Thursday, July 29, 2010
It was intended to be the wedding to end all weddings - not merely a family event but, in the best royal way, the expression of Britain's joy; in all, it would be one of those well-planned spectacles for which London has become justifiably famous over the last nine centuries. Alas, the planning fell short by failing to plan for a happy ending, the marriage fell flat despite producing two handsome and hearty sons, and for awhile the spectacle trotted out daily by the tabloids threatened not only the royal couple's peace of mind but the public's as well...
The press had always followed the women in whom The Prince of Wales had expressed an interest, but none quite so fervently as the shy nineteen-year-old preschool teacher named Lady Diana Spencer. In the months leading up to their nuptials her every facet was scrutinized and from every angle as well; her hairstyle was copied, the dresses she appeared in were run up seemingly overnight and available for sale in the nation's High Street boutiques almost faster than she could wear them. Even her gaffes - such as the famous photo of her in a sheer skirt, backlit by brilliant sunshine - only served to endear her to the public.
For a recession-weary Britain at risk of being permanently rent asunder by the most divisive Prime Minister in the island's history*, the impending royal wedding united old and young, brown and black and white, and even attracted support in the more unusual corners of society**. Despite a few glitches in protocol - since Constantine II, the ex-King of Greece, was in attendance as a relative of the Royal Family, the President of Greece Constantine Karamanlis declined to attend, for instance - and a change in venue from the more usual Westminster Abbey to the baroque splendour of St. Paul's Cathedral, the pomp and the hype worked together.
Or at least they did on that brilliantly sunny day in 1981...
*To be fair to Margaret Thatcher, though, the country became far more united in its dislike of her and her callous policies than it might have been otherwise...
**Along the wedding root punks could be spotted holding up signs bearing such cheeky slogans as 'Up Chuck and Di'!
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On this day in 1981 the greatest fairy tale of modern times was enacted when Lady Diana Spencer - youngest daughter of Earl Spencer and Mrs. Frances Shand Kydd - married The Prince of Wales at St Paul's Cathedral in London. Everything was planned down to the last detail - from the star-studded seating arrangement to the elaborate bridal gown - and everything would have gone perfectly, except...
No one thought to plan the happy ending!
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Make Your Own Kind of Music first appeared on Cass Elliot's 1969 solo album Bubblegum, Lemonade and Something for Mama (which appears not to be on CD - boo! hiss!!); inasmuch as every song posted on the Pop Culture Institute can in some way be taken as an anthem of ours, so is this one, only more so. In a world where most creative children have their sparks doused* Elliot's message is not only sympathetic to that plight but defiant in the face of it as well. What a wonderful world this would be if those adults whose dreams had been thwarted as children would not only leave their succeeding generation alone to create and dream in peace but make it their responsibility to see that it never happened again...
Elliot's death (on this day in 1974, at the age of only 32) has often been erroneously attributed to a ham sandwich - a misogynist as well as fattist attribution; the truth is that she died in her sleep of a heart attack, and was found with a partially eaten sandwich in her room, which gave rise to the inaccurate speculation.
Her death came at the height of a career high, following the second of two triumphant shows at the London Palladium; she was survived by her seven year old daughter Owen Vanessa Elliot, who went to live with Cass' sister Leah Kunkel, and later became a singer in her own right. Despite the utter dearth of information about the younger Elliot online, interest in her is obviously high; when I published her name in a post on this blog to mark the occasion of Cass Elliot's birthday in 2008 I recorded several hundred hits over the next three months as a result.
*More prevalent then than now, but still an all-too persistent trend in the culture, sadly.
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[Although Mary Queen of Scots was one of the beauties of her age - and thanks to the tutelage of her mother Marie de Guise was intellectually capable of good governance - her terrible taste in men (both romantically and in her choice of advisors) as much as her warped distrust of her cousin Elizabeth I proved to be her undoing.]
1014 - During the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars, at the Battle of Kleidion, Byzantine Emperor Basil II inflicted a decisive defeat on the Bulgarian army; news of his subsequent savage treatment of 15,000 prisoners reportedly caused Bulgaria's Tsar Samuil to die of shock.
1030 - During the Ladejarl-Fairhair succession wars, at the Battle of Stiklestad, Norway's King Olaf II fought and died trying to regain his throne from the Danes; His Majesty was later canonized, and is commemorated from Norway to Minnesota as Saint Olaf, although he may be best remembered today as the namesake of Rose Nylund's hometown...
1565 - The widowed Mary Queen of Scots married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Duke of Albany at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.
1567 - 13-month-old James VI was crowned King of Scotland at The Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling following the deposition of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots; the sermon at his coronation was preached by John Knox.
1693 - During the War of the Grand Alliance, at the Battle of Landen, French commander Marshal Luxembourg won a Pyrrhic victory over Allied English-Dutch forces under the Dutch Republic's stadtholder William III.
1830 - France's King Charles X abdicated following the July Revolution; he was succeeded by Louis-Philippe I, who reigned as King of the French from the period of instability known as the July Monarchy until February 1848.
1848 - In the midst of the Irish Potato Famine the Tipperary Revolt - an unsuccessful nationalist uprising in that Irish city against British rule - was put down by police.
1851 - Annibale de Gasparis discovered the asteroid 15 Eunomia in the inner main asteroid belt.
1858 - The United States and Japan signed the Harris Treaty at the Ryōsen-ji temple in Shimoda.
1864 - Confederate spy Belle Boyd was arrested by Union troops and detained at the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC.
1900 - Italy's King Umberto I (shown, at right) was assassinated by Italian-born anarchist Gaetano Bresci while on a visit to Monza; His Majesty had previously survived an assassination attempt at the hands of Giovanni Passanante in November 1978, and another in April 1897 following an attack by Pietro Acciarito. Bresci later claimed he was avenging those killed in the Bava-Beccaris massacre, of which the King had approved - going so far as to specifically commend its architect, General Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris; Bresci's actions also inspired a similar killing, that of US President William McKinley in September 1901 by Leon Czolgosz.
1920 - Construction of Oregon's Link River Dam began as part of the Klamath Reclamation Project.
1948 - After a hiatus of 12 years caused by World War II, the first Summer Olympics to be held since the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin - The Games of the XIV Olympiad - opened in London.
1957 - The International Atomic Energy Agency is established.
1958 - US President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
1966 - Bob Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident near Woodstock, New York.
1967 - Off the coast of North Vietnam the USS Forrestal caught fire, causing the worst US naval disaster since World War II, killing 134.
1976 - In New York City David Berkowitz - the soon-to-be so-called Son of Sam - killed Donna Lauria and seriously wounded Jody Valenti in the first of a series of attacks which had women in that city on edge for the next year. The story of the killings was the subject of Spike Lee's 1999 film Summer of Sam, in which Berkowitz was played by Michael Badalucco.
1993 - The Israeli Supreme Court acquitted accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk of all charges and he was set free.
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