Friday, April 29, 2011
Don't Say Fairytale
Why do we go weak at the knee when royal couples marry? Why do we weep when doomed princesses die? Why do we love to despise the ugly stepmother? Why do we criticise the whole shennanigan and then turn out to watch?
Perhaps the Egyptians understood this better than we do ourselves. They knew their pharoahs were destined to join the panthaeon of the gods. The people of Egypt knew that their own destinies were intimately entwined with those of their own leaders. If a dynasty failed, a whole civilisation would come crashing to its knees. The story discontinued, the great sustaining myth brought to an end.
The British Royal Family is Eastenders on acid. It is so much more intimate. So much more real. The wounds are real wounds. The deaths are real deaths. The love is real love. The hatred real hatred. To watch it, at its most epic moments, sends shivers down our spines as if someone were walking over our own graves.
Today, as William and Kate walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, the commentator made a particular point of saying that this was not a fairytale. That, in view of historical events, William and Kate had only realistic expectations of their future together. And all the way through Horseguards and down the Mall, the word was never spoken. It became conspicuous by its absence. The commentary became anodine, pregnant with expectation of that one word.
Then at the end of the Mall, just outside Buckingham Palace, the veil finally slipped: the f-word was at last mentioned several times, almost in unison, by a chorus of commentators chanting the magical incantation. And why? Because the commentators saw the couple right in front of their commentary box. For the first time, they witnessed the magical spectacle with their own eyes. And no doubt the communal electricity was setting the hair of their necks on end.
What is a fairytale? It is a story. It is something not real. It is Peter Pan. It is Thumbelina. Something magical. Something that transcends time. A love affair with the gods. A myth. Fairytales never go away. We cling onto them. They are a promise of immortality. A promise that can lift certain individuals out of the drudgery of normality into another sphere of action over which they have little control. Their lives are no longer their own. Their destinies become controlled by the planets and the stars. "Did you see how the sun shone on them as they went into the church? And then again as they left?" said one spectator. Then she paused and considered, before pronouncing: "The sun shines on the righteous". Listen to those words. The sun shines on the righteous. The sun, over which we normally assume we have no control, shines on the righteous. And it really does...
From today, Kate Middleton is no longer herself. She is a fairytale princess. The hopes of William and Kate to just go on being themselves are over. Now the world is watching. The story has begun. The first act is finished. No, they will not come back onto the balcony for a second kiss. This is not tawdry show business. This is the real thing.