I plan to do another post or two on this wedding of Prince William and his bride Kate Middleton. This is a time when the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth are preparing to celebrate a royal wedding. This is a time when they are able to see that they believe in the future of their polity. It is a time to believe that they are willing to invest in the future of their royal monarchy and royal house. They are willing to see the occasion marked with joy and dignity and national qualities and traditions not tied to a single political cycle or particular political position. This is an occasion when they are able to express confidence in fertility, marriage, protocol and other effective ways of keeping a society together that do not rely on bloodshed, torture and prison. It is their way and chance to note that they know a thing or two about soft power that predates the modern think tanks that have promoted the use of the phrase.
It is also a wedding of two people. It is also a celebration in the Church of England in the drawing together of two lives and families. Here in this post I will look briefly at these two people.
Kate Middleton, Catherine Princess of Wales, Princess William of Wales, Princess Catherine: Her name title and form of address are likely to change a great deal over the next decade or so and not just when she gets married. She embodies a commitment by the British royal family to the British people. She may one day be Queen of England and she has a university degree and she supported her Prince in his achievement of the degree as her contemporary. She is smart and pretty and discreet as it is possible to be (which I admit is almost not at all in her situation). She is devoted to her man. She dresses modestly enough to be respectable and revealingly enough to let the world see that her Prince has a woman who can do the very important wifely job of turning him on sexually. She is sweet and quiet in presentation and yet you can imagine a Knight who loved life wanting to seduce her in the days when this might have gotten his head rotting on a stake. She covers the bases, to use a baseball defense metaphor, in the exercise of the duties that attend the basic life and work of royalty and may turn out to be far more than that once her role is second nature. Certainly she is a young woman of vast potential and she brings the sense of a university graduate, a member of a rich modern family. She has a sense of fun and fashion but is also a bit staid and aloof and has eyes full of comprehension of the life she has chosen.
The groom is Prince William of Wales: Prince William has a university degree, he did not graduate from Oxbridge, he has been to amusement parks and has held charity rock concerts, he knows how to behave in Church, he resents being left out of combat. He knows the maw of celebrity culture devouring his family as a personal memory. He will be formidable. Prince William is not Prince of Wales at this posting — his father still holds that distinction. He is a Prince of the Blood as Francophone people see things and a Prince is a Prince certainly. The story is not yet finished in all respects –although he would always be Sir William Knight of the Garter and is also an offficer with a commissioned rank before the family name of Wales, he is not Prince ”of anything”. He is rather William of Wales who happens to be Prince William. His dad can be styled Prince Charles of Wales but is able to move all the parts around to connect with the others in his identity and his son cannot. Thus in terms of snobbery (as I sit here in my running shorts watching tv alone I still dare to lecture as the superior snob to most) William is an odd creature. He is fully royal — a Prince of the Blood in the House of Windsor is well up near the top of that club which though vastly much less than one mil of all people is bigger than most people think. He is without reference to royal claims a member of the chivalry being a Knight of the Garter. Without needing to consider his royal or chivalrous claims he is a member of the gentry (in the sense which does not exclude higher ranks) or is a social gentleman as a holder of an officer’s commission. However, because he is not yet Prince “of” anything and does not seem to hold any titles from the aristocratic ranks such as Baron, Viscount, Marquess, Earl or Duke he is barely an aristocrat. Someone like me who has nothing much to lose in this big bad world can say he is royal, chivalrous and genteel in rank but not Aristocratic or Noble in the exclusive sense. His father was Prince of Wales and such a royal title is also aristocratic because of the “of-ness” but did not need such a title to be an aristocrat as he was (and is also still) Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay which are plumb aristocratic titles of the best type. I do not own Burke’s Peerage and I may be missing a title but I think not. Perhaps his grandmother will give him a noble title as a wedding present.
There are preparations going forward in Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and many other places. Cakes and bakers, households, equerries, butlers, the experts in wheel and horse at the Mews and the musicians are all fully engaged. Some have worked a great deal with royalty and some have never worked closely with anything to do with royalty, They plan, practice, labor, employ people, organize resources and schedule events. The government itself prepares for all of the security contingencies. Some men entertain an occasional thought of how they would meet death in the cause of royal and public protection if it came to this in such uncertain times.
Invitations have been drawn up and written and seats have been planned and assigned. There are people commissioning mementos, china and souvenirs, this is an industrious time. The British are able in this special alchemy of the royal wedding to find their most polished and also most uninhibited sides joined in a single ceremony of joy. Wars and economic downturns may limit some of the wedding’s opulence but these events will bot overshadow the rest. I am waiting to see what will happen next and when I will be able to blog about it. I am content here to wish the happy couple well and end my post with these few observations.