• 26 May - 01 Jun, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

The story of the kings and queens of England makes absolutely fascinating and spellbinding reading. Over the years, it covers almost everything from courage to cowardice, good sense to nonsense, magnanimity to petty cruelty and piety to a complete disregard of religion and all religious precepts. It’s all there and as you go through the pages, you never know what to expect next. But then Parliament took over and the days of constitutional monarchy started and all the romance and adventure went out. Nothing that the monarch could do or did do would impact in any great way on the British public and with that you would have thought that people would have lost much of their interest in the goings on of the British monarchy.

Actually, not a bit of it. By the time this gets to see the light of day in the form of the printed page, Prince Harry, the younger of the two sons of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and the late Lady Diana, will have been wedded to his American sweetheart Megan Markle in what promises to be the most expensive wedding ever staged on the planet, and the media, as well as the people – or most of them – are going mad over it.

Estimates of costs vary but according to one at least, the great binge is supposed to cost something to the tune of £32 million. This includes – and these are only estimates - £90,000 for two silver plated trumpets that will announce the great event, £50,000 for the lemon and elderflower cake which will be made with 500 eggs and 20 kg of butter among a lot of other things, £110,000 for flowers, £300,000 for the glass marquee for the evening reception, £26,000 for sausage rolls and hot tea that will be served to the lucky 2,640 members of the general public who have been fortunate enough to be invited for the event (Muslim invitees will probably be fasting but if they are not they will just be left with the hot tea), and somewhere between £300,000 to £400,000 on the bride’s dress. Usually the bride pays for her own dress but with that sort of price tag, one would consider it unlikely. Most of these expenses will be borne by the Palace, but the biggest expense of around £30 million for security will be borne by the tax payer, which is where the buck usually stops. All of this makes this one of the ten most expensive weddings of all time, although it would perhaps be fair to say that much of that could be down to inflation. But thanks to tourism and merchandise, which would include all manner of things with the picture of the bride and the groom, the royal wedding is expected to provide a £500 million boost to the British economy. In the hard days expected ahead in view of Brexit, that sort of boost will be more than welcome and one is left wishing that there were more royals of marriageable age.

To give the reader some idea of how businesses plan to make a killing out of the event, one Windsor Hotel (the marriage takes place in Windsor) will be hosting a spectacular three-tiered Royal Afternoon Tea, perfect for those who need some sustenance after all of the excitement.

The menu includes everything from jam produced by the Prince of Wales’ own grocer, lobster, caviar, chocolate shaped into a crown topped with 24ct Gold Leaf and a handful of ingredients enjoyed by the Queen herself. The hotel is right on the High Street and therefore very strategically placed for a direct view of the royal procession which should take no more than two minutes to disappear from view if you happen to be perched on one of the overlooking balconies. Ordinary rooms with such a view come at $695 per night but a luxury suite with such a balcony would put you back by £3,995.

The frenzy of excitement that has gripped Britain must be a welcome relief for the government which can hardly decide itself just what sort of Brexit it would like to go in for, never mind convince the EU to give it to them. For the last month and more the British cabinet has been engaged in the rather pointless exercise of trying to decide what sort of customs arrangement it would like after Brexit, an exercise which loses much of its meaning because the two options being discussed have both been thrown out by the EU. With the government therefore up to its eyeballs in the gumbo, the diversion caused by a royal wedding must be welcome. To give just one example of just how distracted everyone is, British Airways is turning one of its flights from Heathrow to Toronto – which is where the romance between Harry and Megan is said to have blossomed - into a special royal wedding themed flight on the day of the wedding. The entire crew will be called either Harry or Megan, there will be extra champagne to toast the royal newly-weds and passengers will be given a cake with the same flavours as the wedding cake, albeit prepared at a fraction of the cost. Anyone travelling who is actually named Harry or Megan will have the first class lounge thrown open for them.

For all that, Ms Markle’s father will not be attending and there was considerable speculation as to the cause till it was announced that he has had a stent fitted and will therefore not be fit enough to travel. To be honest, if I was told that my daughter was getting married in a gown costing over £300,000 I too would have needed heart treatment, although the fact that I would not have to pay for it would have surely led to an early recovery. Be that as it may, there was considerable speculation over who might perform the western tradition of giving away the bride, usually a sole prerogative of the bride’s father. One would have thought with all the noise about gender equality, this function may have been performed by the bride’s mother but gender equality does not go quite as far as that and it will be the Prince of Wales, Ms Markle’s father-in-law to be, who will walk her up the aisle.

Ms Markle, at 36, is three years older than Prince Harry and has already been married once. That was to a Hollywood producer and it lasted just under two years, reportedly ending when she sent her husband her wedding ring through the post. That is perhaps not the most auspicious beginning to a married career and one must hope fervently that with £32 million riding on it, this union has a longer life. •