All meaning and none in Royal Wedding looking-glass

LONDON Mon May 2, 2011 9:14am EDT

Workmen clear barriers from the Mall, in London April 30, 2011. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Workmen clear barriers from the Mall, in London April 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

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LONDON (Reuters) - Most of those who watched it -- including even the most arch of anti-monarchists -- agreed on one thing after the Royal Wedding: no one does pomp and pageantry quite like the British.

But after the dresses were put aside, the liveried horses stabled and the last guests waved off from Buckingham Palace, few could agree what the marriage of Prince William, likely future king, to "commoner" Kate Middleton meant for Britain.

There were those who read into the crowds of supporters in London and thousands of street parties nationwide a reinvigoration of the monarchy -- even of Britishness.

Others saw in the handling of the day a sad picture of the state of the United Kingdom.

Many thought it signified nothing at all.

"One over-riding thought watching this magnificent occasion: The British Monarchy is BACK," was the view of chat show host Piers Morgan, who now works for CNN in the United States.

Although overseas media have been seen as more starry-eyed than most over the royal wedding, his was not a lone voice.

"...it marks a sea change for our country," wrote editor Geordie Greig in London's Evening Standard newspaper, "...a much-needed injection of refreshment for the royal family."

Many believe the wedding gave a boost to the British population at a time when the mood of the country, faced with unprecedented cuts to public spending, is at a serious low.

"The cost, including policing and security is expected to have exceeded 20 million pounds," wrote Mick Brown in the right- leaning Telegraph. "The benefit to the spirit of the nation, in an age of increasing cynicism, when Britain's sense of national self-hood has never been more fragile, is incalculable."

SORRY STATE

But for all those who talked about the feel-good factor and pointed to viewing figures that showed some 25 million people in Britain -- nearly half the population -- tuned in to watch, countless others lined up to slam the cost and saw much in the day to support a deeply pessimistic view of Britain.

"On the day of the wedding, this country is undergoing a profound identity crisis," was the headline to Laurie Penny's blog in left-of-centre New Statesmen in which she highlighted a number of arrests made around the wedding, including some pre-emptive arrests made before any protests had taken place.

"So this is England, on the 29th of April, 2011," Penny wrote. "The marriage of the heir to an archaic and largely powerless royal dynasty is celebrated with pomp and circumstance, whilst dissent of any kind is suppressed on the smallest pretext, or none."

Republic, a group that campaigns for a democratic alternative to monarchy, said more than one thousand people attended its "Not the royal wedding party" on Friday.

NO CHANGE PLEASE, WE'RE BRITISH

Britain has had a constitutional monarchy since the eighteenth century, although rule by kings and queens stretches back many more centuries.

During that time, the country took a republican form just once: the 11 years that followed the English civil war and execution of King Charles I in the seventeenth century.

Even though half of Britons said before the wedding they had little or no interest in Friday's piece of pomp, there is limited appetite for another attempt at replacing the monarchy.

In fact, though the popularity of certain members of the royal household have waxed and waned over the years, it would be wrong to say the monarchy is "back" because it has never really gone away.

A survey conducted by pollsters Ipsos MORI last month for Reuters showed that three-quarters of Britons favoured the country remaining a monarchy, a figure that has barely changed for the past 20 years or more.

If Friday's nuptials were neither a shot in the arm for the royal family nor their death knell, then perhaps the day will go down in history as simply a finely orchestrated wedding celebrated and watched avidly around the world.

As the left-leaning Guardian newspaper wrote in its editorial: "The wedding was not a looking-glass event, reflecting the infantilisation of a subject nation. It was a well-managed show on which the curtain rose and then fell. The circus came and went. It did not change anything."

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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