To my friends, William and Kate

Published 9:48 am Thursday, May 12, 2011

This would have been the column I would have written last week if it were not for the death of Osama bin Laden. No matter how the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate captivated the world’s attention, there was simply no news more significant that the end of the 10-year search for the world’s most evil man.

Now three weeks after the royal knot was tied, the press seems most captivated by Kate’s younger sister, Pippa. I suspect part of the attention of the paparazzi has been diverted simply because the young couple is on their honeymoon. Out of sight often leads to out of mind.

Even though Mary Lou was on the East Coast and I was on the West Coast when the wedding occurred, we must admit that we were both up early to watch the event live. Of course, we weren’t the only ones. More Americans watched this wedding than the previous wedding of the century: The marriage of Charles and Diana. More than 1 billion people worldwide gathered to see the dress, the hats, and yes, the “kiss.”

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Our family has long been enamored with all things British. While Mary Lou and I had several branches of our family tree present in the British colonies at the time of the American Revolution, it was our common branch of the Ponder family that remained Tories, loyal to the British crown. The Ponder land was confiscated after the Revolutionary War in retaliation for their support of the British.

Years later, Mary Lou attended the University of Reading in England. A generation after that, our oldest daughter also attended the University of Reading. This was also the birthplace of Kate, now known as Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Kate was born in the year between the birth of our two daughters, Catherine and Elizabeth. She is named also named “Catherine Elizabeth.”

Even our dog and cat are part of the connection. My third great dog is named Harry, after Prince Harry. The cat is names Wills, after Prince William.

England remains our most frequent travel destination since our marriage 33 years ago. We have taken our children back to Reading several times always marveling at how the old city has changed. When Mary Lou attended school there, no American restaurants and very few American foods were to be found. Now it resembles an American mall with chain restaurants visible in every direction.

We always travel by train to Edinburgh, Scotland, when we are visiting. It remains one of our very favorite cities in the world. We have enjoyed old bed and breakfast inns in ancient homes and sleek hotels built within old stone walls. It is a magical place.

We always travel to Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace on our trips. They always look exactly the same as they did on television. They sit massive and regal in meticulously landscaped areas as thousands of tourists and citizens take it all in.

I take great pride in the longevity of my family in this country. Every branch of my family was already in this country when it was founded. However, that pales in comparison to the longevity of some of the things you visit while in England.

The original part of Buckingham Palace, which forms its architectural core, is just over 300 years old. It was finished as a royal residence in 1850 and was the home of Queen Victoria, the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Prince William.

Westminster Abbey is much older by comparison. A church was first established on this site by Benedictine monks in the middle of the 10th century. British monarchs have held their coronations here since 1066, more than 1,000 years. Seventeen monarchs are laid to rest within its Gothic walls.

Despite its grandeur and historical significance, the Abbey is not the largest church in London. That honor belongs to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Charles and Diana were married. To the curious readers, the largest church in the world remains St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in Rome.

So what other things tie people like me to a country that once owned and ruled over America. Well, I think their accent is pretty cool. I am always amazed that Brits can’t seem to figure out my own accent when I am there, most often mistaking my Southern accent for some variation of South Africa.

I love the fact that despite our initial war to gain independence from them, and the little misunderstanding in 1812, the British and Americans have remained staunch allies. I feel like we have each other’s back and that means a lot in this increasingly fractured and dangerous world.

I love the fact that you can travel easily throughout Great Britain without having to strain too much with the language barrier, although there many different accents to deal with. I am not partial to their food, but do love fish and chips. I love their gardens and wit. While I grew up loving British music, I am amazed at how much the British love American music.

In the end, I guess we share a language, a culture and a history that allows us to be friends among nations and friends amongst our people. All my wishes, then, for a long and happy marriage to my friends, William and Kate.