News / Europe

    Britain Notes Big Change in Royal Wedding Souvenirs

    A woman views crockery featuring images of Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton in a souvenir shop in Piccadilly Circus in central London
    A woman views crockery featuring images of Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton in a souvenir shop in Piccadilly Circus in central London

    Multimedia

    Audio

    What can a cookie tin, a Rubik’s Cube, and a novel tell us about Britain’s royal family?

    Quite alot according to Robert Opie, who has been a collector since before he can remember.  Today, his collection makes up a museum in London.

    It’s crammed full of souvenirs from the past few hundred years and among them a whole souvenir history of Britain’s royal family.

    Steeped in tradition


    The objects tell a story of a monarchy steeped in tradition and decorum - a theme that Opie says is reflected in the very nature of the souvenirs themselves.

    "I think the story of the wedding souvenirs and indeed royal souvenirs in general is that they maintain very much a traditional structure," Opie explained. "We’ve got mugs and plates and jugs. We’ve got tins, which often contain chocolate or biscuits. We’ve got the flags, we’ve got all kinds of royal souvenirs which kind of capture the moment. So there is very much a continuity of style that maintains throughout the story."

    But he says that story is changing. At his Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London, Opie has documented a rapid liberalization of British culture since the 1960s.

    He says that’s resulted in a new style of royal souvenir that breaks with the traditional repertoire of the past.

    Charles & Diana

    A postcard of a commemorative stamp celebrating the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 is displayed outside a philatelists in London
    A postcard of a commemorative stamp celebrating the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 is displayed outside a philatelists in London

    The first major royal event that really showed this shift, he says, was the wedding of Prince Charles to Diana.

    "Certainly for 1981 with Charles and Di the latest thing was a tea towel," explained Opie,  "and there are quite a few different examples and the other for that particular moment was the annoying Rubik’s Cube, which only children seemed to be able to do and that was the latest innovations, so of course they did a royal one for that."

    That wedding also marked a shift in the real lives of the royal family, says publicist Richard Fitzwilliams, an expert on the royal family.

    He says Diana, through both her life and death, brought the royal family closer to the British public and especially to young people.

    William & Kate

    Britain Notes Big Change in Royal Wedding Souvenirs
    Britain Notes Big Change in Royal Wedding Souvenirs

    Fitzwilliams says Prince William and Kate Middleton are the perfect couple to bring that mantle forward.

    "I would say William and Catherine are the perfect team to take the monarchy into the new century because there is no doubt they are so responsive to public feeling," the publicist said. "They are tremendously popular. And you can see in the walkabouts and the official duties they’ve performed so far how at ease they are with people."

    Fitzwilliams says the relationship between William and Kate shows just how much the monarchy has changed in recent decades.

    Diana was only 20 years old when she married into the royal family. Up until her wedding day she referred to Prince Charles as ‘sir’ and even her sexual history was a topic of public concern.  

    Changing times

    This year’s bride is another story altogether. Kate is 29 years old. She has a university degree. And she and William have lived together on and off for the past 10 years.  

    Fitzwilliams says the different brides reflect a changing Britain.

    "The relationship between William and Catherine is a very modern relationship," he noted. "What is particularly significant is that this is the first time that the heir to the throne of Britain can actually choose his bride regardless of class."

    Collector Robert Opie says the popularization of the royal family can be seen in this year’s royal wedding souvenirs.

    Unofficial souvenir condoms of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton are seen in London
    Unofficial souvenir condoms of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton are seen in London

    A romantic fiction graphic novel is on display at his museum. Royal wedding beers, condoms, and sick bags have also been specially made for the event.

    "At the moment I’m seeing more souvenirs that have a little bit of an edge in terms of a feeling of alternative monarchy," Opie said. "So it’s a little bit more edgy in the way that it’s portrayed."

    When contraception replaces cookie tins as a royal souvenir, it might be a sign that the times really are changing.

    *For more information on the Royal Wedding, visit our Special Reports page

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    Video Energy Lacking at Annual Offshore Oil Conference

    The slump in oil prices that began in 2014 has taken a toll on the industry but all express confidence it will end eventually

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora