Wedding bells - Chris Cork - Monday, May 02, 2011

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Averse to both weddings and royalty as I am and cynical to a fault, even I found a scintilla of happiness in the marriage of William and Catherine last Friday. Like most English people of my generation I remembered the wedding of Charles and Diana thirty years ago, and the razzmatazz that went with it; soon to be replaced by knowledge of the misery of an unhappy match, adultery on both sides, divorce and eventually death in a car crash for the fairytale princess.

My wife and I were in Islamabad when Diana’s death was announced, and I remember both the shock and the sadness that I felt. I was astonished that there was a similar sense of shock and grief around me. The people of Pakistan had taken Diana to their hearts as had much of the rest of the world and there was a hush on the streets that was palpable.

In Islamabad again, minus wife but with other family members, we watched as did many others here a vintage piece of pomp and circumstance that nobody does like the Brits. We probably invented this stuff anyway which will give us an edge when it comes to putting on a grand show; but there was something that I noticed about this one that has been missing in much of what I have seen of my home country in recent years. What I noticed was that this was Britain wearing its happy face. So often we see imagery of riots, disorder, this or that downturn in the economy or some politician wriggling on the hook. But this was a day of happiness, and it flowed out of the TV screen and all over us in a comfortable wash that left us smiling, pleased to be peripherally a part of a magical day.

What was also different was the couple at the centre of it all. They looked genuinely pleased to be doing what they were doing. This was no arranged marriage between royal families. One side was decidedly royal – William will one day be king of England (...and Scotland, northern Ireland and Wales as well about which there is less than universal rejoicing) but the woman he married comes from a more ordinary background.

Catherine Middleton comes from a successful middle class family. She met William at university and they have had a relationship for almost a decade. There is not much that William and Kate do not know about one another. They lived together before marriage in a rented farmhouse, without staff to look after them. They did their own shopping, cooked their own food. William has a real job, and flies search and rescue helicopters. Catherine may not be able to return to her old job in the family business; but one suspects that she is not going to be putting her feet up whilst a liveried flunkey burnishes her toenails.

That bedrock of shared experience shone through as they went through the ceremony, eventually to emerge before a crowd of hundreds of thousands on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. This was a truly happy couple, and there was nothing contrived about the brace of kisses they exchanged – it was possible to believe that these two people really did love one another and that their marriage has a real chance of success.

Later in the evening I spent time with a few of my fellow countrymen. There was something of a rosy glow about the gathering. We cynics put our negativism ‘on hold’ and even the most stonyhearted of us softened a little. Bon-voyage William and Kate, and sail safe on the sea of matrimony.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail. com

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