On Friday morning, I decided to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince William to his sweetheart, Catherine Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Due to the time difference, it was between three and four a.m. in Portland while tens or hundreds of thousands of people in London watched the festivities along the route between Westminister Abbey and Buckingham Palace. An estimated 2 billion people around the world watched this wedding. Its amazing how much attention two young people can command.
In the week or two leading up to this event, I've heard plenty of Americans make disparaging remarks about the wedding, probably to show how cool they are because they don't get emotionally involved in the hype that befalls everyone else. I've even read some comments on a few people's Facebook walls and was stunned by some of the criticisms towards the wedding. I mentioned on one friend's wall that this wedding was a big deal because royal weddings for the House of Windsor seem to be a once or twice in a decade event. In America, we get the pomp and pageantry of a presidential inauguration every four years. Why not allow the British to indulge in their pomp and pageantry of a royal wedding? I also mentioned that with all the bad news going on in the world, we (the people of this planet) could use something positive to give our love and attention to. Why not a royal wedding?
I wish Prince William and Catherine Middleton all the best for a good future. My impression of Catherine is that she seems to be a class act. She may be merely a "commoner", but she has style, intelligence, beauty and grace. However, I am no monarchist. I think the tradition should end when Queen Elizabeth passes on. But, since I'm a rebellious Yank instead of a loyalist Brit, my opinion counts for nada!
My comment about the royal wedding being a good thing seemed to have baffled one of my friends. He commented that he found it "ironic" that someone like me would defend the wedding. I'm not sure what he meant, because he never explained himself. In case anyone reading my blog is wondering why I would defend such a spectacle, the answer is simple. Any positive event that brings the inhabitants of this planet together for a period of time in celebration of something good can't be a bad thing. In fact, I would say that it was a very good thing. What a sending forth the world is giving to this young couple! I can imagine that they could feel the love sent from all the corners of the earth in their direction. Perhaps even Lady Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales, was looking down from heaven and enjoying the moment in spirit.
So, let's drop the cynicism for a day and just wish the couple well. I know that I would love the support of family, friends, and even strangers whenever the day arrives when I shall be married. Cynical comments can take a holiday. As I watched the wedding, a part of me felt sad for Catherine Middleton. I know that a lot of girls grow up with the whole princess fantasy, but it really does sound like hell. The royal family may have wealth, privilege, and fame...but the trade-off is severe. They don't have privacy / anonymity (especially if they make mistakes, which shows their human side) and most tragic of all, they don't have freedom. Its a lifetime prison term of public appearances and charity fundraisers and meetings. Even our presidents are given a break after four or eight years. Queen Elizabeth II has been at it for nearly 60 years now. Freedom is too high a price to pay for such a life.
In 1981 was the ultimate fairy tale wedding, when Prince Charles in his early 30s married the beautiful young Lady Diana Spencer, who was just 19 years old. When I was in my early 30s, the thought of marrying a 19 year old would have been horrifying. The life experience gap is too wide. Heck, when I was a 25 year old freshman in college, I found the girls under 22 to be too immature and lacking in life experience for me to ever be attracted to them.
As we all know, the fairy tale marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales lasted all of a dozen years or so. Prince Charles' true love had always been Camilla Parker-Bowles, who was married at the time. They were more of a match than Charles and Di, but the Queen wanted a less scandalous woman to serve as the wife and mother to the heir (and the spare) that would come along. Princess Diana learned early on that Camilla was never far from Charles' heart and she once admitted that their marriage got crowded because Camilla was ever-present in their lives.
I was 9 years old when the world watched that royal wedding. I vaguely remember being aware of it. My family fell in the Princess Diana camp. A genealogical record supposedly connects Lady Diana Spencer to one of our ancestors, so we often joked about her being our "cousin." Even through her scandals (the adultery, the bulimia, the suicide attempts, the romance with a Muslim man), my family still loved this lady, who had told an interviewer in 1995 that she knew she would never be the Queen but all she wanted was to be the Queen of people's hearts. She earned mine long ago. Long live Lady Di! Her shocking death in 1997 really tore my sister up, who called to commiserate with me when I was new at BYU and trying to fit into the Mormon culture. She and my mom were shocked that I didn't hear the news about Diana's accident and death. They thought I had joined a cult, but the reality was that I was too involved with the orientation activities to catch the news. I was saddened by her death, of course, but it still feels surreal to me.
The royal family I felt the most affinity for was Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. I was a teenager when this wedding happened in 1986. I was more into this wedding than the Charles and Diana one. Like Prince Andrew, I'm the second born son. He served in the Royal Navy and I was born in a U.S. Navy hospital (and my dad joked about me having to join the Navy after I turn 18). I also liked Sarah Ferguson's spunk. I like her red hair. Their first dance song was Chris DeBurgh's "Lady in Red", which I didn't like on the first few listens, but it grew on me. Now, every time I hear the song, I think of Sarah Ferguson. I was sad to hear when their marriage fell apart (the same time as Charles and Diana's marital difficulties). In the years since, though, Sarah Ferguson has proven to be an embarrassment for the royal family and even running afoul of the law with some financial schemes. Supposedly, she was not invited to William and Catherine's wedding, which had a guest list of 1,900 people that included heads of state, royal families from other "kingdoms", and celebrities (such as Elton John, Posh and Becks).
The souvenir book seen in the picture above is representative of the copy that I had bought on my family's three week road trip through the British Isles in the summer of 1987 (Still the best family vacation I've ever been on). I admit that I was such a fan of the Duke and Duchess of York (Andrew and Sarah) that I bought quite a few souvenirs of their wedding, including the stamp on a commemorative envelope, two books, and postcards. I had also bought postcards of Lady Diana, which I still have.
In 1999, the youngest son, Prince Edward finally got his turn at the altar when he married Sophie Rhys-Jones, whom some people thought resembled Lady Diana. However, she has kept a low profile because we've hardly heard much about her. She's probably wise to keep a low profile, knowing how the tabloid media can be. However, I also think that the media realizes that Lady Diana was a unique individual who can't be replaced. No one has been able to fill her shoes. She had style and grace, and yes, I did consider her to be the most beautiful woman in the world during the time she was alive. There will never be another Diana on our planet.
Women who are hoping to become a real princess still have a shot. Prince Harry is now the world's most eligible bachelor and he has no problem attracting the attention of women everywhere. I remember reading a quote in the mid-1990s where Lady Diana said that Prince Harry would be a real ladies man when he grew up. Somehow, she knew that he would be the one that ladies would want the most. Prince William seems to be more shy, reserved, and private, while Prince Harry is the wild and extroverted one. There is speculation that he might actually be the biological son of James Hewitt. His red hair is a giveaway (in England, they call the hair "ginger"). There is no red hair in the Windsor royal family. If you do a Google image search on James Hewitt and Prince Harry, you can see pictures and the resemblance is uncanny. You can bet that the royal family will probably never allow a paternity test, or if one was done, for the results to never be public knowledge.
Prince William is second in line to the throne. If he and Catherine produce a male heir or a few male heirs, Prince Harry's succession will continue to be moved down the line (just as Prince Andrew and Prince Edward have been when William and Harry were born). So, with the wedding behind them, its time to start the business of producing male heirs. The House of Windsor will continue on for the far foreseeable future. May God Save the Queen!