How IPC comics celebrated the Royal Wedding
On this day 35 years ago our nation was in the grip of Royal Wedding fever. Such was the wall-to-wall coverage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s high-born hook-up that few kids of my generation would have thought there was nothing but joy and infatuation throughout the land. I can’t remember watching the wedding, but I do recall drawing a ‘Congratulations’ design on a paper plate as part of a Blue Peter competition, and my memory ranks the wedding alongside Live Aid and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee as one of the big national events of my youth. I have a feeling that it’s still remembered fondly in our collective national psyche. When William and Kate were married a few years ago my impression was that there was a great desire to recapture the spirit of the summer of 81, in spite of subsequent events and revelations that have re-painted memories of Charles and Diana’s big day in colours of tragedy and farce (or perhaps because of this, as we tried to re-boot the whole noble Royals thing).
With hindsight, I’m sure that wedding-fever and pageantry hadn’t enslaved the imaginations of the entire country in 1981. Pockets of cynicism, apathy and proud republican disinterest would have existed, as well as a huge number of people who would have been preoccupied with more pressing concerns of day-to-day living as unemployment grew by the day (and would continue to do so until the mid-1980s). But I didn’t see any of that in my cloistered little world. The closest I came to anything approaching cynicism was a vague awareness of the Not the Nine O’Clock News team’s Not the Royal Wedding book, but even this was fairly fond satire.
I got my news from Blue Peter, John Craven and Multi-coloured Swap Shop, Radio One and, of course, IPC comics, whose Royal Wedding coverage I’m going to look at today. The big day was celebrated with style and enthusiasm by most of the publisher’s juvenile range, with special Royal Wedding issues released for various titles bearing the cover dates of either 25 July 1981 or 1 August 1981. I’ve decided to go full on with this edition of the blog and just post scans of every single mention of the event that I can find from the commemorative editions of these comics. I hope they prompt some memories for you.
Of all the categories of IPC comics, the boys’ sports papers offered the most enthusiastic – some might say fawning – celebration of the Royal Wedding. Initially I was surprised by this but then I remembered that Tiger and Roy of the Rovers had always had a conservative, patriotic tone, and had often featured pin-ups of the sporting royals such as Princess Anne and Prince Philip. Tiger has perhaps the most toadyish of all the covers, with all its principal characters lining up to wave flags at the familiar and over-used photo of the happy couple (how many times can you spot this photo – or drawn likenesses of it – in the scans below?). Inside, virtually every story ends with the leads offering a toast or celebratory banner to Charles and Di. I’m left with a feeling that there has been some sort of memo from on high to the editorial teams of both Tiger and Roy of the Rovers, the latter of which offers a slightly lighter approach through stories such as Mighty Mouse and The Hard Man, and a slightly odd-chosen scenario of Roy Race and his wife Penny travelling down to London for the Royal parade after a marital tiff of their own.
The girls’ comics Jinty and Tammy both offer rather more dignified fare. Only a handful of the regular strips mention the Royal Wedding: in Jinty, Tansy of Jubilee Street travels to London in a horse-drawn caravan and, once there, finds an original way of beating the crowds; and in Tammy, there’s a fun Edie and Miss T Royal Wedding-themed cartoon. The only other nod to the event in the strips is a wedding-based episode of Jinty’s Gypsy Rose’s Tales of Mystery and Magic, ‘The Veiled Threat’, in which a young woman’s wedding goes wrong because her veil was that worn by her aunt for her own unhappy marriage. Jinty offers a nice Royal Wedding cover while Tammy limits the front-cover mention to a splash panel, but both comics celebrate the big day with colourful covers and a range of wedding-themed features and competitions.
Special thanks to Mistyfan for providing the scans for Tammy, as I don’t have this issue in my own collection.
The funnies offer a bit of a mixed bag. All go strong on the front cover, with a lovely display of red, white and blue, and there’s a celebratory centre-page spread in each issue (at least, I assume that there was one in Whizzer and Chips but I’ve only just realised that the middle pages have been removed from my copy – can anyone enlighten me, or even send me a scan if you have this issue? UPDATE: Thank you Peter Gray for supplying the centre-page Maze Chase, and additional wedding mentions I missed from this issue's Strange Hill). But apart from the front and centre pages, the number of mentions within the comic strips themselves (in which characters are generally concerned with how they are going to watch the Royal Wedding, either on telly or at a parade) suggest that the editorial teams of Whizzer and Chips and Jackpot were more excited about the whole thing than Buster and Whoopee!, or perhaps they had demographic information that suggested their core readerships might have different takes on the whole thing. One can only guess, so draw your own conclusions.
Finally, a brief mention of the party poopers. Neither 2000AD nor Battle made mention of Charles and Di’s Royal Wedding (although both ran the ad for Tiger and Roy of the Rovers shown below). These two titles represented the more anarchic new wave of comics to have emerged at IPC during the late 1970s, and there had been a degree of tension between the creators of both and those representing management and the more conservative ‘old guard’. I’d love to know whether much pressure was put on to the editors of either 2000AD or Battle to offer their respects to the happy couple, and if it was, then for the integrity of both titles I’m glad to see it was resisted.