We welcome Emily Henry to The Displaced Nation as a guest blogger. In this post on the royal visit to California that just took place, Emily neatly combines two of our blog’s favorite topics: what Alice in Wonderland can teach us about the displaced life, and how to assess royalty from within a global framework. A US citizen with an English mother, Emily grew up in the UK. She has been living in California, first in LA and now Oakland, for about 5 years.
In Chapter 3 of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice experiences a “Caucus Race,” as the Dodo calls it. This race — run with the intention of getting all of the sopping wet animals dry — goes nowhere but round and round in a circle.
Despite making a ridiculous scene for themselves, the animals treat the affair with as much pomp and circumstance as they can muster. Although there is no clear winner,
“Everyone has won,” declares the Dodo, and “must be given prizes.”
A race with no rules and no winner, but drowned in ceremony and self-congratulation, might be somewhat similar to a royal tour. Watching the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge land in Los Angeles Friday afternoon made me wonder just how tiring it must be to run around in circles in another world — this time, California rather than Wonderland.
When I first heard that William and Kate would be visiting California, I imagined a sunny adventure for the new faces of the Royal Family. After all, I thought we had all agreed that these newlyweds were to be the modern, affectionate royal couple, not a re-enactment of the traditional frigid romance of yore.
They had proved themselves to be sufficiently “unstuffy” in Canada, so in California I imagined them sipping cocktails on the rooftop of the Standard Hotel, running hand-in-hand along the beach, or munching popcorn during a movie premier at the Chinese Theatre.
But then their schedule was released, and it turned out to be a Caucus Race. William and Kate must spend their few days in California running around in circles for the high and mighty: California Governor Jerry Brown was there to greet them from the plane, along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. A bunch of flowers were presented. No doubt the weather was mentioned, as it would be — no doubt — in almost every instance of small talk throughout the rest of the trip.
Instead of cocktails and a rooftop bar, Friday night meant discussions of “innovation,” “communication” and “technology” at Variety’s Venture Capital and New Media Summit.
If these conceptual, “big picture” lectures weren’t enough to “dry” the couple out, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had an evening with businessmen and politicians to look forward to at the British Consular General’s house.
William, of course, is used to this sort of thing.
But much like Alice, who had arrived in Wonderland only to be forced to listen to a boring lecture on William the Conqueror given by a mouse, Kate must be stifling her yawns in disappointment.
However, she is doing an excellent job.
Perhaps what is most endearing about Kate Middleton is her ability to appease the pomp-loving self-congratulators while at the same time revealing the sense of humor and personality bubbling beneath her regal smile.
I knew I liked her from the moment she flashed a secret smile at William during their wedding as the couple shared a private joke. Amid the ridiculousness of her enormous wedding, the long-winded prayers, songs and sermons followed by more prayers, songs and sermons, Kate seemed to appreciate the funny side. She played her part beautifully, maintaining the airs of the occasion but accepting her wedding ring with an inward giggle.
Alice, too, accepts her self-given “prize” after the Caucus Race with the same sense of irony:
Alice thought the whole thing very absurd, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh; and, as she could not think of anything to say, she simply bowed, and took the thimble, looking as solemn as she could.
QUESTION: How did Kate and William’s first royal tour look from your displaced perspective — and do you agree with Emily that they, particularly Kate, managed it wonderfully?
Emily Henry is an associate local editor for Patch.com, reporting and editing for 11 hyper-local news Web sites in the East Bay area of California. She is currently running the Berkeley Patch site.
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, when we return to our Pocahontas theme and consider some of the perils of cross-cultural marriage.
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I wish them well, of course. I hope the ‘Firm’ have learned the lessons of the past. I can’t help thinking, though, that they’re probably more popular outside the UK than in. A bit like Gorbachev.
You could be right. Then again, I’ve read and heard a lot of positive comments about them from Brits – perhaps they are the shot in the arm that the Royal Family needed. Speaking personally, I was quite anti-Royal before April 29th. This couple have made me think that maybe it’s not such a bad national tradition after all.
Yes, I simply can’t believe this is the same Kate who a couple of weeks before the Royal Wedding took place at the end of April, wrote a post called “Jerry Seinfeld– the Royal Wedding’s Answer to Ricky Gervais.” What happened? You’re now a complete convert!
I know, ML, I know…complete turncoat. But I really like this couple. They’e quite obviously besotted with each other (as ML says elsewhere, many PDAs on this tour – that stands for Public Displays of Affection, if anyone is wondering) and yet they’re so dignified and charming. Great ambassadors for England this week.
