When Britain's Queen Elizabeth, then a princess, visited South Africa in 1947, the leading Afrikaans newspaper here studiously ignored her presence. Die Transvaler merely deigned, on the day Johannesburg's English-speaking community gave her a parade, to run a small front-page item announcing that the city's main thoroughfare would be temporarily closed to traffic that afternoon.
Times have changed. More than 30 years of political rule and major economic strides by the Afrikaners have softened their humiliation at losing the Boer War and made them resent the British less.
When it comes to the princely romance between Elizabeth's son Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, the Afrikaners are as interested and gushy as anyone else.
Rapport, an Afrikaans Sunday newspaper ran an 11-page spread on the wedding preparations Afrikaans papers, like their English counterparts, will print special souvenir sections of the event and over the past few weeks they have had articles on the nuptial bed, the ring, the invitation list, Diana's trousseau and her outburst of tears at last weekend's polo game.
Jewelers are selling facsimilies of the engagement ring and even hardware stores are stocking souvenir wedding glasses.
"A lot of Afrikaners, even though they would not admit it because it's the British empire, are interested in the wedding. Glamor appeals to everyone," said Doreen Nussey, an Afrikaner.
To ensure their employes show up at work Wednesday, many South African employers are renting televisions for the day so everyone can watch the pageantry that the Afrikaans-run South African Broadcasting Corp. will cover live.
But once again, South Africans will pay a price for their racial policy of apartheid. Equity, the British performers' union that has long restricted its members from playing to South African audiences, has refused to allow the staterun television live coverage of its role in the wedding ceremony. Thus, the day's proceedings on television will be blacked out at crucial points when the musicians and choral groups are performing inside St. Paul's Cathedral.
"While we acknowledge that we cannot show Lady Di walking up the aisle [since the choir will be singing] we do not see why we cannot show the scene when Prince Charles asks Lady Di to be his lawfully wedded wife," a television spokeswoman said.
Romance, however, still takes a back seat to rugby for many white South Africans and for weeks their prime concern has been the tour of New Zealand by the South African professional rugby team -- their first major tour in 11 years.
From its inception the tour has provoked high feelings and controversy of international proportions that would have forced lesser mortals than the rugby-crazy South Africans to throw in the towel long ago. But instead, the tour has become a national crusade.
When demonstrators protesting against apartheid marched onto the playing field in Hamilton, New Zealand, on Saturday and forced cancellation of that day's game, the general feeling here was that the New Zealand police, who were unable to clear the field, were pathetically weak.
"If the same group of demonstrators, I would imagine about 300, had to try the same thing here," said Brig. Theuns "Rooi" Swanepoel, the head of this city's riot squad, "I would rely on 20 of my men to teach them a lesson they would never forget."
One Afrikaans newspaper noted the "large number of communist slogans on the demonstrators' placards," and the state-run radio today commented that "there is a sense of frustration through the length and breadth of this country, and anger at what happened Saturday."
When one opposition politician a few weeks ago had the temerity to recommend that the tour be canceled because of the strains it was causing to New Zealand, Minister of Sports Gerrit Viljoen attacked his remarks as "treason."