You've got to hand it to those Brits: They know how to wear hats. Of all of the rituals and Anglican fashion necessities at this morning's Greatly Anticipated Royal Wedding, it was the hats that disappointed least. Sure, there were some duds; there's already a Facebook page devoted to mocking Princess Beatrice's squidlike topper. But if a wedding is, at heart, an excuse for everyone to play dress-up, you might as well do it big. If Kate and Wills' wedding brings back headgear for us all, then all of that expenditure won't have been for naught.
Don't get me wrong; I don't mind that the world took a break from bad news to gawk at the wedding today. Life-cycle events are important. Collective celebrations are human. Traditions are important, too, and the royals and their voluminous staff made sure this was a wholly traditional affair. Yes, Kate Middleton for chose a form-fitting dress — as opposed to the cream-puff Diana wore — but still, it was long-sleeved, and heavy on the lace. William was decked out in a Prince Charming get-up that made him look even more like a cartoon character than usual. They rode in a horse-drawn carriage. They waved the royal wave. Their kiss on the Buckingham Palace balcony was a traditional royal peck. Oh, would that they had stunned their public with one of those swooning dips that could make a girl dizzy! But these Windsors seem to understand that their job is to succumb to history, rather than make it themselves.
Perhaps this will be the first disappointment in the new royal life of the Former Kate Middleton. Another is the title: Kate is not officially called "Princess Catherine" now; instead, she and her husband are technically the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She does, however, have to now be called Her Royal Highness, which is the strangest thing of all. Think about the actual meaning of those words, the suggestion that she's now a different category of being. "The King's Speech" worked, in part, because it conveyed how odd it must have felt, for an awkward and underconfident man, to have to be called "Your Majesty" by everyone he met. Will Kate chafe, too, at the separation from the rest of the world that her new title confers?
And aren't you glad, even on a day like today, that America has no analog? Yes, we have a "Mr. President" and a "Madam Secretary" and a "Mr. Speaker," but those are jobs, not states of existence, and getting one of them has little to do with who your parents happened to be. The royalty is a fun diversion, a living link to history, and I can understand why the Brits aren't willing to give it up. Still, I prefer our post-Revolution way of life, where birth isn't destiny, and somebody can call herself Queen Latifah and make it so.
Photo: AP/Matt Dunham