A very modern fairytale – watched by billions and streamed live on the internet

April 21, 2011

In the fairy stories I read my two children, there are a lot of princesses and princes. There are princesses in towers, princesses forced to sleep on piles of mattresses with peas shoved underneath, princesses who sleep for a hundred years, and princesses forced to eat poison apples.

Handsome princes and wicked stepmothers feature largely. As do dragons, fairies and other mythical creatures. Obviously there’s an audience to the happy couple’s progress to the altar – mostly myself (less enthusiastic) and my daughters (extremely enthusiastic despite my best efforts), but it’s a fairly private affair. I’ve yet to read a fairy story that features a prince, princess and a two billion audience Royals10for their nuptials.

But such is the power of fairy stories that this is the number of people predicted to watch the wedding of Prince William, second in line to the¬†British throne and son of Britain’s most famous recent princess Diana, to Kate Middleton, soon to be Princess Catherine. Two billion people?! That’s nearly a third of the world’s population. And only 30 million of those are expected to be watching in Britain, according to a poll conducted for Reuters by Ipsos MORI.

If we are to believe the figures, which sound as extravagant as the best fairy stories, that means 1 billion, 970 million people will tune in to watch a wedding taking place when half of the world is getting ready for bed.

And they won’t just be watching on television. The wedding of William and Kate – for all the trappings of a carriage, a huge church, traditional cake – will be a very modern affair. Those millions watching around the world and at home will be able to follow the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey and ceremony live on the internet, via Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.

That’s not something Snow White or Cinderella had to contend with. Will this high definition, endlessly analysed, ceaselessly commented-on event lose its fairytale sparkle from such intense scrutiny? Maybe for the cynics. But for those who still buy wholesale into fairytales, like my two- and four-year old, the sight of a princess marrying a prince will be magical no matter how it’s delivered and no matter how many people share in the story.

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