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Student riots signal glum times ahead. A royal proposal does the opposite. A photographer struggles to capture David Cameron’s good side while the BBC struggles to report on anything. A submarine fails to submerge and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s nightmares come out of the kitchen.
Top news: If you’re unaware that Britain’s Prince William has finally asked his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton to marry him, then you’re probably going to forsake the rest of this article in favor of some heavy Googling. But if you’re willing to stick with us, here’s a quick recap: The wedding will take place next year; everyone is happy, if slightly wistful about Princess Diana; and there are hopes that the woman who will become Britain’s sixth Queen Catherine will avoid the grisly fates of her predecessors.
News of the engagement is likely to provide a mildly soothing balm with which the government can treat the increasing pain inflicted by sweeping austerity measures designed to rein in Britain’s massive debts. In what many view as a sign of things to come, rioting students laid siege to the ruling Conservative Party’s London headquarters this month to protest drastic rises in university fees.
Many observers, including former senior lawmen, criticized police handling of the incident, saying officers should have worked harder to prevent the violence — even if that just meant keeping an eye on Twitter and Facebook.
More peaceful demonstrations were staged outside offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation as the first in what is expected to be a series of 48-hour strikes was held in protest of cuts to staff pensions. The walkout by many key journalists meant senior managers had to step in to read news bulletins while some programs fell into dead air.
It was also the backdrop of economic hard times that saw Prime Minister David Cameron make an embarrassing u-turn over the use of public funds to employ a personal photographer. After he was pilloried in Parliament, the Conservative leader stumped up party funds to pay for the $56,000-a-year “vanity” hire.
Cameron needed all the help he could get to look good on a tricky state visit to China, where he had to juggle efforts to ink billion-dollar business deals alongside the delicate issue of Beijing’s record on human rights.
There was further embarrassment in the north of the country when the Royal Navy’s largest and most sophisticated nuclear submarine ran aground off the west coast of Scotland. An inquiry was later launched into how the $1.9 billion HMS Astute — billed as the stealthiest sub ever built – managed to expose itself in such familiar waters.
Happier nautical news this month came with the release of a British couple held hostage for more than a year by Somali pirates. Paul and Rachel Chandler, abducted while sailing their yacht near the Seychelles, were reportedly freed following successful negotiations involving a London taxi driver.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay could use a talented negotiator himself as a simmering family feud with his father-in-law and business partner Chris Hutcheson exploded across newspaper pages. Ramsay, whose nightmares are no longer limited to the kitchen, penned an open letter to his mother-in-law in an effort to contain the damage, but the missive didn’t prevent a $3.2 million lawsuit.
Money: Prestigious British engineering firm Rolls Royce suffered a turbulent time when the reliability of its powerful aircraft engines came under scrutiny following an incident involving a Qantas Airlines A380 superjumbo.
So spooked were investors that a second minor incident involving a Qantas jet caused Rolls Royce share prices to take a sudden nosedive, even though the aircraft in question was powered by General Electric engines.
Although the end is looming for Harry Potter’s screen career, the teen wizard’s magic has rubbed off on the British studio where the blockbusters are filmed, conjuring up a $160 million purchase tag from Warner Bros.
Another media deal long in the making saw EMI finally reach agreement over the distribution of Beatles songs on Apple’s iTunes store. Cue a string of pun-laden headlines including the creditable: long and winding download.
And as one door closes for reviled former BP chief executive Tony Hayward, another opens with talk of fresh job offers. This was all the more surprising given that Hayward, criticized for his poor handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, admitted this month his strategy was often to “make it up as he went along.”
Elsewhere: To finish, two revealing pictures of Britain. The first is a statistic on children’s names that shows the once-ubiquitous Jack has been stripped of its longstanding claim as the most popular name for new baby boys. Said one commentator, the fact that Mohammed is now on top reflects not on the number of Muslims in Britain, but on their changing religious inclinations when it comes to naming their progeny.
A long way from the inner city mosques of London and Birmingham comes the tale of the Exmoor Emperor, a majestic stag whose reign of a tract of wilderness in western England was brought to an end by a hunter’s bullet. The Emperor’s demise transfixed the newspapers almost as much as a royal wedding, possibly fueled by claims that rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated.