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In run-up to royal wedding, an embarrassment of souvenir riches

By MACKENZIE CARPENTER

Scripps Howard News Service and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 11:35 a.m. HST, Feb 12, 2014


LONDON — Knit your own royal wedding.

Need we say more?

A 64-page manual with that actual title is for sale at the venerable Hatchards bookshop on Piccadilly here, along with slightly more tasteful royal-wedding-themed literary offerings. And yes, the book really does show you how to knit your own Royal Family, including Kate Middleton in her wedding dress, albeit one in wool with mohair trim.

From “Prince William” champagne to “Kiss Me Kate” beer, from refrigerators to Pez dispensers, from comic books to condoms, enterprising marketers are plastering the young couple’s image and name on every conceivable type of merchandise. Much is available online, but stores are hawking royal-wedding memorabilia on the streets of this city to apparently eager American buyers.

At Snappy Snaps, a souvenir-and-camera shop near Westminster Abbey, trays, coasters, tea towels, mugs and plates are flying out of the store, says manager Mayu Manohavan. “We have to restock our shelves every day. It’s been really good for our business.”

In Trafalgar Square, life-sized cardboard cutouts of the wedding duo beckon tourists inside, and one of them, Stephanie Oula, 20, emerged from the store proudly bearing a William and Kate shot glass.

“We’re throwing a big house party on Friday, and I want to be ready,” said Oula, a student at the London School of Economics and a native of New York City.

For those unable to be here for the epic event, The Franklin Mint is offering a limited edition of the Kate Middleton doll for the low, low price of $195, available online. At Harrods the other day, a whole line of less expensive Princess Catherine dolls were for sale for about $57, complete with a replica of Middleton’s gold Aspinal Eaton clutch purse and a purple “fascinator” — a nod to the unusual hats and headpieces the princess-to-be likes to wear.

Buckingham Palace initially took a reserved approach to the memorabilia madness, only accepting durable items such as biscuit tins and officially sanctioned Will and Kate china. Their intertwined initials are “C” and “W” instead of the other way around, so as to avoid any bathroom humor, even though royal protocol usually dictated that the “senior” partner would go first. So for the first time in history, a royal family member’s spouse has her initials before her husband’s. She also officially goes by her given name, Catherine, now ... although most of the memorabilia for sale says Will & Kate.

While Buckingham Palace initially rejected petitions for various “official” tea towels, aprons and other disposable merchandise as in poor taste — it did an about-turn in January after an outcry by tea-towel manufacturers, who had been producing such items as far back as the queen’s own 1947 wedding. So official tea towels are now available — but only with William and Kate’s initials on them, not, God forbid, their faces — along with official Royal Wedding china, which can be ordered online at www.royalcollection.org.uk, or at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle’s gift shop.

On Marylebone High Street, the Emma Bridgewater pottery shop is doing robust business with its handmade mugs in tasteful colors, declaring around the inside rim “Hurrah for Kate and William.” It’s available online, too, at www.emmabridgewater.co.uk.

The mugs, made in limited numbers, cost about $38 and will probably increase in value, said a store saleswoman.

And in the really-bad-taste department, royal-wedding “sick bags” emblazoned with the words “Throne Up” have been doing a brisk business.

It’s estimated that retailers will make about $42 million in sales overall.

Grete Luxbacher, a Crafton, Pa., native who is studying international relations at the University College London, said she glimpsed one plate in a store window — a white plate that says, “Thanks for the Free Day Off” in blue against the St. George’s Cross. Below it is the text “HRH Prince William & Kate Middleton’s 4 day bender, 29th April-2nd May 2011.”

“It’s really interesting because I am not getting the sense that the British people I know are all that excited about the wedding,” she said, adding that she won’t purchase the plate but may buy her mother a mug.

Indeed, some American and Canadian mothers can probably look forward to a royal-wedding commemorative coffee-mug bonanza in the next few weeks.

Caitlin Crane, 17, who was visiting London from Newfoundland in Canada, was browsing in one store “for a little plate for my mom. She was obsessed with Princess Diana, and I know she’ll like me to bring her back a little something, even if I’m leaving the country before the wedding.”

(Email Mackenzie Carpenter at mcarpenter(at)post-gazette.com. Twitter:(at)royalweddingpg. Follow her Royal Wedding blog at www.post-gazette.com/lifestyle.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)






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