This too has come to pass… The royal wedding that has for the good part of last month has made headlines, filled news bulletins and set twitter trending topics. While the cyber world takes to talking Princess Katherine’s McQueen dress, Victoria Beckham’s bespoke Louboutin heels, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s reconstructed nose, I take to pondering on weddings and funerals.
There are two ceremonies, I believe, that remind us of our mortality, our humanity and our vulnerability in the face of the transience of time – no matter what race, class, creed we are: weddings and funerals. Not surprising then such occasions, when they are on a grander scale like the royal wedding of today – draw in multitudes worldwide to commiserate/celebrate in unison and no wonder the last time I was in such awe of “swift-footed” Time’s ravaging hand and its iron grasp on our flimsy humanity was over a decade ago at Princess Diana’s funeral.
On an unseasonably gloomy September day in Istanbul on 6 September 1997 – only 20 days before I was due to fly out to England which has since become my second home and just six days after I made a mad dash out the the bathroom in a towel, dripping wet to announce the news of Princess Diana’s death I had heard on the radio mid-hair wash, my mum and I sat in front of the television and watched the funeral at Westminster Abbey. I listened in awe when Lady Jane Fellowes read out these words of wisdom from Henry Van Dyke and duly noted them in my diary:
“Time is too slow for those who wait,
too swift for those who fear,
too long for those who grieve,
too short for those who rejoice
but for those who love, time is eternity.”
At the time, I was still two years away from grieving a parent and experiencing first hand just how long indeed time proves “for those who grieve,” but regardless, my heart went out to the two courageous boys who braved the crowds and displayed the famed British stiff upper lip following the funeral procession right behind the casket of their beloved, untimely gone mother – especially William who was old enough to understand the pain of sleepless nights, waking terror, tears, tantrums, the scandals, the mass hysteria following a very public betrayal an acerbic separation and all that which ensued after. At 15, looking weary with the weight of the world, the young boy with his mother’s flawless aquiline profile and cerulean blue eyes, held his head up, pushed his shoulders back and showed grace beyond the grief, beyond the histrionics, beyond his years.
Over the years, we saw that boy grow up, grow older, grow into a dashing young man. With the effortless charisma and charm he doubtlessly inherited from his late mother and the collected calm with which he handled the heaps of media attention heaved on him, he cut a suave public figure – Britain’s blue-eyed boy who masterfully balanced his role as as a royal in the public eye and life as an ordinary man in his 20s going through what ordinary men in their 20s go though. Gap year, travelling, university, parties, courtship, work experience, dad’s second marriage. The boy who had once told his mum he wanted to be a policeman to protect her knew all too well about the ‘suits and trappings’ of life as a contemporary royal also in equal measure knew how to protect himself and his loved ones from the frenzied paparazzi and the scathing public gaze – whether it was in the relative privacy of his alma mater, St Andrew’s or within the confines of a cottage in Anglesey.
And today, 29 April 2011, on the very same path he followed the casket of his mother, a dashing young man rides along with his equally dashing brother, to join hands in holy matrimony with his beautiful bride – a far cry from and yet oddly reminiscent of a brave 15-year-old we felt for all those years ago. And in the very cathedral Lady Jane Fellowes read that damning definition of time’s passage, Westminster Abbey which has seen his ancestors crowned, married and buried since 1066, once a young boy, now a charming prince, in years to come King of England says his vows. And on that same balcony his mother and father had their first public kiss as newly-weds in 1981, William stands with his Katherine and moves in for not one but two kisses as man and wife.
If it is the case, and I believe it is, that weddings and funerals are two ceremonies that remind us of our mortality, our humanity and our vulnerability in the face of the transience of time – no matter what race, class, creed we are, nothing comes closer than Royal Wedding 2011 – a fairy tale come true of a prince and his girl-next door- cum-princess… From one royal wedding in 1981 to an untimely funeral in 1997 to another royal wedding in 2011, from one ‘People’s Princess’ to perhaps another in the making, from a grieving teenage boy to a beaming young man, it all comes full circle. And while the Bishop of London quotes from Chaucer in his wedding address, I cannot help but quote from another famed English bard who has withstood the test of time, “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace” – or perhaps in the blink of an eye, his chariot hurtling from a funeral to a wedding.