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For Britain's Prince Charles and Prince William, the 'royal treatment' diverges

The recent attack on Prince Charles's car and the excitement surrounding Prince William's wedding underscore the complicated relationship between Britons and the royal family.

By Correspondent / December 13, 2010

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, react as their car is attacked by angry protesters in London, Thursday, Dec. 9.

Matt Dunham/AP

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London

Two recent, but starkly different, series of photos reflect the complicated relationship between Britons and their royal family. In one, the Duchess of Cornwall sits open-mouthed in terror as protesters surrounding a car carrying her and her husband, Prince Charles, chant: "Off with their heads!"

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In the other photo, released Sunday, Charles’s son William lovingly wraps his arms around his fiancée, Kate Middleton, as they gaze into a camera wielded by celebrity photographer Mario Testino for the first official pictures marking their engagement.

QUIZ: Kate Middleton and Prince William: How well do you know them?

Both images seem destined to become iconic snapshots of a troubled nation in 2010.

As the heir to the throne found out when his car was set upon on Dec. 9 by participants taking part in volatile protests against cutbacks in education spending and a rise in tuition fees, the royals are not immune to the public backlash as Britain edges deeper into an age of austerity.

On the other hand, Britons of a conservative bent harbor hopes that Prince William’s forthcoming marriage to Middleton could boost the country’s spirits and, in the longer term, secure the future of the monarchy showcasing two "21st century" royal role models

Wedding weighs down budget, but boosts some sales

Nevertheless, next year’s wedding comes with plenty of pitfalls – not least the question of who will pay.

“The majority of Britain is going to be struggling next year with the impact of all the cuts on every aspect of life and I just think its totally inappropriate for us to spend millions on a royal wedding,” says Jenny Jones, a Green Party representative on London’s local government assembly who has called for the royals to contribute to the expected £5 million ($7.9 million) tab just for policing the event.

“I just think the royal family doesn’t really ‘get it,' " she adds. "We are heading for months, probably years, of civil unrest. Education cuts alone are going to expand rather than diminish that and I think the royals could quite easily become seen as part of the problem.”

And yet the evidence of the widespread appetite for the pomp and circumstance that will accompany the most important royal wedding for decades is already evident. Within hours of the young couple’s engagement announcement last month the Internet was flooded with souvenirs.

Sales of merchandise, ranging from mugs bearing the likenesses of "William and Kate" to rings similar to the Epiphany Platinum Clad Diamonique Ring once worn by William’s mother, Diana, and sported by Middleton for an engagement photocall, are alone predicted to reap as much as £18 million ($28 million).

The phenomenon is a boon in particular for constituents of Tristram Hunt, a Labour MP in the northern English city of Stoke-on-Trent, home to Britain’s ceramics tradition.

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