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

    Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.