I must admit that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to that Wedding today. Wall to wall TV coverage, street parties, fawning media…
In fact, I remembered Diana’s wedding to Charles, and even more, her funeral. I remembered the over-the-top emotion of all that. How everyone cried with happiness at “the People’s Princess” getting married, followed every twist and turn of her story with Charles in the pages of “Hello” and the Daily Mirror, and then cried again at her funeral.
At that time, especially during the funeral, I felt very much like an exile in a foreign land. It was as though Britain was bewitched. Tony Blair was in charge of “Cool Britannia”, and Cool Britannia was crying for the People’s Princess and sneering at the Queen for not putting the flags at half mast quickly enough.
Today, though, an older Britain reasserted itself. The celebrations for William and Catherine’s wedding were just as colourful, and very much just as wall-to-wall. But they were much more dignified, more calm, more restrained, more British.
The tears at Diana’s funeral felt as if the British were ashamed of themselves, and beating themselves up over her death.
At the celebrations today, it again felt as if we were proud of our traditions, of our monarchy, of everything that has prevented Britain suffering under dictatorships over the years.
Not for us the parades of tanks, missiles and frog-marching soldiers that characterise the celebrations of so many countries.
Nor the gushing emotions and extravangant feelings of others.
In our British celebrations, our soldiers ride on immaculate horses and wear armour that gleams in the sun, and our cheers are restrained – but no less heartfelt. Watching the police shepherding that huge crowd down towards Buckingham Palace to see the Royal Family on the balcony, I wondered in how many other countries that could have been done without the crowd getting out of control and people getting hurt.
Margaret Thatcher, in her autobiography, recalls overhearing a European diplomat saying “Britain’s back”, after one of her handbaggings.
Today, it really did feel as if Britain truly is back this time.
Cool Britannia is dead. Long live Britain.