European republicans flock to Britain for royal wedding
Anti-monarchists from across Europe are jumping on the royal wedding bandwagon in Britain in the hope of using the event to boost their republican campaign.
Led by the British group Republic, campaigners from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain will descend on London for the 29 April nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
Disgusted at their position as subjects of royal heads of state and shocked at the cost to taxpayers of bankrolling their upkeep, the campaigners view the nuptials as the perfect chance to push their vision of a monarchy-free Europe.
But the republicans face a battle to get their voices heard.
Media coverage has been largely favourable towards the royals in the run-up to the wedding and hundreds of thousands of well-wishers are expected to pack the streets for the event.
Nevertheless, Republic campaign manager Graham Smith believes Britons are less excited about the wedding than the press coverage suggests.
"Most people in this country aren't that bothered about the royal family or the monarchy, they don't really care that much one way or the other," Smith told AFP.
United Kingdom, London : A woman reads a newspaper announcing the engagement of Britain's Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton as she stands outside St James Palace, in central London on 16 November 2010
"When these big stories come up, it then makes people think about it. It gives us opportunities to gain publicity and raise our profile."
An alternative street party will be held and merchandise such as cups bearing the pun "I am not a royal wedding mug" will be on sale, with the anti-celebrations culminating in a meeting of the European movement.
Republic, Britain's main republican campaign group, has seen its membership jump by around 50 percent to more than 14,000 supporters since William and Kate announced their engagement in November.
Campaigners also point to the fact that previous royal weddings have helped boost interest in a republic and increase hostility to royalty, which they regard as an anachronism in the 21st century.
The Swedish Republican Association, which is sending three representatives to London, said the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling in June last year eroded support for the Nordic country's royals.
"A royal event makes people reflect on the institution of monarchy, and in Sweden many arrived at the conclusion that this is an outdated and rather bizarre phenomenon," said the group's Helena Tolvhed.
Membership of the Swedish group rose from about 3,500 to 7,500 in 2010, she added.
After the Swedish wedding, anti-monarchist groups from seven countries formed the Alliance of European Republican Movements to share ideas and nurture organisations just starting out.
The alliance will hold a meeting the day after Kate and William's nuptials.
"Norway is just getting started and they will see a more established group like the one in the UK or the one in Sweden. It does really motivate people and inspire people," said Smith.
Aside from campaign groups whose raison d'etre is abolition of the monarchy, others are against the wedding because they regard it as a distraction from the British government's austerity cuts that begin to bite in April.
"It is awful all the hype at a very unfortunate time when the cuts really kick in and more people start losing their jobs," Polly Toynbee, a commentator from Britain's leftwing Guardian newspaper, told AFP.
There is however much evidence of the uphill struggle faced by republicans to get their message across.
United Kingdom, London : British Union Jack flags hang along London's Regent Street on 22 April 2011, in preparation for the royal wedding between Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton at Westminister Abbey on 29 April 2011
Republic's first attempt at organising its "Not the Royal Wedding" street party in London's historic Covent Garden failed after the local community and shopkeepers raised objections and authorities decided against the plan.
The republicans were not put off, however, and have shifted their party to another street in London.
The group felt the need to organise a meeting with the BBC to protest what it claims is the broadcaster's pro-royal coverage in the run-up to the wedding, although Smith admits he is yet to see any change in tone.
Nor is polling evidence encouraging for the anti-monarchists -- a recent YouGov survey showed that only 13 percent of Britons wanted an end to the monarchy, down from 19 percent six years ago.
Sam Reeves / AFP / Expatica