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Culture

German fascination with British royalty both grandiose and banal

The German media and public are nearly as fascinated with the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton as the British press is - almost surprisingly so for a European country with no royal court of its own.

Prince William and Kate Middleton

Why are Germans so interested in Britain's royalty?

It didn't take long for the news of Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement to spread. As soon as the pair announced their plans on the morning of November 16, a flurry of reports followed in the British media. The international press soon caught up.

So why are the modern, information-oriented masses so fixated on the marriages of royal couples? After all, the wedding of Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria to Daniel Westling on June 19 was reportedly watched by 1 billion people. And why, for instance, are Germans so interested in Britain's royalty?

Media expert Jo Grobel says it's a simple matter of compensation.

"For one thing, in Germany in particular there is still a slight desire and wistfulness with regards to royalty," he told Deutsche Welle. "Seeing as how we no longer have our own royal court, we need the English to let us borrow a bit of theirs. That way at least we have a kind of secondhand royal court."

Royal weddings also provide a contrast to the continuous news coverage of events such as crises, wars and catastrophes. People want to see something positive in between, Grobel says.

The British royal family carries with it a particular intrigue because it has been a source of inspiration for dramas and soap operas over generations. The culminating dramatic stroke, of course, was the tragic demise of Princess Diana in 1997.

"There is already speculation over whether or not Kate Middleton will be the next Diana - whether or not she'll also meet a tragic end. In other words, it's good entertainment," Grobel said.

Fascination beyond national boundaries

The Swedish royal wedding

The Swedish royal wedding was watched by 1 billion people

Add in the fact that for the first time in 30 years, Britain has an heir apparent who will marry - and to a non-royal at that - then one could almost see the royal family as an extraordinarily well-financed vehicle for manufacturing the sights and sounds the masses dream about.

"It has something to do with forming an identity," Grobel said. "It has to do with the upkeep of tradition - even in those countries where the royal family is barely 200 years old. We always imagine they've been around forever. That's true in Britain, but not in Belgium or the Netherlands."

Illusory or not, traditions grow around royal families and shape national identity in ways which elected politicians can't. And that form of identity crosses national boundaries, too. Germans look to Great Britain and feel connected to an older form of European culture, something which plays a significant role as regional traditions change drastically.

According to Grobel, people look for a basic paradox in royal weddings.

"Even when it comes to royalty sometimes things get confusing, and it isn't always much better than in our homes and neighborhoods," he said. "Both elements come together: the very everyday and banal, and the grandiose largesse of world history."

Author: Gunther Birkenstock/gps
Editor: Rob Turner

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