They never disappear into the distance, those just-wed royal couples driving off in the ceremonial’s closing shot. Wherever they go, their titles go with them, and their air of ordinariness as they respond to the stardom that rank confers will always be remarked on and admired rather than taken for granted, let alone ignored. They’re not like the rest of us, and we wouldn’t want them to be, these populist newlyweds who roused us from our beds in the early hours so that we could share their private love in its most public display. Their waves are winning, their very smiles are acclaimed as generous, their kisses set off raucous cheers and mass celebration. And somehow, for one day at least, a royal romance is wholly convincing.
We know this all too well, as do they: Not all fairy tales have fairy-tale endings. Realism can’t help but intrude on the wedding day of Diana’s son. But that foreknowledge is liberating in a way. There is less room for make-believe in this hardened world of seen-it-all-before. The sad history of the Windsors has yielded a kind of independence for two twenty-somethings who seem wise beyond their years, who don’t have to treat marriage as a constraint on their needs and desires. Which means that Kate and Will have a freedom to go off and behave like the real people they aspire to be, not as stage-set props for monarchy’s outmoded theatricals but as two kids ready to play to their strengths and charm a tough world.
When the wedding-day getaway car is a vintage Aston Martin, even one with a goofy Euro licence plate and tacky balloons, the democratic spirit may still come across as a work-in-progress. But in a time of enforced economic austerity, the holiday from drabness granted by the newly minted Duke and Duchess has the still-dependable power to release pent-up feelings of hope and pride and simple joy that make us feel more human. Sharing in the couple’s happiness isn’t some bygone act of homage, not that these two would willingly submit to that, but a communal act of affirmation in which they’ve done their bit to perfection. Sometimes the monarchy is an abstract symbol and sometimes it’s a role to be played. But every now and then, if we’re lucky, if they’re lucky, it’s the real thing.