Tomorrow’s wedding—yes, that one—is termed a semi-state occasion. And it seems that the House of Windsor and Her Majesty’s Government have got themselves into a semi-state about it. Hear that screeching? It’s the noise of palace machinery being thrown into reverse as representatives of dodgy regimes are disinvited, while Tony Blair is excluded.
Bad enough that the Crown Prince of Bahrain and the King of Swaziland had been summoned to attend. Their countries are hardly shining beacons of democracy; but at least they’ve had the decency to spare royal blushes by staying home. Another kingsized blunder hasn’t been so easily rectified. All former U.K. premiers got the nod for Charles and Diana’s 1981 nuptials, and the House of Windsor, usually at pains to demonstrate political neutrality, is having a tough time justifying the decision to invite the two living former Conservative Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher and John Major, but not the two living former Labour PMs, Blair and Gordon Brown. The official explanation—that Thatcher and Major, like Prince William, are Knights of the Garter but Blair and Brown are not, and anyway this isn’t a full state occasion, oh, and blame the bridal pair who had charge of the guest list—has as much chance of convincing Britain’s media that this is not a snub as the publication of President Obama’s birth certificate has of squelching the birther movement. (The Most Noble Order of the Garter is Britain’s highest honor, established in the 14th century. There can be only 24 knights at any one time and all the slots are currently filled.)
Thatcher will not attend, due to ill health. Major will join the congregation along with current Prime Minister David Cameron and Cameron’s partner in political marriage, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Labour will be represented by leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband.
So far, so uncomfortable. What threatened to make it much worse was that a panoply of ambassadors has been invited (thereby undercutting the argument about different protocols for state and semi-state occasions). Among their number was the euphonious Dr Sami Khiyami, Syria’s ambassador, called in to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office earlier this week to be told of Britain’s concerns about the brutal suppression of Syrian protests. Today, on the eve of the wedding, Khiyami’s invitation has been withdrawn. “Buckingham Palace shares the view of the Foreign Office that it is not considered appropriate for the Syrian Ambassador to attend the wedding,” a statement explained.
Diplomats from Zimbabwe and North Korea are still expected.