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Why we loved the Royal Wedding

Sam Stryker | Monday, April 30, 2012

 

Oedipus, the mythical Greek king of Thebes, had a complex relationship with his mother. He unknowingly fulfills a prophecy that he will kill his own father and marry his mother – dooming his city in the process. 

As peculiar as Oedipus’ relationship with his mother was, the Greek king had nothing on what America feels towards its mommy, England. A former collection of colonies of the British Empire, we declared independence from our matriarch almost two and a half centuries ago. Yet to this day, we cannot help to be obsessed with anything and everything British. 

We love their music (ranging from the Beatles to Adele), their literature (Dickens to the “Harry Potter” novels), their television (“Downton Abbey”) and even their celebrities (the Beckhams). 

Even the most esteemed American pop culture icons can’t seem to get enough “British” in their lives – witness Madonna’s faux-British accent. It seems the only British things we Americans haven’t gobbled up for our own are driving on the left side of the road and dental care (or lack thereof) – and I’m not complaining about either.

But there is one uniquely British tradition that, try as we might, we Americans are never going to replicate, nor claim as our own in any way, shape or form – the most British of ceremonies, royal weddings. 

Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, marrying Kate Middleton, a commoner who met William while she was studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

The spectacle of their wedding was unparalleled by anything we Americans could produce. Even the most American of celebrations we can muster never could match the once-in-a-generation feel of the wedding – the 4th of July happens every year, but the last royal wedding before this one was in 1981. 

Moreover, any sort of wedding Americans of similar stature may hold is usually met with cynicism or ridicule, a la Kim Kardashian’s. These celebrity weddings we pay so much attention too pale in comparison to last year’s royal celebration, and seem almost tacky in contrast. Not to mention the fact that a royal wedding would never be broadcast on E! as a reality special.

And then there are events that define the future of America – but these cannot match the solidarity of celebrating William and Kate’s vows. Even President Obama’s election in 2008, which brought so much hope and change to the country, was not celebrated in all American homes. Yet, Will and Kate’s nuptials across the pond attracted 60 million American viewers, not to mention the scores more around the world.

The Royal Wedding had many tangible magical moments that captured the hearts young and old – the brightest stars in the world in attendance (Elton John and the Beckhams), Kate’s stunning dress, Pippa Middleton’s, ahem, assets, a wedding at Westminster Abbey and to cap it all off, a fairytale kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

But the spectacle isn’t what made the event so special – celebrities, derrieres, over-the-top ceremonies and smooches are a dime-a-dozen these days. The Royal Wedding was extraordinary because something so pure as love was at stake. For a moment, nothing mattered but the true devotion between two people. We held on to this moment on a global scale because there are so few times in any of our lives when something so wholesome occurs.

Americans are jaded – it’s cliché, but we love to tear something down as much as we like to build it up. But as hard as you can try, there aren’t any chinks in Will and Kate’s armor. No one won or lost; there wasn’t a worry about what would happen tomorrow. All that mattered was here and now, these two people were committing to one another – albeit with global exposure and an unparalleled display of bells and whistles. 

We Americans can never have a royal wedding of our own, not just because we don’t have a monarchy, but because a ceremony of such hope is distinctly un-American. We were just as fascinated with the Kim Kardashian’s divorce as we were with her vows to Kris Humphries. Cynicism is as American as baseball or apple pie.

That’s why the Royal Wedding meant so much to us. No matter what we do, a royal wedding is something we cannot physically or emotionally replicate. For one day, we dropped our jaded American personas in favor of celebrating with the Brits. Leave it to a prince and princess to get America to rescind its independence for a day.

Contact Sam Stryker at sstryke1@nd.edu