The Campaign for an English Parliament Facebook page recently asked its members how the Royal Wedding made them feel.
It's interesting to note that even among a group with an English nationalist bent, the Royal Wedding made 27% proud to be British and 20% proud to be both 'British and English'. And 35% just felt proud to be English on this most British of days. But although there was no shortage of red, white and blue on display, just how much of a celebration of Britishness was it? Not much according to Bill Jamieson:
Some are hailing it as a celebration of Britishness. I am not convinced it was so. This was, at the heart, a very English wedding: English in its service, with the Archbishop of Canterbury looking ever more like an old tufted rug savaged by cats; English in its music; English in its evocation of that Tudor, medieval past; and English in that pronounced, southern English way, distinct from the north and west of that country - and certainly distinct from Scotland.
That this was not an occasion of state, requiring attention to the sensibilities of all nations and regions, but a wedding of two people brought up in the Home Counties, allowed the Englishness of the abbey's history to flow through untrammelled. "Britishness", its definition now stretched like the skin of a balloon to all four corners of the board to cover all political sensibilities (at the risk of none) is something else, an artifice, as this was certainly not.
For Allison Pearson, and I suspect for many others, the wedding was "a cavalcade of English life". Of the 5,500 street parties across the UK, just 35 were reported to be in Scotland, most of which were in Edinburgh (often disparagingly referred to as 'England-burgh' on account of its large English population). There were wedding-day protests in Scotland, as there were in England, but whereas the English dissenters were mostly republicans or anarchists, the Scottish dissenters were republicans, anarchists, sectarians and anti-British separatists.
So are there lessons that English nationalists can take from the Royal Wedding? I think there are.
'Britishness', insofar as support for the monarchy can be regarded as support for Britain, appears to be strong, especially in England. The English are not the Scots, and therefore it is not necessarily desirable to try and emulate Scottish nationalism. For the vast majority of English people it is possible to be English AND British, and most people in England have dual English and British identity, some rarely bothering to differentiate between the two. Unlike the Scots, who, if they feel British, feel Scottish and British, many English people feel Anglo-British rather than English and British - that is to say that their English and British national identities are conflated or coterminous. The contradictions between Scottish identity and British identity are more obvious than those between English identity and British identity. English nationalists should not try to belittle British identity because it alienates many English people whose English id might otherwise be in favour of a referendum on an English parliament. Neither should English nationalists make people choose between their English and British identity.
For me English nationalism is about popular sovereignty, it's about saying that "we are a nation" and "we have the right to decide how we are governed". It's not necessarily about separatism, breaking up Britain, and depriving people who feel British of their British government and State - though of course it could be about those things. If the Royal Wedding teaches us anything, it's possibly that the Royal Family is a greater focus for Britishness than the British Government. Alex Salmond, canny man that he is, recognises this, which is why he appeals to the residual Britishness of Scots by calling for a 'social union' between England and Scotland rather than a 'political union':
"If you have a monarch, a common head of state of independent countries, it underlines and stresses the social union between the two, as being appropriate for both Scotland and England."
There are numerous cavets that I could add to prevent a cavalcade of indignant comments, but the main one is this: The Royal Wedding was an expression of 'Greater England' rather than 'Little England' - and Greater England appeals to the nostalgic, Little England to the present.
Here's one for the conspiracy theorists amongst you.
It is April 2011. You are a national newspaper editor.
Do you choose to fill your pages with
a) The build-up to the royal wedding;
b) The build-up to the referendum on the alternative vote;
c) The devolved elections in Wales and Scotland?
If you answered b) or c) you probably won't last long in Fleet Street but there are fears that Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton's choice of wedding date may disrupt the political process.
In England it's highly unlikely that we will receive much coverage, if any at all, of the Scottish and Welsh elections and the debates on devolution and the Barnett Formula that will accompany them. And by quirk of fate the right royal pasting that the Conservatives and Lib Dems receive in Scotland and Wales will go under-reported due to a frenzy of tabloid Britishness.
The Scottish elections will be a straw poll on the Scotland Bill which starts the process of implementing proposals of the Calman Commission on Scottish devolution, and the Welsh elections are to coincide with a referendum on further devolution to Wales. What England doesn't know cannot hurt it.
However, any suggestion that the Royal Wedding is deliberately timed coincide with St George's Day, English local elections, the Scottish general election, the Welsh general election, the referendum on Welsh devolution and the referendum on the Alternative Vote, is complete swivel-eyed lunacy.