Right, the royal wedding approaches.
Or rather, another royal wedding, because it’s far from unique.
As with past regal nuptials, the betrothal of 'Arry and Megs comes with the usual bout of inexplicable giddiness among millions of Anglophiles in a country that spent seven hard and bloody years casting off the shackles of monarchy in the first place.
Don’t ask me to explain it, even though I’ve lived half my life in each country. After 50 years straddling both sides of the pond, citizen of one country, subject of the other, I still don’t get the American fascination with the British royals.
What I can explain is where you can get your royal groove on and how to make sense of some of the traditions and the lingo without making a right proper muppet (it’s a bad thing) of yourself. What Americans might describe as “quirky” or “quaint" is just “how things are done” in the U.K.
There are three prominent official parties in Phoenix for those who want a public celebration.
Two AMC movie theaters Desert Ridge 18 and Ahwatukee 24, are streaming on the big screen the British television coverage, via Britbox, starting around 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 19.
Which means in real time everybody in Windsor will have gone home. Currently, the U.K. is eight hours ahead of Phoenix. The service starts at noon (4 a.m. here), but coverage begins at 9 a.m. in the U.K. and stretches on. The last event, a family reception, starts at 7 p.m. (11 a.m. here).
But if you don’t fancy watching history unfold from inside a theater, you can opt for the traditional route.
Doors open at 10 a.m. at the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree. There you can have a traditional tea, watch the coverage, and even pose for a photo with their royal highnesses (well, cardboard versions of them, anyway).
"Guests are getting all dressed up. They are going to wear their hats," said Tea Room owner Joanne Gemmill.
The Tea Room expects 220 guests, is sold out, and is flogging (selling) “must-have” commemorative lapel pins for the occasion.
A dual citizen whose grandfather was a Buckingham Palace Color Guard, Gemmill says interest here spans the generations. For one thing, “an American is involved, and this time she’s being invited to stay,” a sly reference to Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee for whom Edward VIII abdicated in 1936.
There is particular affection for Harry, she says, because he’s breaking tradition and trying to appeal to younger Britons — just like his mum. “Diana would have really approved.”
Bottom line: Americans simply love royalty, especially princesses. The older generation watched fondly as Princess Elizabeth grew up to be queen at a time when another American, Grace Kelly, married into royalty, she says.
“It's a historic day. ... But rather than ask where were you when someone famous got shot, you can ask where were you on the day of the royal wedding.”
Since Gemmill's soiree is sold out, you might head over to the Scottsdale Waterfront Clubhouse. There you can sample the tower of pastries that comes with high tea or sip on a glass of bubbly.
Organizers insist on “tea party attire,” including an “English wedding hat,” known to those at Windsor as either a top, or bowler, for the lords, or a fascinator for the ladies. Whoever has the best hat wins a prize. Organizers ask guests to donate at least $50 for the YWCA Financial Education, which benefits financially disadvantaged women and girls.
With such goings-on planned 5,251 miles from the big event, you might think some well-known English pubs in Phoenix would also throw a proper knees-up for the royal couple.
The Rose and Crown routinely opens its doors at 4:30 a.m. to a certain breed of football (yes, football, kicked by feet) fan. In one of the pub’s rooms, a large portrait of the Queen peers down on beer-lovers.
Yet, the Rose and Crown will stay shut early Saturday.
“We (opened) for the last one and no one showed up,” general manager Donny Phillipi said. “If it was at least later in the day, we would’ve done something.”
Don’t even bother asking at Seamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub.
The bar staff said they are unaware of any plans to celebrate the royal wedding.
In places with signs in Gaelic, memories of the British are not fond. Some Irish blew up members of the Royal Family back during the Troubles. Just having a portrait of the Queen, or refusing to, is a political statement in many an Irish tavern.
But surely, surely the George & Dragon, fresh back from a televised makeover, will celebrate, right? After all, there are multiple portraits of British royalty throughout the gaff (place).
“Sorry, mate, but no,” owner David Wimberley said.
Not coincidentally, the only event posted on G&D’s Facebook calendar is a certain F.A. Cup final. Doors open at 9 a.m. Saturday for kickoff.
The F.A. Cup is the oldest knockout competition in any professional sport. For the English, it was once somewhat akin to the Super Bowl, the showcase match that brings the curtain down on the 10-month domestic football season. Kids dream of playing in it on the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium. This Saturday, two of England’s biggest clubs will contest the Cup. Not coincidentally, they happen to be supported by the two blokes who run the George & Dragon.
Asked if that was behind the snubbing of the royal knot-tying, Wimberley responded simply, “LOL. See you Saturday, mate.”
Which brings me to cultural awareness lesson one, the type of lesson Meghan Markle will be trying to master quickly.
Every utterance must include the term of endearment “mate” in it somewhere. I think it’s some royal decree, or in the Magna Carta maybe.
Here’s another. It’s okay to end every sentence with a question, isn’t it, mate? British, despite the stiff upper lip, brass, call it what you want, like affirmation.
In certain circles (not those at Windsor on Saturday, mind), it’s not at all unusual to liberally drop f-bombs in casual, innocuous conversation. In fact, some might think it rude if you don’t.
This is a perfectly constructed British sentence: “Oi, mate, pass us the fucking tomato sauce for me fucking chips, will ya? Cheers, mate.”
Translation: “Hey, buddy, please pass me the ketchup for my french fries. Thanks.”
The f-bomb is less insulting than “bloody.” If you’d ask for the bloody teapot, some people might scold you to watch your tongue. It’s thought to refer to the blood of Christ, and so “bloody” is sacrilegious, while the f-bomb is merely obscene.
