royal wedding

Wot's All This Then? An Englishman Explains the Royal Wedding to an American

VICE UK answered our burning questions about what racism and institutionalized privilege have to do with the royal wedding.
Harry and Meghan photo: Amer Ghazzal / Alamy Stock Photo; Guillotine photo: Pixabay.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Harry "America's Best" Cheadle: I refuse to google anything about this. Why bother when I have you to answer my questions. So: What is the royal wedding? Like, what happens? Is it like a normal wedding, except the people involved are celebrities?
Oscar "England's Rose" Rickett: There won’t be any world leaders, but there will be some of the cast of Suits—so, you know, potato, potato. Basically, it’s nothing like a normal wedding and only a little bit like a celebrity wedding. Sure, there will be two people saying some vows in front of a group of other people, some of whom they aren’t really sure they know. Sure, there’s a whole lot of family intrigue. Sure, the food at the reception is being served in bowls.


But all of this takes place against a backdrop of media hysteria, institutionalized privilege, endless speculation, and vast wealth that not even Hollywood can match.

It’s like a massive celebrity wedding, except that you’ve known the celebrities all your life, they haven’t done anything to become famous other than being born, and they also happen to be deeply symbolic of an entrenched class system that provokes a wide range of feelings, from revolutionary anger to fawning deference.

I suppose you could try to imagine what it would be like if a direct descendant of George Washington and one of the New York crime families, who happened to be as famous as one of the Trumps (more famous than Don Jr., about as famous as Ivanka), was getting married at Camp David. Except, in this scenario, Camp David is a huge castle: Windsor Castle, which is one of the Queen’s four official residences.

To give you an idea of how grand and ancient this place is: William the Conqueror chose the location after invading England in 1066 because it was near London and had a sweet forest for hunting right on its doorstep. The Queen's London home, Buckingham Palace, is currently being renovated for £370 million [$500 million] (you know what would cost nothing to renovate? The guillotine!), so it’s not like royal castles are only good for eating and hunting boar.

Officially, 600 people are going to the wedding. Two-hundred of them get to hit up the after-party. The couple can’t get married in the castle itself, so the ceremony is in St. George's Chapel, in the grounds of the castle, where Harry was christened.


Harry’s brother, William, is the best man and is missing the FA Cup Final for it (the FA Cup Final is Britain's most important domestic tournament soccer match—imagine an exceptionally quaint Super Bowl). The question of who will walk Meghan down the aisle has become a fraught one now that it’s been confirmed that her father isn’t well enough to come, following heart surgery and botched paparazzi photo-ops, but it looks like Charles will do it.

Mindful that this is, more than anything, a PR opportunity/disaster, Kensington Palace has invited more than a thousand members of the public to Windsor Castle. They will be allowed to stand around outside for a few hours while the wedding takes place. They’ve been told to bring their own lunch.

It's Prince Harry getting married, right? Is he good or bad? I remember him as being the guy who once dressed up like a Nazi as a joke (bad), but also he served in the military (good, to me at least because I'm an American).
Harry used to be a "great big lad" with a capital L. He was a banter guy. A large son. "Bring your vodka and your Charlie, Harry Wales is having a party," etc, etc.

Harry was the younger brother who didn't have to worry about being king, and didn’t turn into a bald 55-year-old at the age of 23, like his brother. He had sex with every young duchess and socialite who came within sniffing distance. He got wet and wild in Vegas. He was a soldier who talked in a "this is the way of the world" manner about killing people in Afghanistan.


Part of being a great big guy was being a great big racist. He dressed up as a Nazi. He called a fellow soldier "our little Paki friend." He referred to another army officer cadet as a "rag-head."

He was, in some ways, the embodiment of a class of Englishmen who didn’t know what their role in the world was. There was no empire to run anymore, even if there were still people of color to abuse. There were just parties and un-winnable wars. There was just the pain of being brought up in a human zoo, sent to boarding school at age eight, and then living through the viciously public death of your mother.

Today, Harry wants us to believe he’s a changed man. He was in therapy. He called out the British press for the "racial undertones" present in their coverage of his relationship with Meghan. He’s often photographed with young black children.

Is it lame to be amped for the royal wedding?
Look Harry, what you and America have to understand is that the British royal family was selected by God himself (that's right: God is a man, a British man) to rule the island he (that's God) loves the most. Thus, being amped for the wedding and feverishly speculating on what dress Meghan will wear is right and proper.

Either that, or the royals are a relic of feudalism, an inbred cabal of animal-loving Germans—the royal family comes from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and changed its name to Windsor in 1917 during World War One—cosseted by the British state, riding around vast tracts of the land they own onboard great packs of horses, sitting at the top of our society reminding everyone that real change and true equality will never come.


Thus, being amped for the royal wedding is an act of class violence. It's a sign that you have become hopelessly distracted by a grotesque carnival of wealth and privilege when what you need to be doing is ordering up some nice new guillotines online. So yes, quite lame.

So when you marry into the royal family, is that your job now? I ask because Meghan Markle is an actor—is she going to be allowed to continue to act? If I was marrying into the royal family and had to quit my job to be a full-time ornament I would say no thanks.
Well, Meghan is 36, so by Hollywood standards, her acting career was effectively over anyway. But she has quit acting and quit her job on Suits. She was successful in her own right and now it looks like she’s decided to spend her time visiting radio stations and shaking hands and stuff. She will do a lot of charity work, and there will be a lot of photo opportunities. She will repeatedly be named an "ambassador" of things.

None of their children are going to be king or whatever, right? So why does it get hyped?
Because the Royal Family is like a never-ending real-life Netflix series. Because Meghan is not only mixed-race, she's an actor AND she's divorced!!!! These things are still a source of outrage for the most fervently pro-monarchy media outlets, like the Daily Mail, which has shelled out huge sums of money trying to discredit Harry's wife-to-be.

The gambling industry has a field day because everything is so secret and so people bet on what will or will not happen. Among many options for gambling fun include:


Ten to one for "Any member of One Direction to be at the Wedding Ceremony", 11 to eight for "Harry to be clean shaven, wear a military uniform, wear over 2.5 medals, and to say 'I do' first," 50 to one for "a John Legend song for the first dance, Meghan to arrive in a Bentley, Boris Johnson to attend, and rain during the procession."

Dress-wise, my money’s on Ralph & Russo, although ERDEM would be cool. You heard it here first.

Are people over there pissed that the royal bride is an American? Also, are racists over there pissed that she's black?
Meghan isn’t the first American to marry a royal. In 1937, Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry the American Wallis Simpson. Like Meghan, she had also been divorced. This was a big scandal at the time and almost brought down the monarchy. The Nazi-sympathizing couple lived out the rest of their days—many decades—in empty, wealthy splendor in France.

Britain’s right-wing papers are battling between their inclination to go crazy over a royal wedding and their inclination to be racist. At the moment, both inclinations are winning.

White liberals are pro-Meghan and some seem to think that Harry marrying a mixed-race woman is a sign that the royal family is truly modernizing. They are right in the sense that modernizing is essentially about PR: Meghan gives the monarchy a more 21st-century look.

A more leftist take would be that Britain’s issues with race and class are systematic and that Meghan is a distraction from meaningful change, which would probably involve the dismantling of the monarchy. In this sense, Meghan becomes like an Obama figure: People can pretend that things have changed because look, there she is; but in reality, there is no real progress.

If you're at a fancy party or just drinking cans on a bus or whatever, what's a smart thing to say about the Royal Wedding?
"You know what I’d like to see at the Royal Wedding? A nice shiny row of guillotines!"

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