There are few things that interest me less than a royal wedding, though I admit that I have found some of the details surrounding Princess Eugenie’s upcoming marriage intriguing. Camilla choosing not to attend because of a “previous commitment attending a local school harvest festival”, for instance. That made me feel better about the side-swipes I’ve received from some family members over particularly stressful Christmas dinner tables in the past.
It’s less entertaining when you think about the cost. The BBC asked Thames Valley’s police and crime commissioner whether he could put a number on how the extra policing and security would cost the taxpayer when Eugenie chooses to take a carriage ride through the streets of Windsor with her new husband. His office said they couldn’t provide a figure until the event is over. It’s been suggested elsewhere that the costs will be just more than £2m – which makes sense when you consider that the Metropolitan Police Service spent £6.35m on Wills and Kate’s wedding (yes, we’re on first-name terms) in 2011, and estimated “between £2m and £4m” for Harry and Meghan’s nuptials.
Now, I personally would like to see a world without aristocrats drawing money from the public purse to live in gilded cages, and one of the main reasons for that is because of how deeply unfair it is on everyone involved on the inside. Something small and feminist died inside me when Meghan Markle was forced to give up her career and delete her social media accounts for the man she loved. And I find it genuinely sad to watch the endless parade of photos of little George, Charlotte and Louis going about their childhood under scrutiny.
One of the reasons why I begrudge Eugenie the money far more than Harry or Wills is precisely because they have – and always have had – to suffer these major inconveniences.
They had their faces in the papers days after their mum died. They lived in constant fear through their university years that someone would sell a naked photo or a salacious story to the press for cash. They spend long days and nights doing “royal duties” – which, I’ll grant, aren’t exactly as strenuous as street-cleaning or maintaining an oil rig, but still bear the hallmarks of Proper Jobs: making efforts at promoting diplomacy between people; speaking at charitable events; meetings with people they’d probably rather avoid; trips which are sometimes luxurious, but sometimes downright dreary; hanging around to make sure Prince Philip doesn’t say something inappropriate enough to scupper a Brexit deal.
When you’ve had to deal with all the downsides of being a royal, in other words, most people would be less likely to begrudge you the upsides. Granted, the upsides are pretty spectacular in financial terms, but I’m a generous kind of soul. I didn’t feel aggrieved when Diana’s sons went around London waving at adoring crowds and cutting into cakes with British flag-shaped frosting. Nauseous, perhaps, but not aggrieved.
Eugenie, however, does no royal duties. She is “passionate about charitable work”, and has invited 13 representatives from charities to the wedding to prove it. But if she really cared about the British public then maybe she wouldn’t have decided on a completely unnecessary, high-profile wedding which included parading herself and her husband around London, with all the requisite armed police and CCTV that necessitates. Maybe she’d have left those millions in the public purse instead.
Imagine how amazing it would have been if she’d decided on a small, family-only event in the chapel, or a registry office wedding – or no wedding at all.
Imagine if she released a statement saying that public funds could not afford the stretch right now, adding in a few knowledgeable asides about the effects of austerity on the people represented by the charities she holds close to her heart: cancer patients, the homeless, and vulnerable women. It would have been a bold step and one which proved, despite not having any official duties, that she remains relevant and important in a country which pays her a salary out of everybody else’s pockets.
When I think about how much more brilliant and historical that would have been than watching another aristocrat in a dress roll around London in an open-top carriage, it makes me as sad as when I see Prince George posing unsurely for the cameras on his first day of school.
You could’ve been the change, Eugenie! What happened?
Still, there’s always hope for Beatrice.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.