Princess Kate: What do I have to do to make this marriage work, your Highness?
Queen Elizabeth: Always wear your seatbelt and never piss me off.
The gag above has made me chuckle since I read it last night on Twitter. As always with good jokes, it carries more than a grain of truth. Because if there's one institution the British royal family resembles more than any other, it's the Mafia. They both talk funny, are bound by weird customs, die in suspicious circumstances, fall out of favour, and make lots of money by doing very little other than simply being there.
Today's wedding brought the UK to a stop. I went out earlier, while the ceremony was taking place, and there were very few people around, even less than on Christmas day. It was great. I exchanged a few knowing, smug Republican nods with the other souls taking advantage of the quiet streets, drank in a coffee and the silence. I don't like the royal family, I don't believe in it, and I think it would best for all concerned, not least its members, living in the goldfish bowl, bound by tradition, duty and public prurience, if it was quietly abolished. A fair few people I know share that view, but its unlikely to ever happen, at least in the foreseeable future. The millions who watched the wedding on TV attest to the fact that many more feel there's a place for a royal family, and enjoy their presence. Plus you'll always be told by someone, usually not attached to the tourist industry, that they're good for the tourist industry and bring in millions of pounds. Even if it's true, and it's debatable at best, I reckon they're still in debit. Prince Charles has a full-time flower arranger and member of staff whose job it is to squeeze out his toothpaste. That requires at least 50 buses full of Japanese Tourist each year right there to sub it. And only if they buy a souvenir hat.
For what it's worth, I feel the royal family's existence entrenches the principle that the class into which you were born, and the school you went to, defines who you are and the chances you have in life. The UK is far less socially mobile place than it was even 20 years ago. You only have to look at our woeful, rather dim Prime Minister, raised in wealth, schooled at Eton, to see that embodied. The rest of the cabinet is of a similar hue: male, public school, arrogant, completely detached from the life of real people. I read this week that the story of Princess Kate, as she will now be known, was some sort of rags-to-riches fairytale. She went to Marlborough, one of the most expensive public schools in the land! More well to do upper middle class-to-super riches than anything else. And some fairytale. There to be gawped at, criticised, snapped from every angle, every hour of the day, her every movement and choice scrutinised and analysed. Maybe there will be a happily ever after, but I wouldn't bet on it. A certain ex-Princess might well counsel otherwise.
That said, the wedding, at least from where I've been standing, hasn't been the pain in the backside some thought it might be. Of course the media have been obsessed, but they can be kept at bay by the flick of a switch or the refusal to pick up a paper. Most normal people I've met haven't been talking about it. They just seem happy for the day off work. There will be a few barbecues and street parties this afternoon, but only because, for most of us, we like any excuse to crack open a bottle and have a bit of a knees up.
So here's to William and Kate. May your future be free of paparazzi and tragedy, and, if you're truly lucky, eventually a quiet life free of any kind of monarchial duty.