When Prince William and his newly-wed wife Catherine Middleton kissed twice on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Friday, the wildly cheering crowds below would have hoped more than just love was sealed.
What they want sealed and secured is no less than the future of the British monarchy – an institution that seemed sullied and teetering on the brink of isolation in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death in 1997.
Friday’s wedding of William and commoner Kate, many in this country hope, will help rejuvenate a monarchy that is currently led by an 85-year-old Queen, Elizabeth II. Her son, Prince Charles, is already 62. And this month he became the longest-serving king-in-waiting.
There is a slightly musty air about the British royal family, so it’s no wonder the expression most frequently used by royal commentators to describe Kate, 28, is a “breath of fresh air.”
“She is perceived as relatively normal,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. “And William and Kate come across as a nice couple – not stuck up.”
It is a view that resonated among the hundreds of thousands who lined the roads of central London on Friday to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. Many said the couple lent the royal family – and the nation – the elusive feelgood factor.
However, according to some royal watchers, the family is faced with some hard choices. The writer Christopher Anderson, in his book William and Kate: a Royal Love Story, makes the startling revelation that soon after the two announced their engagement last year the Queen began discussions on stepping. She has reportedly decided to abdicate either after the Diamond jubilee celebrations of her rule next year or when she turns 90 in 2016.
If she doesn’t the domino effect could make life difficult for William and Kate. If the Queen lived and ruled till 100 and Charles for just 10 years after that, William would be 53 when he became king.
“It isn’t a very pretty picture,” the book quotes a highly-placed royal adviser as saying. “The Queen Mother lived to be 101, and she was active and alert almost to the very end of her life.
“Her daughter is 85, and should she live another 15 years and choose to remain Queen all that time – and I’m not saying she shouldn’t – it will have a profound impact.”