Royal wedding apathy matches passion in Britain

LONDON Thu Apr 28, 2011 5:56pm EDT

1 of 4. Jessica Spence (L) from Zimbabwe reacts moments after seeing Prince Harry leave Westminster Abbey one day before the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in central London April 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Coombs

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LONDON (Reuters) - For every Briton who will tune in to watch Friday's royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, one definitely will not.

That was the finding of a recent Ipsos MORI poll for Reuters which underlines how, for all the international media hoopla surrounding the big occasion, the appeal of a rare show of royal pomp and pageantry is far from universal.

"I want to get as far away as possible from the wedding because it really doesn't mean anything to me, so my wife and I are going for a long weekend to Italy," said Londoner Alex Joseph, voicing a common view that has tended to be drowned out by the rising din of royal fervour.

"I don't think we will escape it fully as everyone will be talking about it, but at least we won't have to face the madness in London."

Ivan Smith, 25, agreed. "It's just a wedding," he said. "Everyone is going mad about it. I couldn't care less. I'm just going to enjoy the bank holiday we get."

The centre of the capital will be effectively shut down on Friday as the route of the royal wedding is closed off, hundreds of thousands of well-wishers line the streets and fill parks and security is tightened for the big occasion.

Little wonder that many Londoners have escaped. And people across the country have taken advantage of an extra day's holiday on Friday which, combined with Easter and May Day means that three days off translates into an 11-day break.

TOURISTS IN, TOURISTS OUT

The travel industry association ABTA estimates that around two million Britons travelled abroad for the Easter weekend and 1.5 million have gone overseas in the week leading up to the royal wedding.

Comparisons with previous years are difficult, given the extra day's holiday this year and the fact that Easter was unusually late. People were taking advantage of the time off as much as wanting to escape the wedding, travel experts explained.

An ABTA spokeswoman also pointed out that it was not all one way traffic. Thousands may be leaving, but thousands were also arriving in London from all over the country and the world.

Economy airline Ryanair reported Easter bookings up by more than 10 percent year-on-year.

"With so many Brits set to toast William and Kate from the luxury of the Canary Islands, Greece and France, The Mall and Westminster Abbey might look a little empty on their big day," said Ryanair's Stephen McNamara.

While even the strongest opponents of the monarchy doubt the event will prove a flop, the statistics underline how mixed the picture is.

The poll for Reuters showed that 23 percent of British adults questioned would definitely not watch the royal wedding, more than the 22 percent who said they definitely would.

Ten percent were very unlikely to tune in and 10 percent fairly unlikely, taking the total of naysayers to 43 percent.

Joan Smith, a columnist and supporter of the anti-monarchy Republican group, said the media had been overwhelmingly positive in its coverage of the wedding to the extent that people had the story "rammed down our throats."

She also took issue with a government minister who said that two billion people were likely to tune in on the day to catch a glimpse of the event.

"You could actually say three or four billion, or whatever you wanted," Smith said.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White and Marie-Louise Gumuchian, editing by Paul Casciato)

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