LONDON, United Kingdom - The world is now eagerly anticipating the biggest event of the year, or perhaps, of the decade. The William-Kate royal wedding has captured the world’s attention since the day the Clarence House announced their engagement last year.
From wedding souvenirs to a US telefilm about the couple, this spectacle is getting bigger and more intriguing as the big day is fast approaching. Everyone is excitedly waiting for this beautiful, simple daughter of self-made millionaires from Berkshire, England as she walks down the aisle to marry a real life prince from Buckingham Palace. Then it will become part of world history.
But not everybody knows that Kate and William’s royal wedding has almost the same UK social, political and economic situations when the prince’s parents, Princess Diana and Prince Charles, tied the knot 30 years ago.
The 1981 UK recession and 2011 budget cuts
The year 2011 started in the United Kingdom with newspapers and television news headlining not only about the royal wedding but also on government’s budget cuts on public services. Cuts on social housing, education, health services, welfare benefits, and employment in the government triggered massive rallies in the country at the start of this year.
A month before Prince William and Kate’s wedding, an estimated 500,000 people organized a big march in London to condemn the cutbacks that will affect a large number of the British population. Some protesters targeted popular UK marks such as the Trafalgar Square. Others have expressed their anger and disagreement through targeting luxury shops and business establishments such as The Ritz Hotel. Riots happened in isolated areas where some protesters attacked the police.
Thirty years ago, also months before the wedding of the Prince of Wales to a simple unknown kindergarten teacher Diana Spencer, riots stormed many parts of Britain. The Brixton riots on April 1981 had caused the burning of numbers of establishments in the city and injured police and civilians. Several incidents like these were also reported from riots that happened outside the capital like in Leeds, Birmingham, and Liverpool.
The riots were reportedly triggered by unemployment, proper housing and other issues with racial tension in these areas where there were large ethnic minority groups live.
Today, these common problems on jobs and even on social housing remain the same. But not just on particular areas in the UK but in the entire country.
The BBC reported 30 years ago that more than 2.5 million Britons were out of work. Today, BBC has published a new statistics on unemployment rate citing that youth unemployment alone in the country now has almost reached the one million mark. There are estimated 963,000 young Britons who are unemployed today. And many of the unemployed in the UK are depending on jobseekers’ allowance.
Britain’s Conservative Party in power
In 1981, during the July summer wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, the Conservative Party was also in power led by Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
The Daily Telegraph noted that when Thatcher won the elections, the Labour Party lost power for 18 years. The recession that reportedly started in the late 70’s due to rising oil prices and trade union militancy had cost the Labour Party’s reign in the parliament.
This is not totally different from what have happened during last year’s general election when David Cameron from the Conservative Party was appointed as the new prime minister of Great Britain. Cameron’s rose into power was also to the British discontent on the Labour Party’s handling of the war in Iraq and again, the recession.
But 30 years ago, budget cuts under the Conservative Party on different public services that hit Britons is partly still the same today under the government of the same ruling party.
According to The Daily Telegraph historical timeline, the Iron Lady, Prime Minister Thatcher, had “applied swinging cuts to public spending in an attempt to curb inflation and attack the power of the unions, helping send the battered British economy into recession” in 1981.
The inflation rate nowadays, released by the government days before the royal wedding, is certainly lower than 30 years ago and for the past months. The inflation rate in 1981 before Prince Charles wedding to Diana reached 11.9%, unlike today’s rate of 4%. But a report from The Independent newspaper said the 4% inflation rate released few days before the wedding might just be a ‘short-lived’ due to the UK pounds' weakening value, which might increase the rate again to 5%.
A “temporary break”
Due to the economic situation of the United Kingdom and in other countries with the remnants of the latest recession that shook the global economy, the royal wedding is seen as a ‘temporary break’ for every fan of the royal family, or even those who are just fascinated with the monarchy.
A “temporary break” not just for people in the Great Britain but for everyone who is now tired of hearing news about economic crisis, rising oil prices, unemployment rates, calamities and political unrest in parts of the world.
Like Prince Charles-Diana wedding, Prince William and Kate’s wedding is expected to attract millions of viewers across the globe that might even outnumbered the 750 million people who witnessed the summer wedding of Princess Di.
Both weddings were declared national holiday in the UK. Interestingly, there were also scheduled on the 29th day of the month, Princess Di and Prince Charles got married on July 29, 1981 and Kate and Prince William this coming April 29. And despite of the economic condition during the 1980’s and today’s situation, British people still welcome this event as an important part of their social, political and historical identity as a society that still lives with a monarchy.
Royal Wedding: A ‘pause’ with a historical value
Jasper Randoph Sy, a Filipino New Media student in BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) in Vancouver, Canada takes the Kate-William’s royal wedding as no different from a celebrity wedding but with a historical value.
“I think you can look at it that way, like any celebrity wedding or event. But I think (since) there is a history attached to it,” he said.
He also believes that the royal wedding is more of a “pause” than a distraction and will receive the same attention despite of the calamities that happened in the world.
“We can also say that it's more a “pause” than a distraction. I mean they're getting married regardless of what happens. There would still be the same amount of attention to the thing,” he added.
Others also see the royal wedding not of great importance and stressed that there are important things the world needs to focus on.
Jonathan Stone, a resident of New York, pointed out that there are other relevant matters that people should talk about.
“I definitely think we have more important issues to be worrying about than a wedding,” he said.
But some people like Jenny Christine Samong, a senior carer in Romsey, England, looks at the royal wedding as the event that lightens up the world’s present condition with the different issues and problems that it is facing.
“After all the terrible things that is happening around the world, somehow this wedding makes the atmosphere a bit lighter,” she said.
As the wedding day approaches and people around the world is again witnessing a fairy tale that inspires and gives hope to many women out there who aspire to marry their own prince someday, many are also hoping that their marriage is not a repeat of the love story that made history 30 years ago but did not end with the “they lived happily ever after” scenario that everyone had expected.
Watch "The Royal Wedding of the Century," an ABS-CBN News special coverage, on April 29, 2011, on the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Studio 23, Lifestyle Network, and Velvet.