The Bells Are Ringing…

Trends & Culture - May 9th, 2011

by Ian de Stains OBE

It has been 30 years since the last significant Royal Wedding in the UK; that of Charles, Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer. It was a fairy-tale event, one that was watched throughout the world: a first, thanks to far-reaching technology that by today’s standards looks positively steam-age. A marriage that was to end in sadness and amid recriminations unworthy of all those involved. And yet in hindsight, none of us should have been that surprised. Newsreels and countless miles of newsprint examined now, provide us with ample evidence that this was a match not exactly made in heaven.

Now the first born child of that marriage, His Royal Highness Prince William is about to take a bride. Catherine Middleton is a commoner (which is to say she does not descend from a titled, nor even a landed, family; indeed a matter of three generations ago her ancestors were coal miners) and someone not brought up in the circumstances normally expected of a would-be member of one of the grandest Royal families of Europe. But perhaps it is this very quality that makes Kate (as she is affectionately known by a largely adoring public) a figure of hope for the very future of that family.

The matriarch, Queen Elizabeth, is widely admired and respected for her sense of duty and the fact that she has managed to maintain her poise and dignity throughout a reign of almost 60 years. Even those antagonistic to the idea of a monarchy credit her with that and very few indeed would wish to see her abdicate or be forced to give up the throne. But there are increasingly loud voices that question the matter of the succession. All but one of the Sovereign’s children (Prince Edward, the youngest) have weathered failed marriages, some of which have invited lurid tabloid coverage. (Anne, the Princess Royal, though divorced and re-married appears to have escaped the ripest criticism, perhaps because of her obvious devotion to her duties and the fact that her immediate family keeps a deliberately low profile.) But her brothers, Charles and Andrew, have featured prominently in the headlines, principally because of their relationships with less-than low-profile women.

Diana, Princess of Wales, was a beautiful woman possessed of exceptional charm. But she was possessed, too, by inner demons that ultimately—after her separation from the Prince of Wales—led to her untimely death. Sarah, Duchess of York—also separated from her husband, Prince Andrew—is another story altogether and manages still to embarrass the Royal Family which, in fairness, has much to be embarrassed about in the person of the Duke himself who despite the obvious devotion of his mother appears to have inherited little of her dignity and discretion.

The media—and not just the tabloids and Fox-like pretend news channels—are making much of the April 29th wedding of William and Kate. In the UK, and indeed around the world—there is a considerable outpouring of goodwill for these two young people as they start out on their life together. There is also a great expectation: that this will prove to be a match that will restore confidence in the institution that is the Royal Family—“the Firm”—as it is known internally. William was brought up in the knowledge that he will one day be King. We must all wish devoutly that Kate will be given the love and support she will need to become Queen Consort.

Ian de Stains OBE is the author of  “Japan: The Business Traveller’s Handbook,” available from