I had no intention of getting up at 5 am US East Coast time to watch the royal wedding, but my body clock had other plans. Up at five, I thought I’d just turn on the television set and take a peek: two and a half hours later, I was still mesmerized by the screen. It wasn’t just Westminster Abbey, or the hats- could the Queen’s have looked more like an iced cake?- or the electrifying moment when a Mohamed el-Fayed look-alike was mistakenly misidentified by Katie Couric. It was the small details, the telling human gestures you only catch live: Prince William awkwardly trying to smooth his sparse hair after taking off his cap when he first enters the Abbey, or fumbling with the button on his white glove before handing his bride into their carriage; Prince Harry looking for someone to relieve him of the program in a hurry and saddling a guest with it; Katherine licking her lips repeatedly in the carriage, as if she were thirsty. For all the commentators repeated how relaxed she was, she appeared to me strained, as if she hadn’t slept or eaten in a week.
The level of voyeurism reached new heights with this wedding. I watched my first British royal wedding, Princess Anne’s to Marc Phillips, in London as a homesick student; my second, Prince Charles’ to Diana, from Michigan, as a homesick new expatriate to the US. But William and Kate’s wedding was staged on an entirely different level, down to hairdressers and make-up artists waiting “backstage” to touch them up when they went to sign the registry, down to rehearsing camera angles for the famous balcony kiss. The uncharitable thought went through my head that William and Kate were perhaps the world’s highest paid actors. But then came the redeeming kiss: not the scripted romantic lip-lock, but a quick, discreet peck, asserting that there were limits, after all, to the role they were willing to play for the public. Good for them!