29 Apr 2011

Royal Wedding: the history and the pantomime

5.40am 29th April 2011: trains clatter past my window overlooking the Euston line at Primrose Hill. A misty morning on an English spring day. Strange day – part the fun of history, part the pantomime of flummery, part the stunning chocolate box of pictorial achievement. Who else can find good reason to dress in scarlet? Prince William is an “honorary Colonel” in the Irish Guards. Except he is said to be the most English potential King in centuries. Either way it will leave him dressed in red.

The thread of history – the indomitable sperm of inheritance that has woven Kingship from, er, was it 1066? Or did Alfred incinerate those cakes in the ninth century, or Canute root his chair in the incoming tide in the eighth? When I was a boy chorister in Winchester Cathedral, Canute’s bones lay in a box on a screen above our heads…I suppose they are still there. This is our unique history.

This is the bit it’s hard to sneer…that’s why our studios are clogged with brawny American men and women – hundreds of them, here to report to a world whose organised history extends little further back than 1776.

Read more: millions wake up to Royal Wedding day of William and Kate

And yet, and yet. This cradle of democracy, this mother of parliaments. Where are “we the people?” Is it we who gather in this mist to marvel? Or do we shift uncomfortably amid the class and hierarchy of non-meritocracy? This tangle of theocracy and monarchy. So hard to encapsulate – the battle in our heads between resigned adherence and know-it-all dismissal.

I must mount my bike, my trusty steed…fix the camera on my handle bars, another on my helmet and weave my way through the day’s proceedings to see who is there, and who will tell their grandchildren “I was there”.

Tweets by @jonsnowC4