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Student protesters take a poke at Prince Charles and his wife. Prince William and Kate name a special day. Unexpected snowfalls have predictable results. Britain’s soccer corruption claims get a frosty reception and WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange finally comes in from the cold. Plus: Carnage on the cobblestones as Coronation Street delivers soapy death.
Top news: Modern Britons like to think that there’s more to this country than carping about the inclement weather or royal-related tittle-tattle, but sometimes a review of the month’s major news stories proves, somewhat depressingly, that there isn’t.
Even when next year’s marriage of Prince William to fiancee Kate Middleton isn’t in the headlines — which is seldom — the country’s nominal First Family has a way of unexpectedly muscling in on the headlines.
Such was the case when the center of London was brought to a standstill by the latest in a series of protests by students against a government hike of tuition fees. As the increases narrowly squeaked through parliament, rioters laid siege to several major landmarks — including Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and, if you will, Prince Charles.
Photographs of Charles and his wife Camilla, their faces contorted with shock, were splashed across front pages after their limousine became trapped among protesters as they made their way to a theater performance. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there have been unconfirmed reports that Camilla was poked in the ribs with a stick.
Sticking with the royals, here’s a quick roundup of news about thatwedding. Buckingham Palace has released some intimate new photos of William and Kate to celebrate. But have they been airbrushed? And we now have a wedding date: April 29. Time magazine kindly pointed out that had the royal couple checked Wikipedia, they would have realized they were marrying on the same inauspicious day Queen Victoria broke a toe while fly-fishing. Perhaps Time should check again — this rather unlikely piece of historical news now appears to have been excised from the hoax-prone site.
On to the inclement weather, which this month conspired to blanket Britain in its earliest end-of-year snowfall for 70 years. The arrival of several inches of the white stuff took some government officials by surprise, as it seems to do every year.
As transport systems serving London’s millions of commuters ground to a halt, passengers on one train were forced to spend a night shivering in their seats after the locomotive became stuck in countryside south of the capital.
Although the snow soon melted, the chill continued — especially for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who briefly became the most-sought man in Britain after Interpol issued “red notice” during the media storm over his website’s latest revelations.
Assange was hunted high and low but was only apprehended when he turned up at a police station. So what was the hiding place that managed to throw everyone off Assange’s scent? The Frontline Club. Who would have thought to look in a venue founded to look after journalists under fire?
There could be a few more journalists seeking refuge at the Frontline after Britain lost out to Russia in its bid to host the 2018 soccer World Cup. The defeat was largely seen in the United Kingdom as a churlish reaction by world soccer body FIFA to investigations by British media of alleged corruption in the selection process.
Britain wasn’t the only country smarting after losing the rights but, given the country’s long association with the beautiful game and the fact it deployed (here we go again) Prince William to bolster its chances, perhaps the disappointment was felt more keenly here than elsewhere.
Money: After sitting on the tarmac for the better part of two years, a merger between U.K flag carrier British Airways and Spain’s Iberia finally took off, creating Europe’s second largest airline.
Willie Walsh, the ebullient chairman of British Airways, commented shortly afterward that he hoped the merger, which was approved by shareholders of both carriers, would signal the start of better times for the strike-hit airline.
Meanwhile, signalling worse times ahead, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a brief foray back into a spotlight he has largely eschewed since his election defeat earlier this year. Brown, often criticized while in power for his gloomy outlook, brought with him tidings of a “major crisis” that would set eurozone countries on course for a “High Noon” moment.
Already there, of course, is Ireland, which in addition to reluctantly accepting a $114 billion International Monetary Fund- EU bailout, also took an $11 billion loan from Britain. The move was seen as protecting Britain’s considerable business interests in Ireland, but some in the ruling Conservative Party suggested it was a risk too far for a country as cash-strapped as the United Kingdom.
Elsewhere: However bad things get in Britain, the nation can usually rest assured that things are worse on “Coronation Street” — a fictional cobblestoned strip of terraced houses that is home to the country’s longest-running television soap opera.
Injecting slightly more drama into proceedings than the usual plots that revolve around the quotidian lives of dreary pub regulars, “Corrie” celebrated its 50th episode with “carnage,” wiping out key cast members in a series of nasty incidents.
Thankfully, there was not a royal in sight.