might not excel at much these days but they lead the world on two counts.
Brilliance at putting on a show and absurdity.
Let’s take the last one first — the decision to recreate Wills as a duke — and an earl and a baron.
Just before the wedding took place, Granny announced the young bloke would henceforth be known at the Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carickfergus.
Imagine, in the 21st century Ruritania is alive and well in what has become a Third World country— the United Kingdom.
And when the ring was placed on the finger of the gorgeous Catherine Middleton, she ceased to be a “commoner” – just how insulting is that term? – and at once she became a princess, a duchess, a countess and a baroness!
And as though all that wasn’t enough, she is now entitled to be called “your royal highness” and after the Queen, Princess Anne and Camilla Parker Bowles she becomes the fourth most senior woman in the royal family, which means all the women in that ridiculous family are obliged to drop a curtsey to her.
Your royal highness?
In 2011 in Australia?
Give me a break, please!
But, the wedding...
Now just how beaut was that?
Awesome; magnificent theatre and pageantry.
Two thumbs up to the Poms — only they could have done it — only they would want to.
For a wonderful description of the event, read the reports of my former and still much loved daughter in law Paola Totaro in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
For a word-crafter, she has no peer.
And for the flawless arranging of such an event, the Brits don’t either.
Everything was perfect and everything worked like clockwork.
But, in the cold hard light of day and after the captains and kings have departed, what did the event really mean to Australians?
It means that, no matter how brilliant the wedding was, it underscored that such tradition and pageantry would be totally out of place in a country such as ours.
It brought home the undeniable fact that no Australian citizen, no matter how young – or how old – old can ever be head of state of this country.
That honour belongs to people who are not Roman Catholics, who have been born to parents in wedlock and – here’s the absurd clincher – who are legitimate descendants of the long dead Electress, Sophia of Hanover!
Now, in contemporary Australia this situation is absolutely indefensible.
It is insulting.
And my guess is that the people who in reality would like to see change are the main players themselves — members of the royal family, including the Queen.
She is on record as saying she will accept the decision of the Australian people and if it’s that the constitution has to be changed, well so be it. (I’m paraphrasing there — but that’s the gist of what she said.)
That avowed monarchist, Nick Minchin, said on the appalling Q&A this week that the Duke of Edinburgh remarked on hearing we had voted to maintain the status quo: “what kind of people are those Australians?”
I too have heard that story from one of the royals present at the time.
(Sorry Professor Flint — you have to live with it, mate!)
On that score it might be worth recounting that when I interviewed several members of Europe’s former royal families, all descendants of Queen Victoria and all in line to the throne of Australia for a series in The Australian, most of them, when realising my own nationality, asked: when are you going to become your own country?
In America, the head of state has to have been born is that country and his or her term office is limited to eight years.
In our country that job is limited to a foreigner who has to die on the job.
The royal events which two billion people witnessed worldwide (I wonder where that figure came from) might have been blown away by the sheer spectacle itself—who wouldn’t be?
But theatre it was, reality it wasn’t, and dreamtime of the Hollywood variety is, at the end of the day, was what it was all about.