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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora