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Royal Couple's Future Brighter Than Royal Family's?


As we've heard, the royal wedding survived the cynics and gave way to celebration on the streets of London. Many royal watchers point to yesterday's wedding of William and Kate as a generational revival, a reimagining of the British royal family for a new era.

We're going to take a closer look at the modern perception of the British monarchy with Simon Hoggart. He is a political columnist with the Guardian newspaper in London. Simon, welcome.

Mr. SIMON HOGGART (Political Columnist, Guardian Newspaper): Hello.

WERTHEIMER: Would it be an overstatement to say that this wedding of William and Kate, does this bring new relevance to the monarchy?



Mr. HOGGART: No. It's a very good story. I want to let everybody realize that the royals don't have any say in the running of the country. They're there as a side show, a figurehead, a kind of touring vaudeville act in some respects. It's got fun. Everyone's enjoying it. She looks like a really, really nice girl without Diana's hang-ups. He seems like a very, very nice boy. Everyone's very pleased.

But I don't think it alters the constitutional position nor does anyone imagine that it might.

WERTHEIMER: I take it that even Brits who were ambivalent about the wedding and how much money is being spent and so forth still hold these two young people in relatively high regard.

Mr. HOGGART: Oh sure, yes. Among the tones there's always been, look, ignore the pomp and circumstance and majesty and tatty-fallal, which goes along with any kind of royal occasion. But just concentrate on two young people who are going to live wonderfully happy lives together, right until the minute when he becomes king when his life comes to a grinding halt. He won't even have the fun any more than his grandmother does or his father will of actually running the country, of taking the big decisions. They've got all the responsibility without any of the power.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think that the British public prefers William over Charles, as the polls seem to indicate that they do? Do you think it's a personality or that he's younger or do you think that it's possible they think he might be a better king?

Mr. HOGGART: Well, you know, I mean, the point about being a king now is it's so ceremonial and you don't have any decision to do. He's a more popular figure in the sense that he's younger and more engaging. But they're not going to get him. The fact is that the next in line is Prince Charles and Prince Charles will be, unless he predeceases his mother, he will be the next king.

And of course, what really finished him off in public estimation, I think, was Princess Diana. The public sided hugely with her, felt that she'd been very badly treated and that the remaining royals behaved abominably, really certainly stupidly when she died by failing to respond to the public mood.

And also they don't operate as representatives of a focus group. You could gather two dozen ordinary people in a room, all of whom would probably say, oh, Prince William, he seems much more engaging, much pleasanter, much less wacky than his father, and they will ignore it simply because they've always done it that way.

WERTHEIMER: Simon, in Britain, obviously, as you know, the country's struggling economically. There have been budget cuts and unemployment is high. I wonder, having a wedding against a backdrop like this, are people cheered up by it or are they resenting it? How do they feel?

Mr. HOGGART: Oh, I think people are cheered up really. You know, if you're going to have a royal family, you've got to pay for it. And it works out to about 75 U.S. cents per person per year. That's not a lot. And they do give us a fair amount of fun. So, I think it will cheer people up. And next year we've got the Olympic Games in London and the Queen's 60th anniversary.

So, I think these are things that take our mind off the unpleasantness before we go back to work, if we are still lucky enough to have work.

WERTHEIMER: Simon Hoggart is a political columnist with the Guardian newspaper in London. He joined us from his office there. Simon, thank you very much.

Mr. HOGGART: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.