“The strength of a prince with the yielding sensitivity of a princess-to-be.” This could be a particularly florid description of Kate and William as they faced the cameras to announce their engagement. But no, it’s actually the tagline for a special, royal wedding-themed condom range on crownjewelscondoms.com.
“Like a royal wedding, intercourse with a loved one is an unforgettable occasion,” the website continues. And with this thought in mind it is offering a pack of three condoms in “a timeless souvenir heirloom collector’s box” to commemorate the big day.
It’s a far cry from the official commemorative tankard, pillbox, mug and plate collection, endorsed by the couple, made in Stoke-on-Trent and sold through the Royal Collection shops. But the diversity of so much royal wedding memorabilia says a lot about what has changed in the 30 years since William’s parents tied the knot in 1981 and supporters were happy with just a mug.
Today everyone wants to be in on the retail action. Type “royal wedding” into the UK Amazon website and it brings up over 10,000 results. The Centre for Retail Research estimates the total sales value of memorabilia will nudge £200m (€225m) and anyone with a creative bent and an opinion on the subject is able to cash in. Alongside the predictable and plain silly – iPhone cases, a Royal Wedding for Dummies handbook and toilet seats (turn yours into a “royal” throne) – there are some surprise hits. Young graphic designer Lydia Leith has had success with her hand-printed “Throne Up” royal wedding sick bags. “I think people are bored with traditional memorabilia and they like a joke,” says Leith. “I’ve sold 7-8,000 – I won’t be able to count until May as I’m so busy making them.” Another big seller has been Fiona Goble’s “Knit Your Own Royal Wedding” – a book containing the patterns for 10 key characters involved in the nuptials (and one corgi). Creative agency KK Outlet commissioned seven graphic designers to each devise a different china plate, also made in Stoke-on-Trent. Bearing slogans such as “It Should Have Been Me” and “Thanks for the Free Day Off”, around 20,000 plates have been sold.
KK curator and gallery manager Danielle Pender explains their success. “They offer an alternative way to celebrate the wedding without being too cynical,” she says. “The young couple are a new generation of Royals – they’ve given a new lease of life to the establishment and our designs reflect this younger attitude.”
No one is making a grand anti-royalist statement with these purchases – it’s more a sign of the irreverent tone of contemporary pop culture. This swell of memorabilia is unlikely to make it into the collector’s item category as the official commemorative merchandise is sure to do, growing in value in years to come. Rather its existence and success signals a new generation of makers and collectors celebrating a new generation of royal.
And even Leith, whose designs suggest a nauseous reaction to the big day, admits: “I will be watching the wedding on the telly to see if I can spot any of my sick bags.”