By Sean Carey
The royal wedding is upon us, and while austere republicans have taken cover, the rest of the UK population is in thrall at the prospect of the forthcoming spectacle. In fact, I had a haircut a few days ago, and the Greek Cypriot owner told me that she was closing the salon on Friday even though it might affect some of her “regulars,” so that she could watch the wedding on television. Part of the reason for not opening was that she had just found out that the event started at 11 am, effectively bifurcating the day from a trading point of view. But the other reason was because, “I really want to watch it. I think it will be so nice.”
You can’t argue with that, and everyone knows that the British do pomp and pageantry better than anyone else.
Besides Kate’s gown, the big question is: where will the royal honeymoon take place? My understanding is that the new royal couple – commoner Kate Middleton will soon be renamed Princess Catherine, and in official communications “Kate” will be lost forever – will spend their first night at the Belgian Suite in Buckingham Palace. On Saturday, they will journey to Balmoral, one of the royal residences, in Scotland and spend a few days there before travelling overseas.
Mark Palmer, writing in the Daily Mail, however, argues that it would be better if the couple stayed in Britain, because it would provide “a tonic for the country’s tourism industry.” He adds: “But at this time of year there is nowhere on earth more beautiful, more full of promise and – crucially – more romantic than Britain.”
It’s a nice idea, and there is a recent precedent with the earl and countess of Wessex, who spent a four-day honeymoon in Balmoral in June 1999. However, I think that the chances of a royal honeymoon in Britain are close to zero. Here are two reasons why. First, in the popular imagination of those who live in the world’s advanced economies, a paradise island destination is required to celebrate a “proper” honeymoon. The paradise island preference explains the popularity of Indian Ocean destinations like Mauritius, the Maldives and the Seychelles for affluent Britons, and high status members of the royal family are no exception.
Secondly, the House of Windsor (and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office) knows very well that it is within its gift to bestow a huge economic bonus for the selected destination. Any British Commonwealth country will be jumping for joy if it is selected to play host to the royal newlyweds.
Prince Andrew and his bride, Sarah Ferguson, visited Mauritius after their wedding in 1986. Even though their marriage ended in divorce, their honeymoon choice has had an enormous and long-lasting impact on the country’s reputation for high-end tourism, as well as the status of Le Touessrok, the resort where they stayed.
I think that a Commonwealth country will be chosen, because Prince William is second in line to the throne. But the honeymoon destination will not be a country like Mauritius or the Seychelles, which are republics. Instead, this is a time to reward countries which are politically “very near” rather than just “near” to the UK.
Following this logic, I predict that the honeymoon destination will be a country where the queen is head of state – one of the 16 Commonwealth realms, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a number of Caribbean countries like Antigua, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent, as well as Pacific island countries such as Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu.
But which one? It is possible to narrow down the field further given the assumption that the honeymoon destination has to be a politically “significant” country. There is a further clue. When on an official trip to Australia last month, Prince William told well-wishers that he had long wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
So my choice for the royal honeymoon is: Queensland’s Lizard Island, one of the top 10 honeymoon destinations in the world. But don’t just take my word for it – the Sunday Mirror is also tipping the island for royal preferment due to the fact that “its powdery white beaches are fit for a king.”
A honeymoon by a very popular royal couple in Australian territory might even slow down the pressure from some quarters to change the country’s status from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. Rule Britannia!
Dr Sean Carey is research fellow at CRONEM, Roehampton University.
(A version of this article has appeared on the Anthropology Works blog)
* Published in print edition on 29 April 2011