Pip, Pip, Hooray

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The Brits are big on weddings, and Pippa is getting hitched sometime this autumn, or maybe later on, when the English weather is at its best. If any Quest readers are not familiar with Pippa, she’s the sister of the commoner who is married to Prince William, son of Prince Charles, who will one day be King of England. That fact alone makes the upcoming wedding ceremony a tabloid dream, and no one does it better than Brit tabloids.

Pippa Middleton is engaged to a hedge-fund manager-—naturally—James Matthews, and he seems a good sort, not too greedy like some of ours. The younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge now faces the critical eye of the entire country, snobbery being the oxygen that fuels British life in general, and the upper classes in particular.

The first thing that was reported about the bridegroom was his vast wealth, as usually exaggerated by the media in order to get the envious types up and at ’em. It sells newspapers and concentrates the minds of those who would rather protest about the inequities of wealth than wish the happy couple a long life. What has also been reported, but mostly ignored by the jealous, is the fact that the bridegroom’s father started up the greasy pole as a coalminer, as did the bride’s maternal grandfather. Eventually he became a hotel owner—not exactly a rags to riches ascent -—but nevertheless a millionaire.

Now as everyone knows millionaires are at present a dime a dozen, with Hillary and Bill leading the pack of those who have never held a proper job and yet have raked in hundreds of millions by speaking to students and Wall Street types. Matthews senior and Middleton senior both started very poor and through hard work have become rich. A marriage to the House of Windsor has also helped, and now the two families of similar background will be united. Hooray, time for a drink, as our English cousins like to say.

Over on this side, a rags to riches story is celebrated like no other. It is the basis of American capitalism, the difference between a European who sees a Ferrari and wants the government to confiscate it, and an American who tells himself one day he will purchase the exact same automobile. Whereas Americans look at Downton Abbey as a costume drama and revel in its antiquated snobbishness, the Brits see it as social commentary, and nothing brings out their inner Dowager Countess of Grantham more than a social faux pas. I sat next to the creator of the show once at a private St. James’s club to which I belong. Lord Fellows, as he has now become, could not have been friendlier but he was as snobby as they come. He told me that he was very proud that his wife was lady in waiting to Princess Michael of Kent, a real hustler and phony, so I asked him if he was bragging or complaining. It ended our brief and pleasant chat.

Celebrity nuptials are far too easy prey for the gimlet-eyed. And nothing escapes the aristocracy, especially when a coalminer’s son marries a coalminer’s daughter who has married into British royalty. Everything will be examined as if a murder hinged on the details: the invitations, the wedding list, the hymns to be sung, the crystals, and the dance routine following the ceremony. In fact, while poring over these and other smaller details, people will even stop discussing the weather. Or Brexit. Even football. Thank God for Pippa and her hubby.

Needless to say—and we’ve all seen Four Weddings and a Funeral—everyone has their pet hates, and I can’t wait to see people wince when some toastmaster bellows in unposh English, “Will everyone be upstanding for the bride and groom!” Mind you, there will be plenty of opportunities for those of impeccable credentials to die a little, as when some of the Matthews-Middleton relatives have a drink too many and let go. Pippa has an uncle, Gary Goldsmith, who endured a tabloid sting in his Spanish villa where a large stash of cocaine was discovered. The villa’s name was Bang-Bang. A Matthews younger brother is a toe-curling embarrassment because he’s a regular in a reality program. I can see the steam rising from Prince Philip’s ears.

No best man has been as yet named, and as we all know, the best man’s speech following the ceremony is an English tradition like Trooping the Color. I have attended many weddings in the English countryside in my long life, and the best man’s speech is more often than not in very bad taste. Once in Italy I had to get up on the stage and warn the best man to stop or else. The Italian parents were not happy to hear about their daughter’s promiscuity, but thank God their English was poor. For some strange reason I don’t think this will happen in Pippa’s wedding.

What a celebrity wedding does is add to the gaiety of a nation, especially for the middle classes who sniff out every signifier of social standing. The truly upper classes do not give a damn, and the lower classes ditto. What is certain is that the wedding will be sold to Hello or some other rubbish magazine, and the happy couple will leave on their honeymoon secure that their bank account will have improved by close to a million pounds. Not a bad deal when you think of it.

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