Monarchy and the public By Jonathan Freedland - Sunday 1st May 2011

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WHAT memory will live on? For those who lined the Mall, painting their faces red, white and blue, or who just stayed home watching on television — what will they remember?
The kiss on the balcony will be the image replayed in perpetuity, just as it was when William`s mother and father married 30 years ago — the difference being that this time they looked like a couple genuinely in love.
Others will talk about the pageantry, a show no one lays on quite like the British. It`s a fair bet that almost no one will remember the words. Even the eyes of the wedding couple wandered during the spoken bits. Yet when the Dean of Westminster invoked a “mystical union”, he surely got close to the essence both of the royal wedding and of something much larger.
The literal reference was to the bond between Christ and the church, but he could just as easily have been describing the “mystical union” that exists, and was reinforced in spectacular style on Friday, between Britain and the royal family. For what we witnessed was the mysterious alchemy that somehow converts love of country into affection for the House of Windsor.
The emblem of it was the banner waved by many in the crowds, the same one that has been on display in shop windows throughout the land: a union flag, with a portrait of William and Kate at its centre.
The scale of the crowds, like the fervour of the broadcasters, was a reminder of just how rare such displays are in Britain. We have no national day, no Fourth of July. World Cup victories are rarer than coronations and, besides, sporting events are complicated: the teams often represent England or Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland alone rather than Britain.
As for the union flag, that too can be fraught — residually associated with a nasty strain of nationalism rather than simple, sentimental patriotism.
Royal occasions sidestep all these difficulties. They are all-encompassingly British — note the Scottish titles handed to William and Kate, as well as the one that makes the prince sound like a pub: the Duke of Cambridge. But they are also unthreatening, the union flag rendered utterly benign once there`s a smiling young couple in the middle of it.
This, then, is how Britain does patriotism. Too ironic and embarrassed to make the “Is this a great country or what?” declarations of the Americans, we channel our feelings through the outlet of a single family, praising them rather than ourselves. Note our national anthem. Not a song about us at all, it is entirely focused on them. We don`t ask God to save Britain — but to save the Queen.  —The Guardian, London

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