Ed. note This is the first in a series of posts that Alex Aldridge, a London-based journalist who covers legal affairs, will be writing for Above the Law about the upcoming royal wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton.
So, you wish you had a royal family, eh?
Judging by the content of your media, royal wedding fever is even hotter in the US than in the country to which Wills and Kate belong (that’s the United Kingdom, by the way, for the 90% of you without passports who think London is in France). To an outsider, it seems you’re doubting the wisdom of that decision you took to go independent from your colonial forebears and start a republic.
You knew almost before us about the Kate Middleton jelly bean, the emotional pre-wedding visit to Diana’s grave, and the plans of our many extremist groups to hijack the big day in an assortment of eye-catching ways.
But I have stuff you don’t have: namely, on-the-ground insights into the mood of the British legal intelligentsia….
Others are sad: Kate’s ex, Rupert Finch, an in-house lawyer at speciality chemicals company Johnson Matthey, has lost the girl voted “prettiest student” at St. Andrews University — forever.
And a few find themselves torn between diametrically opposed extremes of feeling. “I wish the royal couple well,” one senior lawyer at a top London law firm told The Lawyer magazine, before adding in reference to the extra day’s holiday workers have been given: “but to be honest it’s a massive pain in the arse.”
Most of all, though, we are bemused. Before Wills and Kate announced their engagement last year, no one liked them much. He was the balding disappointment who’d morphed from Princess Di’s golden child to a mildly better looking version of his dad, with a similar penchant for unfunny jokes. She was the cold-eyed social climber — Kate’s former dalliance with a lowly lawyer tells you all you need to know about her position in this country’s deep-rooted social hierarchy — who had mysteriously acquired a posher accent than the future king.
Yet now, with royal wedding hysteria at full pelt, even staunch anti-royalists are buying Wills and Kate dish towels and china sets in bulk. “It’s terrible, but I can’t help myself,” one high-flying associate at a London law firm told me.
Could these dish towels and china sets have a dark side, though?
Might their omnipresence send out a subliminal message to women about the benefits of bagging a rich husband rather than pursuing a career?
The dangers of such products appear to have been in the thoughts of Baroness Ruth Deech, chair of the Bar Standards Board (one of the bodies that regulates British lawyers), when she recently expressed her concern about a stampede of female students to “do a Kate Middleton and snag a wealthy man at uni.”
In response, Cherie Blair QC, the former Prime Minister’s wife and a distinguished lawyer, issued a warning: “By losing their financial independence, [women] become very vulnerable to loss of their wealthy husbands whether through divorce, sickness or death.”
Enjoy the big day, but for heaven’s sake, go sparingly on the memorabilia, ladies.
Next week: a cut out and keep guide to the British class system to help you make sense of the royal wedding, which I’ll be covering live on Friday 29th.
Alex Aldridge is a London-based freelance journalist specialising in law and education. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian and contributes regularly to specialist legal publications. Previously Alex was Associate Editor at Legal Week, having begun his career with The Times. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexAldridgeAA or email him at [email protected].