Tradition is wonderful. It’s what keeps us together as a nation, and the Royal Family represent so much history and culture that I find it hard to not be endeared.
For me, the question that remains for Kate is how long she can stand these caucus races. I mean, the first few times it’s all rather a novelty — Kate has never been to the United States before until now, can you believe? But then I imagine that after a few rounds of racing around to such mind-numbing events, most intelligent people would end up in a stupor.
Even Diana, who was given to making self-deprecating remarks about her own intelligence — claiming she had “a brain the size of a pea” or was as “thick as a plank” — eventually had to look for ways to make the princess role more interesting, by supporting causes she believed in (and thereby attracting the ire of Britain’s conservative politicians).
Still, perhaps if Kate is more satisfied with her relationship with Wills than Diana was with Charles, she will make the best of her lot by finding enough things in these routine visits to keep herself entertained. I do think Emily is right, she radiates genuine happiness. (Apparently, there were many PDAs during their North American trip…)
Emily, thank you so much for this great post! You mentioned Kate’s inward giggle when the ring wouldn’t quite fit – did you see her smothered smiles when the crowd outside cheered, every time she said ‘I will’?
Although William is used to this kind of thing on tour, I had to laugh at one report – might have been in The Telegraph, but not sure – of when they were at the rodeo. Apparently he said to Kate something like, ‘It feels so good to be in jeans’. While she was wearing very stylish designer jeans, he was quite happy scruffing around in an old pair for this bit of the tour.
And you know what? I can’t believe I’ve actually been reading these news reports. In early April I was adamant I was not going to watch this darned wedding – I’d had it with the Royals and their sordid little dramas. But these two – I can’t help liking them. A lot. Far better for them to be in the news every day than Snooki and the Kardashians.
You’re welcome, Kate! I’m glad you liked it. I had a lot of fun writing it — that’s for sure! I’m glad Will got a chance to chill out in jeans. I think it’s absurd when I see pictures of him in full suit/tuxedo/etc trying to behave casually. It must be so awkward sometimes.
I think Kate must feel like Alice in Wonderland now…she has certainly stepped through the looking glass. Still unlike Princess Diane Princess Kate’s marriage was for love not to produce and heir to the throne and having done that she was cast aside for Camilla. It still upsets me now to see that lovely young girl and the wasy she was treated. She will never be forgotten…R.I.P
As a Brit, living in England, I have to say that William and Kate have brought the Royal family back into favour. I like the tradition of it all, and the wonderful history that goes with it; not many countries can boast such a long line of heads of state, after all, even if some of them were chopped off.
Yes, it would have been a shame to lose all those centuries of tradition just because certain members brought the family into disrepute. We’ve become far more critical of them. But doesn’t that show how far England has come? Criticize the RF 500 years ago, and you’d have been heading for the Tower (not just for carol concerts, I mean 😉 )
Yes, it certainly seems that way. I think we all sort of ignored the Royal Family after Diana died — they seemed irrelevant and without personality even more as the years passed, and the Queen seems to have become almost impenetrably boring in her last few Christmas Day speeches (wasn’t the last one about the importance of community sports?!). Will and Kate have brought some life back.
I guess the point is whether hereditary monarchy is relevent for a modern democracy though there’s something to be said about a head of state being above politics. Personally, I think the Queen has done a sterling job and long may she reign. But after she goes? I’m not so sure. Maybe Canada, New Zealand and Australia will feel the same way too. My main objection is the need to maintain four palaces for her Maj alone (never mind the others). It seems we have an imperial monarchy without an empire.
That’s a really good point. Could the British monarchy be scaled down yet still keep up most of its traditions? I note that William and Kate insisted on traveling on commercial airlines rather than private planes during their North American trip. Could that kind of cost-cutting be the wave of the future?
I personally think there’s another elephant in the room here, which is whether the Windsor family should be forced to play these symbolic roles (along with the commoners they manage to recruit as spouses), just for the sake of upholding tradition. The Queen and Prince Philip didn’t have a problem with it, but others have felt differently.
Having just celebrated 4th of July, I can assure everyone that life goes on without any royals. That said, it does put some stress on the American president who with his family serves as symbolic head of state — that’s on top of being policy maker in chief. Is it any wonder every single man who goes into the Oval Office comes out so much grayer?!
Telegraph Expat has just now published its own version of this article, by an LA-based Brit. He agrees with the common assessment here, that Will and Kate were the biggest stars in LA.
But I have to say, the article is a lot less creative than Emily’s. Thanks to her, I will forever have the image of Alice’s caucus race in association with the royals, imprinted on my mind!