“So you’re a royalist now then?” Asks Dad. Well no, not really. But what were we going to do, sit in our house on a closed-off road being miserable whilst the whole world was invited to our home town?!
In fact we got quite caught up in the build up to the Royal Wedding, as bunting appeared everywhere imaginable in the weeks preceding 19th May; and the whole town was spruced up in anticipation. Local gossip about who had rented out their businesses and houses to the world’s media and for how much circulated; and you can’t help but feel a little bit ‘in the know’ about such a major event when you realise the cables for the big screens were put in long before any engagement announcement; and can identify the helicopter hum that accompanies the coming and going of the royals just streets away in the days running up to the event. I haven’t felt a buzz about town like this since we were living in London during the Olympics in 2012. I don’t consider myself a patriot either, but it’s nice to not feel a tad ashamed of being British on the post-Brexit international stage for a bit; and instead bask in the glow of a sunny weekend celebrating a love story.
Of course, living in Windsor comes with it’s inconveniences – it’s a little frustrating to know that potholes are only filled and long-needed roadworks conducted at the behest of the royals; and galling when media-pleasing walkabouts result in hours of unplanned road closure, parents stranded in traffic and children stuck at nursery after closing. The overwhelming number of police in town hinted at a slightly nervy edge to procedings, and of course the massive, massive price tag of such an event. I can’t think too hard about it without feeling a little sick – the bride and groom likely oblivious to the upheaval, cost and risk to normal people.
But we also do get a lot of benefits from living in the shadow of the castle. An easy commute, gorgeous parkland, and more local services than we might otherwise for a town of our size. Whilst some businesses may have suffered due to stringent security checks, most undoubtedly were given a welcome boost. And so, we embraced it all as good natured fun. We made bunting and flags, and went spotting window displays to decide on our favourite. We watched the rehearsal; strolled in golden hour in the Great Park with friends on the eve of the wedding and soaked up the festive atmosphere. On the day itself we packed a picnic to join the tens of thousands strong crowd on the Long Walk, usually empty for our weekday strolls.
The wedding day was a bright blur of sunshine and smiles. Despite not arriving until 10.30am, we found plenty of space for our picnic blanket in the already beating sunshine. There was time for photos with cheerful police officers, chats with people who had travelled for miles, sipping too-strong Pimm’s, and media interviews (for my glamorous hat-wearing friend). WhatsApp buzzed all morning with local friends’ celebrity spots and tips for the best views (an almost empty audience for the Kaiser Chiefs and Chris Evans!); Twitter with tongue-in-cheek commentary. Cheers rose like a Mexican wave as the bride’s car swooshed towards the ceremony. And, let’s be honest, I always get emotional at weddings, and any large event for that matter, so the sight of that elegant, self-assured woman mounting the steps of the historic chapel confidently alone; and the emotional greeting from her groom moved even this cynic.
The ceremony screening was met in the Great Park with pantomime-style ‘aaahh’s at bridesmaids and ‘hoorays’ at familiar faces; anticipation grew as the carriage procession approached until, whoosh, in a blur of cavalry and veil and smile they were at the castle and it was over, and we were left to hike the long way home to continue our own festivities with neighbours.
Being at the centre of a media event makes you realise the slightly distorted view we get of the world – the widely-reported stories about the homeless residents of our town being evicted weren’t correct. The less dramatic truth was that they didn’t get a fairytale ending, but local residents have set up a new charity to support them. The news reporters naturally gravitated towards the more extreme examples of wedding-watchers with canned soundbites. My daughter was asked by a reporter to say she liked princesses to camera. Happily she was too shy to, as it’s not really true. The truth is that most of the people here were happy to watch a nice story of two people we recognise in love; but mainly, and this is the best bit, for a few days, Windsor was a town full of people finding an excuse to walk about smiling, talking freely to neighbours, helping visitors and coming together in a way we don’t often get the chance to.
I was still pretty cross at being woken up by the wedding fireworks though 😉