Pomp, Circumstance, and All That

I don’t remember my mother waking me up at 4 o’clock in the morning. I was probably bundled in to the car in my jammies. I’m not a morning person still. I don’t recall what the bride wore or who the bridesmaids and page boys were. I do have a recollection of watching TV and seeing the bride and groom. I have a distinct memory of getting dressed at our neighbor’s house and leaving for school with my neighbor’s son. I know that we watched TV at our neighbors as they had color and we had a rolling picture black and white TV.

As a 7-year-old, I probably wondered why in the world I had to get up in the middle of the night to watch Princess Anne marry Captain Mark Phillips. But, traditions are strong. Traditions are never stronger than when you are living in a foreign country. As a little kid, I recall my mother frantically searching the grocery stores in New Jersey for tea bags that she could tolerate. On trips back to England, we devoured Cornish pasties, Ribena, Bovril, and even a ploughman’s lunch.

The commemorative cover of the "Radio Times" for the week of the Royal Wedding.

By the time Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, I was 16 and living in England. It was the summer holidays. I set my alarm clock for 6 a.m. to watch all the pre-wedding coverage. And by “everything” I mean that BBC filmed the young men in Adidas t-shirts rolling out the red carpet down the aisle at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

No detail was too small to be mentioned. I found out by watching the gavel-to-gavel coverage that the King of Tonga brought his own throne to St. Paul’s. I knew all the words to the song Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sang. I could name all the bridesmaids and tell you how they were related to or knew Charles and Diana.

Let’s see if I can remember all of them. From oldest to youngest…Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones (now Chatto) was Prince Charles’ cousin…India Hicks was the granddaughter of Prince Phillip’s friend Lord Mountbatten…Clementine Hambro was the great granddaughter of Winston Churchill. The page boys were Edward van Cutsem who was the son of Charles’ best friend and Lord Nicholas Windsor who is the youngest son of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. O.K., so I checked and I’m missing Sarah Jane Gaselee who was the daughter of Charles’ horse trainer. It was a few years ago!

The map of the layout of St. Paul's...no detail too small.

When the wedding started at 10ish, I was ready around 6 a.m. I had the video cassette player set to record. We didn’t have VHS or Betamax, but an offbrand English version called Video 2000. The only plus about this system was that you could record on both sides of the videocassette tape. A handy feature when recording lengthy Royal Weddings and the LiveAid concert.

I was also armed with my scrapbook. For weeks before the wedding I clipped stories out of the newspaper about Diana’s childhood, Charles’ polo playing, family trees for both bride and groom showing that they were distantly related, and even a schedule of the events of the wedding day. Did you watch Diana’s wedding?

I watched a year or two later when Fergie got married. I wasn’t as obsessive about that wedding. No scrapbook. I did get up very early. Prince William was a rambunctious pageboy at Fergie’s wedding.

A page from my scrapbook of Princess Diana's wedding -- 1981

I caught a news clip on Prince Edward’s wedding to Sophie. I’m sure there have been other weddings of the younger royals, but no wedding could match Charles and Di’s wedding. He was a bachelor of many years standing and she was barely 20. Not really a match made in heaven. We now know that he never stopped his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. He “carried” on with another woman before and during his marriage. Not a nice move, was it?

Once I moved to the U.S. in 1985, I lost interest in the Royals, and even stopped following English news. America was my home and to all intents and purposes I was an American even before I became a citizen in 1992.

England will always be the country of my birth…the place where I spent my infancy, toddlerhood, and a few years in my late childhood…and finally where I spent my middle and high school years. But, America? America will always be my home.

It’s 12:32 a.m. I’d better scuttle off to bed so that I can be somewhat awake for the Royal Wedding.

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