BEIRUT: With mass protest movements testing the staying power of longstanding regimes across the region, some in this country will gather later this week to celebrate one old-world institution, the British monarchy.
Prince William, second in line to the British throne, will marry Kate Middleton Friday at London’s Westminster Abbey. Some 1,900 guests will attend the service, and as many as 2 billion people are expected to watch the festivities on television worldwide.
In Beirut, a more modest number of between 360 and 400 guests are expected at a Friday charity gala lunch organized by the British Embassy.
Guests at the appropriately named Le Royal Hotel in Dbayeh will watch the wedding live from the sold-out lunch.
The British Embassy has imported commemorative memorabilia from the U.K. including plates, mugs, porcelain trinket boxes, and tea towels. These pieces will be auctioned to benefit two Lebanese charities, the Lebanese Association of SOS Children’s Villages, and Father Robert’s School for Deaf Children. Proceeds from the $75 tickets will also benefit these charities.
Nicola Davies, political and media officer at the British Embassy, says the wedding is “a great occasion to celebrate, just in the sense that it’s a British royal wedding, and it’s a chance to get the British community [in Lebanon] together along with our Lebanese friends. It [also] gives us an opportunity to highlight the modern side of Britain. A lot of times people think of Britain as old fashioned … but [William and Kate] are a modern couple.”
Davies says around half the expected guests at Friday’s lunch will be British, and half will be Lebanese. In the U.K., 5,500 applications for street parties had been received by the Local Government Association as of April 23, and in Lebanon some individuals are also organizing their own celebrations.
Nouna Hamza from north Lebanon says that “unless I receive a royal invitation,” she will be watching the event on TV at with friends and family members.
“As [far as] I know, many Lebanese are interested and looking forward to the event, but to be honest it is all out of the deep love we had and still have for Princess Diana [William’s mother] … we can still see something alive from her pure spirit in her sons. I personally miss her so much. When I was a teenager, I used her pictures to cover my book covers, and her posters were everywhere in my room … she is my idol.”
Prince William’s parents, Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, were married 30 years ago at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. “Prince William looks a lot like her,” says Hamza. “I hope he will have great happiness in his [future] life.”
Beirut’s Tarek Baydoun says although “it is my dream to watch it from the U.K.,” he too will watch the wedding on television.
For anglophiles and expatriates without plans, at least one of Beirut’s British pubs is providing a place to see Kate’s dress, live. Monnot’s The Greedy Goose will open at noon and screen the ceremony. Their set menu for the day includes traditional British finger sandwiches of cucumber, smoked salmon, and tuna. As of Monday, 25 people had reserved places at the 60-seat pub.
For those who prefer to keep their interest in royal affairs to themselves, the event will be streamed live on YouTube. Last month the website speedtest.net ranked Lebanon’s internet the world’s slowest in terms of download speed, so this option may result in a jerky view of the royal walk down the aisle.