With the round-the-clock British media coverage of the royal family in the days leading up to the big day for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it would be hard not to conclude that this year’s wedding of weddings is a source of delight for every Briton.
But not everyone in Britain remains as excited as the thousands already crowding into Windsor to claim a spot that will allow them to grab a glimpse of the wedding couple and the pomp and circumstance. Social media was littered with all kinds of memes deriding the wedding ceremony.
Oscar-winning British actress Emma Thompson chimed in, telling a TV interviewer: “There’s not a single thought about it in my head to share with you.”
And some viewers are expressing frustration with the incessant focus on the wedding — on the preparations, who’s coming and not, what the couple will wear and what they will eat. The BBC Breakfast show incurred the wrath of some for its all-consuming focus on the royal wedding and its constant and breathless updates.
On Twitter some viewers grumbled: “Non-stop coverage of the #RoyalWedding on @BBCBreakfast this morning. Thankfully, there’s no other news happening at all,” one wrote. Another remarked: “REPORT SOME ACTUAL BL***Y NEWS #bbcbreakfast #RoyalWedding.”
The activist anti-monarchy group Republic, which wants the monarchy abolished and replaced with an elected head of state, demanded on its website Friday that the BBC and other British channels stop celebrating the royal wedding and report in a balanced way.
“The monarchy is a contentious issue. It provides us with a head of state and lies at the heart of our constitution. This issue must be treated by broadcasters as politics, not entertainment,” said Graham Smith of Republic. “The BBC has willfully ignored a string of stories that might put a different complexion on the wedding story. They continue to celebrate and promote the monarchy, not simply report on it.”
Republic said BBC News had largely ignored stories about the removal of homeless people from streets in Windsor and “widespread criticism” of how much money the British taxpayer will have to pay for the wedding. It pointed to a poll conducted by YouGov this week that suggested nearly a third of the British public would like to see the monarchy abolished.
The poll showed the Scottish as the least likely to like the queen or care about the future of the monarchy, with key findings showing that north of the border with England fewer than half of Scots approve of the queen and most believe that Britain’s lawmakers should swear allegiance to the country and not the monarch. Three-quarters of Scots told the pollsters they were not interested in Saturday’s wedding.
Royal critics have highlighted the bad news for the monarchy in the poll. But overall the royal family and the institution of the nonarchy remains popular, with 68 percent of the British public believing the institution is good for the country.
The poll coincided with an important landmark for the queen, who is now the longest-serving monarch in British history, overtaking Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years, seven months and two days.
Despite the mounting criticism during the week of the public costs of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day, the royal family tried to disarm possible criticism early by announcing that they would meet the costs of the wedding itself. But because they also receive money from taxpayers, it was unclear how much of their private money would defray the costs.
And British taxpayers will still have to foot a huge bill to cover the security and municipal costs. Thames Valley police will be providing most of the security in Windsor. The last royal wedding in 2011 between Prince William and Kate Middleton cost nearly $8.7 million, according to Britain’s Press Association.
Some commentators said the costs should be lower this time because the wedding is being held outside London, reducing logistical challenges. British minsters declined to comment on spending related to the royal wedding, saying no information would be released before the event.
But Britain’s Independent newspaper reported Friday that the cost of the big event would be much higher than previously thought. Wedding planning service Bridebook said the wedding itself would most likely cost $43 million. And some security analysts estimated the security bill at $40 million — a big jump from the 2011 royal wedding because of heightened threat levels in Britain following a string of terror attacks over the past 18 months.
British ministers say any public money used for the wedding is money well spent, arguing the event will encourage more tourists — especially Americans — to visit Britain. But no evidence was supplied by the government to show that that was the case in 2011.
“These royal weddings epitomize the British monarchy’s fondness for reverse Robin Hood economics, whereby wealth is redistributed from ordinary people, via their taxes, to a fabulously rich family that on such occasions appears not very modern, at all; in fact, it all feels rather feudal,” said Patrick Basham, the founding director of the Democracy Institute, a Washington- and London-based libertarian think tank.
He told VOA: “A royal family savvier about the optics would have refused, for example, taxpayers footing the vast security bill. Instead, wedding sponsorship would have been procured from the British fashion, music and tourism industries, which would serve to get taxpayers off the hook — a huge PR win — and provide significant global branding opportunities for leading domestic companies and entrepreneurs.”