They stand for everything I find abhorrent: Inherited political and religious power. Ostentatious wealth. Idleness. Scandalous behavior. Nonetheless, I can’t resist the English royals at wedding time.
At least I come by this fascination honestly: My late mother was born and raised in Yorkshire, where her family lived for generations — going as far back as Jews were allowed to reside in England. (Jews had been banished for many centuries, another black mark on the monarchy.) I lived in London as a foreign correspondent. I crave really strong English tea. My dogs are named for Jane Austen characters.
So when the news broke that Prince William had finally asked his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton for her hand in marriage, I had the most wonderful flashbacks. There was the time in 1981 when my sister and I woke up in the middle of the night to turn on the TV and watch Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer proceed through the happy streets of London on their way to St. Paul’s Cathedral and a marriage that, we learned later, was doomed from the start. Whatever. It was a great and lavish spectacle.
And the time in 1986 when Prince Andrew wed Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey, a wedding ceremony I was privileged to attend (as a member of the lowly press corps, but who cares? I was there!) We learned later that marriage, too, was doomed from the start, but it provided some entertainment while it lasted, though I could have done away with the toe-sucking parts.
Sadly enough, Queen Elizabeth’s children do not have a notable track record when it comes to matrimonial longevity. Princess Anne’s first marriage also ended in divorce, leaving Prince Edward the only one still attached to the very first spouse – but that, too, is surprising, considering his engagement in 1999 took place amid persistent “rumours” (that’s how they are spelled in England) that he was gay.
So Wills and Kate have a lot of history to overcome. But they seem modern and compatible — meeting in college, all but living together for the past few years —and wise to the ways of the paparazzi world. He is caught in that most ridiculous of professional circumstances, i.e: waiting for his grandmother and then his father to die before he has a real job (though he is currently a pilot in the Royal Air Force).
Nonetheless, the royal couple clearly will be spared many of the stresses and troubles facing newlyweds today, especially when it comes to picking out a china pattern. There are centuries of dishes to choose from! Let’s hope they can avoid the scandals and find their own happiness. Royals deserve that, too.