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18 March 2011updated 17 Jan 2012 5:01am

Royal wedding hysteria exists because we want it to

People don’t publish “Wills and Kate” stories for the joy of the prose, they do it to flog a few mor

By Steven Baxter

“Do you want the royal wedding special edition of that?”

I was a bit stymied by the question. And surprised. Surprised, because I was only buying a mobile phone (a £3 mobile phone, the cheapest I could find, if you must know); stymied, because I didn’t know whether I really wanted to expose myself to the full horror of Kate & Wills Royal Wedding Souvenir Edition or not.

On reflection, I should have bitten the bullet. Curiosity subsequently got the better of me and I can now see what I turned down, having located the joyous item in question online.Here’s the thing in its full Union-Jack-look-at-the-lovely-couple glory. A thing of rare beauty, I’m sure you’ll agree, and a fitting way to celebrate the wedding of Kate and William: a pay-as-you-go mobile phone.

As one wag said to me when I mentioned its existence on Twitter: “I wonder if it comes pre-hacked?”

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Six more weeks. Six more weeks. It’s going to stretch out into a vast desert of eternity, the time between now and then. Until that time, we’ve got to endure the deluge of tacky souvenir novelties, the endless “Aw, isn’t it a fairy tale?” maiden aunt talk from royal correspondents, and a seemingly endless slew of articles like the Mirror‘s the other day, in which we learned that “Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wave reveals their closeness”.

I don’t want to sound like a cold fish. I’m pleased this nice young couple are getting married and we’re all going to get a bank holiday out of it; I don’t want to take away any of the adrenalin that’s already building in all of us as we anticipate the prospect of sitting around a wallpaper pasting table with a warm paper cup of cherryade and a cold sausage roll come 29 April. No. You can be sure I’ll be there with a jolly hat and a smile.

There’s something else that’s been bothering me about this whole business, though, a nagging sense of something sinister. And I didn’t really know what it was until I got an email pointing me in the direction of this rather breathtaking article, over at the Mail Online, wondering what Diana’s life would have been like if she had faked her own death (I’m afraid you’re going to have to hold your noses and plunge headfirst into the midden, my friends). As soon as I began to read it, it became obvious. Those long-lens paparazzi pictures . . . the close-ups of the car . . . the speculation and the intrusion . . .

Whether we like it or not – and the production of these stories is presumably based on a perceived appetite for them among us – Princess Kate is going to supplant Princess Diana. She is going to fill the tabloid void left behind by the Queen of Hearts. Just yesterday, the papers were licking their lips over the fact that a dress she once wore – once, for about five minutes – was flogged off for £78,000. It was “the dress that wowed Wills”, drooled the Daily Mail. Just as Diana’s dresses were fetishised by the papers, so are Kate’s clothes already being turned into iconic bits of thread by the usual suspects.

But then that, I suppose, is what was always going to happen. People don’t create royal wedding souvenir-edition pay-as-you-go phones for a laugh, they do it because they might sell a few. People don’t publish cloying glurge about how Kate’s smile lights up the world for the joy of the prose, they do it because they think it’ll flog a few more papers. And the thing is, they’re probably right.