The Royal Wedding: What, If Anything, Does It Mean?

Oh, all right. I’ll do a blog post about the Royal Wedding. The current issue of the Spectator informs me that there is considerable Royal Wedding Fever in the USA. And although conversations here in London start with the obligatory, “Of course, I’m not really interested in this Royal Wedding, but….”, I know that we’ll all get caught up in it. So here goes.

It will be a public holiday, and it comes in Easter week, so that means that many schools will have the whole week off. There will be street parties, although not as many as for that other Royal Wedding back in 1981, or for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee back in 2002.

On that occasion, we had a party in our street, and it was fun – all traffic banned, tables set out in the street, lovely food, sandwiches and flans and cakes and wine, and big pots of tea; everyone turning out to help. With a girl from further up the street, I helped to devise a quiz, and we divided into teams and battled it out with questions about events from history and kings and queens and bits of local folklore…

April 29 may see some street parties – and, for other enthusiasts, it will be a day to travel to London with food and rugs and a flag, and stake out a place along the route. A zany hat or an outfit in red, white and blue is also considered part of the kit these days – oh, and probably some balloons, and possibly something with which to make a cheerful noise.

But, for many people, it will be a day to watch TV. For Catholics, the weekend of the Royal Wedding will have an added significance, because on the Sunday, May 1, we have the Beatification of the great John Paul II. That means two great events in three days…

The Royal Wedding will be taking place at Westminster Abbey, which was featured on EWTN during the visit of the Holy Father last September. It was founded by Edward the Confessor, our last Saxon king, and he is buried there. Pope Benedict XVI prayed at his tomb in the rather moving service of prayers for Christian unity which was among the highlights of his British visit.<p></p>
London will be packed for the Royal Wedding – there will be crowds in the streets, crowds in the pubs, crowds in restaurants and parks and shops and buses and tubes and trains. London isn’t cheap – if you are planning to come, be prepared to be annoyed at prices for drinks and snacks. Beware of pickpockets. Find out about travel arrangements in advance: the Internet is a boon, and you can download maps and check about tube stations.

What will the Royal Wedding means to most of us? Marriage needs to be cherished and upheld and celebrated in modern Britain – it is not supported by public policies, large numbers of children are born out of wedlock, and young people are encouraged to think of sexual activity as a sort of enjoyable sport or a rite of passage.

The Leader of the Labour party is unmarried and lives with his girlfriend and their two children. Other public figures announce their “sexual preferences” from time to time. There is endless media hype about “gay unions” and legislation is planning to allow same-sex unions to be celebrated in church (the Catholic Church has issued a clear statement saying that such unions can never be blessed in any RC church).

On the other hand, surveys show that most people do want to get married, that children of divorce wish their parents had stayed married, that most people think marriage matters.

The wedding of Prince William and Miss Middleton could be an opportunity for a joyful affirmation of true marriage and family life, a chance for neighbourly celebrations, an honouring of traditions and of a great Royal heritage. He is our future king, and, as such, represents a confidence in our country having a future: a nation with a sense of identity and some shared values.

But don’t hope for too much. For many people in modern Britain, weddings, an abbey church, glorious music, traditional prayers, neighbourly celebrations, and a sense of a common heritage are not things that are very familiar. We may find that April 29, 2011 is, for many, a glance at something odd, a glimpse of something almost surreal, rather than a rejoicing in a shared sense of great things.

Pray for Britain.