Not that the British are all that pious, and bloody is less shocking than it used to be. Something you may hear in the audience Saturday, but definitely not in the broadcast, is the term “blimey.”
That’s short for “Cor blimey,” which in turn is shorthand for “May God Blind Me.” Tossed around casually by many to express surprise or wonderment.
Like: “Blimey, the Queen’s got a proper hat on, doesn’t she, mate?”
OK, time for some more practical things.
It’s not the toilet; it’s the loo. Easy one.
It’s not elevator; it’s lift. Fries are chips, and chips are crisps. Cookies are biscuits.
Spotted dick is food, not cause for concern.
If you are ordering a savory delight from, say, the Cornish Pasty Co., make sure you pronounce it correctly. It’s pawh-stee not pay-stee. If you ask for the latter, using the long "a," you will get funny looks, unless you happen to be sitting in a burlesque club. Pasties are what the more modest dancers would wear.
Alternately, you could find yourself at a fancy tea party, staring at a tower of pastries and mini-sandwiches. If you exclaim that a particular piece of baking is “a lovely crumpet,” you could shock your guests in the wrong context. It means an attractive sex partner.
Tea is one of the foundations of British society, along with pubs, football and the royal family. Those four things alone have kept the place together since the loss of the empire, which nobody likes to talk about. So don’t.
During royal events, it’s expected you bring out your best china. Better yet if the cups have got faces of royals on them. Harry and Meghan are unveiling their very own commemorative design. Families all across the — ahem — empire have such tea sets.
Tea is a big deal. National debates erupt over how long tea should steep, and whether to add the milk first or last. Bags or leaves? Which brand of bag? The British drink tea to get ready for work, to unwind when they get home, to take a bath, to go to sleep, as a catch-all medicine for anything that ails you. Got the consumption? Have a cuppa, love? Hangover? Cuppa. Breakup with your now less significant other? Cuppa. Tea helps end rows (arguments) and is always offered to invite guests in doors, even police detectives investigating disturbances. It’s always there at funerals, births, and yes, weddings.
In Britain, it’s not uncommon to see block parties at royal events. They typically involve a forest of small plastic Union Jacks, bunting of the same, and tea. The last one I went to, Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, featured Marmite sandwiches and paper party hats.
If so inclined, you can host your very own royal wedding party. The Beeb (via BBC America) is airing live telly footage. If you’re brave, you can trot out the Marmite sarnies. Marmite is a salty sludge used as a condiment and derived as a waste product from making beer.
Some people can’t stand the stuff, including many Brits. By the way, don’t call them that; it’s like someone calling you a Yank. While we’re on it, don’t call all Britons English. The Scots (not the Scotch, which is a drink), the Welsh and Northern Irish will take offense.
But if you’re offered a Marmite delight, you cannot refuse. It’s rude.
Which brings us to the subject of manners. That’s a big thing to most British.
It’s rude to talk loudly. It’s rude to stare. It’s rude to not apologize. For everything. I’ve seen people apologize when people step on their feet. Their feet were in the way. So they both say sorry. Or, when asking for help from a store clerk. “Sorry, can I get some help here, love/mate?” The British don’t like to impose.
It’s rude to read someone else’s newspaper over their shoulder. It’s rude to talk during the broadcast of, say, a royal wedding. Rudest of all: queue-cutters (line-jumpers). There are still spikes atop the battlements at the Tower for just such cretins.
Manners, or more accurately, decorum is an enormous thing for the British royal family. Broadcasters will devote much of their attention to royal protocol and whether or not it’s being observed on Saturday.
Much of it will be covered by the august Daily Telegraph, the county’s most doggedly old establishment outlet, and a staunch supporter of the monarchy. The Telegraph, whose website is counting the seconds until the event (really), tells us of the rigid choreography of the traditional wedding ceremony.
The Queen will be the last to arrive, five minutes before the start. The Dean of Windsor will conduct the ceremony, while the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside over the couple’s vows. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will be Prince Harry’s best man.
The Telegraph advises readers that no cameras or cellphones will be admitted. And guests cannot wear medals or swords. Killjoys.
Meghan Markle will travel to the chapel with her mother, not her father, breaking tradition. Also deviating, she will not take the vow to obey and serve Harry, but opt for language from the 1966 edition of the Common Book of Prayer, as William and Kate did.
Harry and Meghan, likewise, will also take a title from the Queen, as part of the ceremony. The Telegraph predicts the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is the most likely choice. They would know.
The couple also broke tradition by getting married on the weekend, which they claimed they did so that more people (subjects) could watch. This is all part of the efforts by the royal family’s younger members to modernize, to better connect with commoners/subjects. Scheduling it on the same day as the F.A. Cup final seems an inauspicious start.
All of these arrangements come under the watchful eye of Queen Elizabeth and her retainers.
If you should ever find yourself in the presence of Her Majesty, there a few things you might bear in mind.
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According to the BBC’s primer on the subject, you must never turn your back on her. Never speak unless she speaks to you first. Likewise, you mustn’t eat or sit until she does. Address her as “Your Majesty.” Curtsey or bow your head. Do not offer to shake hands until the Queen extends her own.
Not mentioned by the Beeb: Don’t compare Meghan Markle to Wallis Simpson. That didn’t end well, and Elizabeth is still raw from it, eight decades on. Also, don’t bring up the German thing, or that Windsor is not Elizabeth’s real surname. It was changed in 1917, because the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha wouldn’t go down too well with the lads in the trenches.
And whatever you do, don’t mention the American Revolution, War of Independence, or whatever you choose to call it. That’s bloody bad form.
Until that unlikely day arrives, for now enjoy royal wedding day, the closest any of us will ever get.