Royal wedding: America's love affair with the monarchy

 

Rabbi Howard Berman, a royal enthusiast from Boston, exhibits his collection of memorabilia

When Prince William and Kate Middleton walk down the aisle as many as two billion people are predicted to tune in to watch. Many of these are expected to be in America, a country which has long had a fascination with Britain's first family.

It is a long distance relationship which shows no signs of cooling.

Passion, excitement and interest in the British Royal Family is at an all time high for many Americans. They are as engaged in the impending nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton as many back in the UK, if not more so.

The US media networks certainly can't get enough of it.

Coverage of every last detail of the wedding, from the appearance of Kate's tiara and the wedding invitations, to royal etiquette and history, has been a daily fixture on America's morning shows.

Nico Evers-Swindell who plays Prince William and Camilla Luddington (right) who plays Kate Middleton on the set of Lifetime"s film, William and Kate The royal couple, Hollywood style - actors in the TV film William and Kate

This is all building up to what is set to be a record television viewing event - the US networks are despatching their top anchors and hundreds of journalists are flying to London to report on the big day on April 29th.

ABC news is sending a cast of its most high profile presenters, including Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters, to London to present a range of specially themed programmes across the week.

Media interest isn't just confined to the major news outlets. A television movie, William and Kate, which charts how the couple met, will be broadcast on the TLC network. The entertainment channel E! will be hosting special coverage, for the younger audience, the Disney channel will be showing princess-themed cartoons. The Weather Channel is even getting in on proceedings.

"Weather will of course be a big part of the story of the wedding," says David Blumenthal, a spokesman for the channel.

The network will broadcast the latest London forecasts during the week of the wedding, and is also sending its anchor Al Roker to the city to host his show. If that wasn't enough meteorological material, the channel is showing features on Anglesey, the royal couple's new home.

Alarm call

The timing of the wedding ceremony means American fans of all things royal will have to rise early to show their dedication. With the ceremony beginning at 1100 UK time, that means a 0600 start for the east coast. But many are planning royal wedding parties and events on the scale of some in the UK. Hotels around the US are throwing watch parties, and avid royal enthusiasts are planning events of their own.

Start Quote

The lack of royalty or monarchy historically makes it especially interesting for Americans - there is perhaps a gap that is filled in the pageantry ”

End Quote Karen Cerulo Sociology professor, Rutgers university.

Howard Berman, a self confessed anglophile and rabbi from Boston, will be setting his alarm early, to watch the wedding with a group of friends at his synagogue.

Seeing things from afar will be a contrast to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, for which he stood with the crowds in London for a glimpse of the royal procession.

The trip to London all those years ago, is what kick-started an obsession with all things Diana, and a collection which boasts more than 2,000 items of royal memorabilia, from the colourful to the kitsch.

"Americans have had this very idealistic romantic, fascination with what the Royal Family represents," says Mr Berman, who concedes it might seem unusual for a rabbi to hold such a interest.

"It's a point of identity in a society that transcends politics," he says.

"Every leader of our government is a political figure and the idea that there is a national iconic symbol that goes above that is fascinating for us."

Theological meaning

Mr Berman is one of a number of serious royal collectors in the United States. He has also lectured on the subject, and believes an interest in British royalty is far from frivolous.

A man attending a memorial service for Diana, Princess of Wales in New York uses the program to shield his eyes from the sun as he watches a sky-writing aircraft sketch a heart in the sky Remembering Diana - a sky writer sketches a heart over a memorial service for the late princess, in New York

"What made Diana's funeral so interesting for me, aside from a celebration of her interesting life, was the theological significance of it, as the largest shared religious worship service in world history."

A BBC America reality show, Royally Obsessed, which airs on 11 April, features some of the more hardcore royal enthusiasts in America. For many of the contestants on that show, as with Mr Berman, it was Princess Diana who fired their enthusiasm.

Viewing figures for her funeral in 1997 were 33 million people - more than the total who tuned in to watch Michael Jackson's or Ronald Reagan's funeral, according to Nielsen media research.

The fact one of Diana's children is getting married is one reason why so many people are particularly gripped with this wedding, says Karen Cerulo, a sociology professor at Rutgers university.

"I think this is seen as one happy ending to what was otherwise a tragic story," she says.

The glamorous young couple, who regularly feature on the cover of glossy magazines are also attractive to a slice of America which follows celebrity culture, she says.

Love-hate relationship

"I also think that the lack of a kind of royalty or monarchy historically in the US makes it especially interesting for Americans. There is perhaps a gap that is filled in the pageantry."

There is another elephant in the room, which is what she describes as the "love-hate" relationship Americans have with the UK, its colonial past, and the idea that in the creation of modern-day America the very idea of a monarchy was considered then eschewed.

"Americans love the idea that we are the story of the birth of democracy, but on the other hand there's something extremely attractive about the history and roots that monarchies present."

But while there are those who find that history compelling, and will devour the wall-to-wall coverage, just as in the UK, there is also discord and harmony when it comes to views on the royals.

Dan Zohn, a 26-year-old from California, speaks for many when he sets down his frank opinion of the royal wedding: "I couldn't care less about it."

"I'm just ready to get back to my regular TV programmes - because it's on the news all the time."

Royal bride to be Kate Middleton has family connections to US founding father George Washington, US researchers say.

Mr Zohn jokes that the constant portrayal of a perfect couple is "making guys look bad", but argues that the concept of a monarchy is "antiquated, obsolete and defunct."

He may feel that way but there are many Americans willing to go the extra mile in their pursuit of all things royal. The British tourism agency, VisitBritain, is predicting a spike in visits as a result of the wedding.

"It's been sensational," says Chris Lynn, from London & Partners, a tourism agency.

"It almost seems that there's more excitement from this side, than possibly the UK itself."

 

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