Can we let William go free?
Marie Claire published a story yesterday reckoning there’s every chance we’ll hear an announcement from Buckingham Palace about Prince William tying the knot with long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton.
Theoretically, I shouldn’t really care about this. It’s tittle tattle. It’s personal. It’s of no consequence. Harsher people than me will dismiss as the first chapter in another volume in the series entitled “Failed Royal Marriages”.
But that is too harsh. If you’re a fan or just tolerate the Royal Family, then you’re almost certainly going to have a reasonably high approval rating for the second in line to the throne.
He and Harry have suffered (in some respects). Brought up in a strange family, facing the public break-up of their parents and having to tackle the loss of their mother, the two boys are – this will be cold, be prepared – the kind of victims which we all to a greater or lesser extent want to protect from the world even now.
And that is because of the one enduring image of both following Diana’s cortège on the day of her funeral. We were rubberneckers. Dress it up however you like, but we were doing the same as any human being does when there’s been a car accident on the road. We couldn’t help but look. And when we looked we felt painfully sorry for those two boys.
That’s the way we refer to them. The boys. Even now. 13 years later, they’re still ‘the boys’. But those boys have changed. Those boys have gone through an inexplicably rapid transformation. They’re men. They have jobs. William’s even been seen with a beard for God’s sake. Where have the intervening years gone?
As future subjects will expect to see the same kind of public event as his parents? Will we want him and Kate Middleton to allow us to witness them exchanging vows? Will they want that kind of exposure. Will they be able to avoid it?
If they do allow it, it almost certainly won’t be as ostentatious as Charles and Diana’s day. It won’t sit right with our present economic situation. More importantly, that sort of pride will almost certainly lead to a fall. William’s future subjects couldn’t bear to face that kind of tragic story again – regardless of which side of the fence you prefer to stand.
But there’s one crucial thing Prince William will need to provide. He may not necessarily realise it yet either. He’ll need to provide us – the rubberneckers – with some closure. We’ll need to witness this public rite of passage. Not for his sake, but for ours.
Rooted in our memories is that bright sunny day in late August when we watched the unimaginable. Two young boys walked behind their mother’s coffin through Central London watched by hundreds of thousands of onlookers and billions of TV viewers across the world.
When we all witnessed it there was an unconscious bond created between people and ‘the boys’. A tacit agreement that we would protect them. An acknowledgment that intrusion into their lives wasn’t just unreasonable but would come with a severe self-inflicted punishment, something far worse than the pain we felt when watched proceedings in August 1997. In that moment we became guardians with a massive responsibility.
Soon we might see one of the kids fly the nest. It will act as closure. We want a happy ending too. The narrative demands it. If Charles and Diana’s was a fairytale wedding, then William’s marriage could be the long-awaited redemption at the end of a prolonged TV drama series.
But the Young Windsors probably effected the kind of closure they needed years ago – an act of necessity. It’s us who need the closure. So we’re almost certainly going to be disappointed. And maybe – given budgets, efficiencies and a supposedly gloomy outlook for the economy – maybe that’s the way it should be?
:: The picture at the top of this blog post was published to Flickr by 10 Downing Street. I’m sure they won’t quibble over copyright given that it’s a picture of a tv picture.
:: The picture above was published by Jamie London Boy on Flickr and is used here in accordance with the Creative Commons Licence