To skim London’s newspapers earlier this month was to think that the city was consumed by mayhem. But an afternoon at London’s summer attraction — the Royal Wedding Dress at Buckingham Palace — is a fairer exhibit of reality than were the riots alone.
“Kate’s dress,” as it’s called, is the gown that Catherine Middleton wore in April to marry Prince William. To capitalize on global interest in the wedding, the Queen has put the dress on display in her State Rooms, open — for a $30 fee — till October.
Kate’s dress reflects traditional British qualities: controlled creativity and pride of craftsmanship. Listen to the British women in the Buckingham crowd, and you can appreciate the dance that Kate must perform with her admirers and critics. She must give them enough of herself but not too much.
The audience for the dress is global. Tickets are sold out until Sept. 6.
Visitors absorb the symbolism: Marriage is important, as are order and protocol. These constants are the trademarks of the spiffed-up monarchy, on view outside the palace every other morning during the changing of the guard.
No country or city is failing if it can persuade millions of tourists to spend their finite dollars and time experiencing its history. The tourists are relentless: each day, the geese in St. James’ Park are fed by people speaking every language on the planet.
Outside Buckingham Palace, London is still London. On a weekend night, girls celebrating a “hen party” — a bachelorette party, that is — stand outside a Piccadilly club, sporting raunchy headbands.
One afternoon, two girls in full face and body niqabs and abayas — Muslim garb — laugh and find their balance, hand in hand, as they disembark from a nausea-inducing ride at the temporary fun fair beside the London Eye ferris wheel.
The violence and thuggery of two weeks before, which led to four deaths — twice the number of British tourists murdered in Florida in April after ending up in the wrong neighborhood — were horrific. But the riots got so much attention because they were an aberration.
London, relative to the rest of the planet, is still a beacon of order, culture and business. This is a city with a murder rate one-fourth of New York City’s — its lowest in
Ordinary citizens have aided their neighbors throughout the country. One riot victim in Birmingham, Indian-born store owner Ajay Bhatia, celebrated his new British citizenship as he was cleaning up the mess that looters left.
“The community here has rallied around me in a way I did not think was possible,” he told Prince William when the prince came to visit. “I love this country. I don’t feel ashamed. I feel proud.”
London isn’t perfect — and it bears a special burden because the world depends on it to help maintain its success.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.