The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is the social event of a generation. Only 1,900 guests will attend their nuptials at Westminster Abbey. All will be dressed in their finest duds—uniforms, morning coats or lounge suits for the men while hats and dresses are de rigueur for women. Two of those chosen few should have been Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen. But an election ending just three days later, on May 2, has ruined those plans. Now, Laureen Harper has confirmed that neither will attend. “We aren’t going,” she told Maclean’s.
That definitive answer ended speculation on the political ramifications of having a campaigning politician attend such a high-profile event hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. Generally, her family and representatives in Canada avoid all but the most essential contact with politicians during an election campaign, explains a senior Canadian protocol official, who asked not to be identified. That way no one can suggest they are endorsing a politician or a party. Still, he admits that the convention “is not written in stone.”
If Harper and his wife had gone, he said, “I think people wouldn’t have seen it as electioneering, but they’d see it as him going to represent Canada.” Robert Hazell, director of the constitution unit of the University College London, agrees that an exception would have been allowed in this case: “The royal family may normally avoid visits [by politicians] at election time, but a royal wedding overrrides that.” If there was criticism, the protocol official believes it would have come from within the Conservative party, not happy that their leader was leaving the campaign trail for a quick jaunt to London.
Laureen Harper will have to settle for getting all the details about the ceremony from her neighbours and fellow invitees, Governor General David Johnston and his wife. She doesn’t even have the gold-burnished invitation—that begins with a majesterial: “The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by the Queen to invite…?” — as a memento of what could have been. “I have not seen the invitation,” she said. “I would love to see it.”