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Monday, May 2, 2011

Royal Wedding Geography

Photo: HappyLand Royal Wedding Set
Our most recent EarthView program coincided with rather a fancy wedding ceremony in London, as Prince William married his long-time girlfriend Catherine (Kate) Middleton. Not since William's parents married in 1981 has there been so much attention to a wedding ceremony. The significance of the event goes far beyond its importance for the happy couple, of course. The latest royal wedding is full of geographic implications and raises many interesting questions students can explore, starting with: Why is the couple now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge?

Two other geography blogs have described a number of geography lessons to be explored. "Millie the Geographer," writing on her What I Taught in Geography This Week blog, begins with several examples related to the geography of tourism. (Yes, tourism has a geography, and the Association of American Geographers even has a specialty group for its study!) The blog post goes on to include implications for retail sales and the importance of social media, which are also a growing area of geographic inquiry. Related to political geography, the blog discusses the relevance of the wedding to public opinion regarding the monarchy. Finally, the availability of "copycat" royal weddings in China is cited as an example of the cultural geography of Westernization.

In The Geography of the Royal Wedding, the Living Geography blog mentions some of the same themes, including the specific example of  retail impacts shown above. This blog also provides links to several geographic aspects of the wedding day itself, such as maps of the procession and weather at the time of the ceremony. It also includes a link to an interesting series of cartograms about the UK, which in turn helps to explain some of the often-confusing terminology related to the name of the country in which all of this is taking place.

The list of invited and attending guests has also been quite interesting. One gallery of royal wedding guests lists just a few of the "in" and "out" celebrities and dignitaries -- most notably President and First Lady Obama -- and provides some interesting details about their status. Several instructive geography activities could be built around a longer -- though still selective -- list of attendees from the wedding's official web site.

Using the various categories of guests in this list, consider the following options:

1. Using a detailed map of the United Kingdom, map as many of the "Members of the Royal Family" in attendance as possible. What parts of the UK are most represented? Least?

2. Using a map of the world, map the attendees who are members of monarchies outside of the UK. What current monarchies are missing?

3. The "Dignitaries" includes officials from other countries. How many of these are members of the Commonwealth (of current and former British colonies and territories)?

4. What religious sects and denominations are represented by the clergy and other religious leaders present? In what parts of the world are adherents of these religions found?

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