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

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid