Sunday, May 20, 2018
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In Britain's long-gone empire, not-quite-subjects celebrate wedding of Prince William


Supporters of the British royal family watch a TV screen in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia of the royal wedding at Westminster Abby in London of Prince William to Kate Middleton on Friday.


NEW DELHI — They gathered Friday in distant outposts of what used to be the British empire, a world of not-quite-subjects watching the wedding of the heir to the crown.

In New Zealand, they celebrated the Kiwi godmother to Kate Middleton's father (Brenda McAdam told national radio she and her late husband became friends with Kate's grandfather in the 1940s). In Hong Kong, a well-known wedding designer gave Chinese-language TV commentary.

In Nairobi's most upscale mall, a half dozen workers and shoppers gathered near a wall of flat-screen TVs just as William and Kate waved to the crowd in London. It is a point of pride in Kenya that William chose a rustic cabin on the slopes of Mount Kenya to propose to Kate.

In India, once the jewel of the empire, they sat transfixed in front of millions of televisions.

"Of course I'm watching. It's the biggest event of the century," said Jasmine Bhomia, an 18-year-old student in New Delhi — who then added that this wedding would, one day, be eclipsed by Prince Harry's.

Then there was Australia, where pubs cashed in on the frenzy with wedding bashes that featured everything from dress contests to bouquet-tossing competitions.

Canadians slithered out of bed at dawn and headed to public venues or enjoyed crumpets and English tea in their living rooms.

Janice Chan, 32, pinned on a fancy, hand-me-down hat from a friend's grandmother who wore the headpiece years ago during an awards ceremony before Queen Elizabeth II and headed to Toronto's Royal York hotel to join 60 fellow royalists for a traditional English brekkie.

"When Kate met William at the altar and he said, 'I love you. You look beautiful,' everyone in the hotel swooned," said Chan, ever chipper for waking at 3:30 a.m.

In New Brunswick, a gathering at the lieutenant-governor's residence in Fredericton drew a crowd of about 200 eager to take in as much of the event as they could.

"Canadians have an attachment to Britain whether they acknowledge it or not," said Robert Ross, 72, from Lincoln, News Brunswick, who watched the wedding wearing a century-old bowler hat his father wore when the Queen was crowned.

England once governed a huge swath of the planet, with millions of subjects from the Caribbean to East Africa to the Far East. Some former colonies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, still retain the British monarch as their head of state, while dozens retain looser ties. Many more countries never under its rule are allies.

Israeli news outlets widely covered the wedding, attention Britain's envoy to Israel Matthew Gould hailed as "testament to the warmth of the relationship between the U.K. and Israel."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed a crowd watching the ceremony in Tel Aviv, toasting the newlyweds and wishing them and Queen Elizabeth II "Mazal Tov," or congratulations in Hebrew, on behalf of the Israeli government.

In the U.S., royal enthusiasts woke as early as 4 a.m. to catch last-minute pre-wedding announcements.

"Everything was perfect, prim and proper, just like the English do," said Heather Mauro, 28, watching the wedding on a massive screen in New York's Times Square.

The White House said President Barack Obama caught a bit of the royal wedding on television during breakfast before departing on a trip to Alabama and Florida.

The six male astronauts preparing to launch on the space shuttle Endeavour later Friday were too focused on preparations to watch the royal wedding, said NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs. But 220 miles above Earth, it was a different story. U.S. astronaut Catherine Coleman made sure NASA broadcast the television coverage live up to the space station for the crew. Five men are on the station with Coleman: another American, an Italian and three Russians.

Aid workers in Kabul, Afghanistan dug out their nicest clothes for a wedding party, and in Jordan, a Middleton family friend slaughtered two lambs for a celebration feast.

"She looks radiant, just like a queen," Hanna Hashweh told The Associated Press. He planned the lunch for 100 guests at his farm outside Amman.

"We're having our own celebration, full of excitement over seeing this historic moment," said Hashweh, an authorized agent for British Airways in Jordan who knew the Middletons when Kate's father worked for the airline.

The wedding brought smiles and sighs in disaster-hit northeast Japan. Evacuees living in a high school gymnasium in Ishinomaki city sat around a TV and kept warm around an electric stove.

"We are filled with painful memories," said Yukiko Hayashi, 72, whose home washed away in the March 11 tsunami. "So being able to watch something like this is very heartwarming."

Katsunao Kawaragi, 54, is hopeful that the marriage will be a success. "I think it's good that they've known each other for so long. She knows what she's getting into."

He noted the experience of Japan's Princess Masako, who married Crown Prince Naruhito to great fanfare in 1993. Since then, however, she has been afflicted with emotional problems, triggered by adjustments to imperial life and intense pressure to produce a male heir for the world's oldest monarchy.

Even the Vatican toasted the new couple. Officials at the Vatican's office for relations with Christians feasted on cakes and pastries as they watched the wedding, and reporters in the Vatican press office kept an eye on the nuptials as they listened in on a briefing about the pope's major event this weekend, the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

In some former colonies, the hoopla raised the prickly issue of whether the British monarch should be dumped.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been outspoken about her hopes Australia would drop its royal ties and become a republic, leading some to question why she would attend the wedding.

"I received an invitation to go to the royal wedding and I think — on behalf of the nation — it's appropriate that I'm there," she said earlier this week.

In New Zealand, some 300 people gathered to toast the wedding at a hotel in Auckland, an event hosted by the organization Monarchy New Zealand.

Those who lean toward a republic didn't celebrate, joining "the ambivalent majority" who don't really care, said Lewis Holden of New Zealand Republic.

"You can't really attack someone for getting married, and we obviously wish William and Kate all the best. Our only comment is that it really shouldn't have anything to do with us in New Zealand, 12,000 miles away," he said.

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