Events such as the royal wedding lure extremists of all kinds. In a rather fevered story, The Daily Mail reports that a small Muslim group “plans to hijack the royal wedding by burning effigies of Prince William and Kate Middleton.” A spokesman for the group, Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), adds, “We are expecting thousands of people to protest. We may burn the flag and the crown.”
Perhaps a dash of reality is needed to douse this incendiary rhetoric. First, if history is any guide, the number of protesters will be in the scores. Second, Scotland Yard has already rejected an application from MAC to protest outside Westminster Abbey. Another protest site, away from the parade route, is under discussion. Third, the police are planning to invoke various stop-and-search powers to prevent anyone from bringing weapons or protest materials to the celebrations.
As predictably as night follows day, MAC has drawn the ire of the English Defence League, an ultra-nationalist group. They plan a counter-protest. London police, who have better things to do April 29 than monitor two collections of fringe protesters, have vowed to keep order.
“The current threat level is obviously severe,” said Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens. She said she had a “clear” message to “anyone intending to come to London on the day of the royal wedding to commit criminal acts”: police, she said, “will act quickly, robustly and decisively so that it’s a happy event for everybody else.”
In other royal wedding related news:
• Prince Charles is skipping a royal event to spend wedding eve with William and Harry. The Sun reports that Charles will not attend a party thrown April 28 for foreign royals by his mother, Queen Elizabeth. Instead, Charles will be at St. James’s Palace withhis two sons. Since the death of their mother, Princess Diana, Charles has been more devoted to his children than is generally acknowledged. Today also marks an awkward record for Charles. He is now the longest-serving heir to the crown in British history. His 59 years, two months and 14 days tops the record held by his great-great-grandfather, Edward VII.
• It is generally wise to pay attention when flying a helicopter. William’s godfather, the former King Constantine II of Greece, offered that advice in a letter when the engagement was announced. “I went through that experience myself — that it’s quite dangerous to fly a helicopter when you’re in love because you have to concentrate on keeping that machine in the air. I said, ‘Be careful, concentrate on that helicopter now and think of Catherine later on.”’ Constantine, 70, was Greece’s king from 1964 until 1970, when the ruling junta abolished the monarchy. He praised William as ”straightforward, honest, hardworking and never losing his sense of humor…He’s a hell of a nice guy, that’s the important thing.” The BBC interview with Constantine can be seen here and heard here. The Daily Telegraph has a story here.
• Poor Kate. Decisions, decisions. Does she want the $114,000 Jaguar XJ or the $125,000 Audi A8? According to the Daily Express, William wants to buy his bride a new car. Although Kate will be driven to official engagements, she has a choice of privately-financed Audis for her personal use. Kate now drives a $32,800 Audi A3 hatchback, reportedly leased under the same favorable terms given her future in-laws. The close relationship between the German car manufacturer and the royals stirred some controversy when it was revealed that Audi’s PR chief was invited to the royal nuptials. Said one Liberal Democrat MP: “It is remarkably odd that an executive from a car manufacturer which does not make cars in this country is invited when others are not.”
• The publicists must have loved this one. Alice St. Clair, the actress tapped to play Kate in the Hallmark Channel movie William and Kate: A Royal Love Story, has royal connections. Her father, Cmdr. Peter Loughborough, is head of the Scotland Yard division that protects the royals and their palaces, The Daily reports. Also known as Lord Loughborough, he went to Eton and is a hereditary member of the House of Lords, although he was later elected to the post. The family’s lineage dates to the Middle Ages. St. Clair’s father is the only policeman who is a member of White’s, the exclusive London gentleman’s club (no women allowed) where Prince Charles is also a member. Although production is set to begin next month, no word on who will play William.
• It seemed like a good idea at the time. When Kate and William’s engagement was announced in November, the Chester (UK) zoo named two young Royal Starlings after the couple. The birds’ natural habitat is in east Africa, near where William proposed. The zoo even planned a Royal Starling wedding. Now the wedding is on hold. The zoo has discovered that both birds are male. “Royal starlings are very difficult to sex when they are young,” Andy Woolham, team leader of parrots and penguins, told the Chester Chronicle. “However, having now used their feathers to conduct accurate DNA sexing, we now know for certain that they’re actually both male.” The birds have been renamed Billy and Nate.