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The old empire watches the royal wedding

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[April 29, 2011]  NEW DELHI (AP) -- They gathered Friday in distant outposts of what used to be the British empire, a world of not-quite-subjects watching the wedding of the heir to the crown.

In New Zealand, they celebrated the Kiwi godmother to Kate Middleton's father (Brenda McAdam told national radio she and her late husband became friends with Kate's grandfather in the 1940s). In Hong Kong, there was Chinese-language TV commentary from a well-known wedding designer. And in India, once the jewel of the empire, they sat transfixed in front of millions of televisions.

"Of course I'm watching. It's the biggest event of the century," said Jasmine Bhomia, an 18-year-old student in New Delhi -- who then added that this wedding would, one day, be eclipsed by Prince Harry's.

Then there was Australia, where pubs across the country cashed in on the frenzy with wedding bashes that featured everything from dress contests to bouquet-tossing competitions.

At the AB Hotel, a Sydney pub decorated with British flags and fake gold crowns, dozens of people gathered to watch.

"These events are sort of like a football game to guys," said Lana Leach, a 26-year-old from Amsterdam and yet another Harry fan ("the bad boy," she sighed).

"This is my king getting married!" she said, eyebrows raised, as she sat among a cluster of friends.

"Future king," interjected her friend Barbara Vos, 25, a glass of wine in one hand, a cluster of balloons in the other.

Then Leach made her prediction: "I give it five years before Kate goes off with Harry."

England once governed a huge swath of the planet, with millions of subjects from the Caribbean to East Africa to India. Though the empire is long gone, some former colonies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, still retain the British monarch as their head of state. Dozens more countries retain looser ties, meeting one another for financial summits and sporting events.

In some former colonies, the wedding hoopla has raised the prickly issue of whether the British monarch should be dumped.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been outspoken about her hopes Australia would drop its royal ties and become a republic, leading some to question why she would attend the wedding.

"There are many republicans in Australia. There are also many Australians who want to see our continued ties to the monarchy," Gillard told reporters in South Korea earlier this week when asked about the controversy.

"I received an invitation to go to the royal wedding and I think -- on behalf of the nation -- it's appropriate that I'm there."

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In New Zealand, some 300 people gathered to toast the wedding at a hotel in the northern city of Auckland, an event hosted by the organization Monarchy New Zealand.

Those who lean toward a republic didn't celebrate, joining "the ambivalent majority" who don't really care, said Lewis Holden of New Zealand Republic.

"You can't really attack someone for getting married, and we obviously wish William and Kate all the best. Our only comment is that it really shouldn't have anything to do with us in New Zealand, 12,000 miles away," he said.

Even the doting non-subjects could not resist an occasional jab.

The Hindustan Times, one of India's largest-circulation English-language newspapers, had an entire page of glowing stories about the royal couple.

Still, it couldn't resist noting something on page 1: Kate, the newspaper said, would be sporting a spray-on tan for the ceremony.

[Associated Press; By TIM SULLIVAN]

Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney and Ray Lilley in New Zealand contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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