'A fairy tale for adults': Academic dissects royal wedding

Britain’s Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle arrive at a service at St Martin-in-The Fields to mark 25 years since Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racially motivated attack, in London April 23, 2018. — Reuters pic
Britain’s Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle arrive at a service at St Martin-in-The Fields to mark 25 years since Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racially motivated attack, in London April 23, 2018. — Reuters pic

LONDON, May 17 — When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot in Windsor on Saturday anthropologist Kaori O’Connor will be keeping a close academic eye on what she refers to as “a fairy tale for adults”.

“It’s like our wedding, our bride,” the University College London academic told AFP.

“Of course we aren’t related to these people but somehow they come to symbolise us,” she said.

“They represent all the things that matter to us that we may never actually be able to enunciate.”

In a society riven with divisions, most notably over Brexit, major royal events are a moment to celebrate shared values.

“It’s touching something deep,” O’Connor said — citing the “core values” of “loyalty”, “family”, “history” and “faith in country” which she believes will resonate among Britons on the wedding day.

Royal events “simplify” these values, said O’Connor.

“Somehow they seem to simplify it. We don’t have to think it — we can just feel it,” she said.

“When you see a really great piece of British ceremony you get tears in the eyes.”

O’Connor, author of anthropological studies including “The Never-Ending Feast: the Archaeology and Anthropology of Feasting” and “The English Breakfast”, said royalty “draws us together”.

‘Tribal behaviour’

O’Connor is particularly interested in the keen royal fans who will camp out in Windsor on the night before the wedding to secure the best viewing spot.

“It is tribal behaviour,” she said.

Tourists have descended on the town from around the world. An Ipsos survey revealed that interest in the wedding may go much further than just Britain.

The poll of 21,000 people in 28 countries showed that in Britain 34 per cent of people were at least “fairly interested”, but the figure was far higher in India at 54 per cent and South Africa 49 per cent.

O’Connor said the royal wedding provides a “fairy tale for adults” that can have wide appeal.

“It’s a very rare thing and it is a fairy tale come true, and just for a minute we can all let ourselves believe in it.”

In Markle’s native United States, the proportion showing an interest in the wedding was also 34 per cent.

For O’Connor this is evidence of the American need for a set of surrogate grandparents — an ideal of stability above the squabbling politicians meant to be parenting the country.

“The thing about monarchy is it has a kind of a structure and an order that’s above the kind of democratic chaos that you see for example with the American presidency,” she said.

“The monarchy is above all of that and there’s a continuity. The American president changes every four or eight years but the monarchy goes on forever.” — AFP

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