Unless you have been somewhere on a desert island this week, you know Prince William and Kate Middleton are engaged. He didn’t propose on the Jumbo-tron at a soccer game, but I’m sure it was romantic just the same. They gave the exclusive news to a friendly reporter in London and immediately the world media was hot on the story. I Googled “William and Kate” and got 20 million hits.
This will be the third Windsor Wedding in my lifetime. In 1947, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor married Prince Philip Mountbatten. They are distant cousins, both claiming Queen Victoria as their great-great-grandmother. Their union was of interest in the United States, though it did not dominate our news as completely as the upcoming 2011 nuptials will. We saw the images of her Westminster Abbey wedding in the local newspaper and the newsreels a week after the event. Probably, there was a spread in Life or Look. Most everything Elizabeth chose was heavy in symbolism down to the flowers in her bouquet – which, after the ceremony, was laid at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
Romantics vowed it was a love affair, though there were strict guidelines about who Elizabeth might choose and an arranged marriage between royals was not uncommon. My mother was one of those romantics and she followed the stories with enjoyment and took this opportunity to share with us the story of King Edward and Wallis Simpson, who abdicated his kingship for “the woman he loved.” Without this piece of history, Elizabeth wouldn’t have been in line for the throne. After Elizabeth and Philip married, she declared that the family name would be Mountbatten-Windsor. Theirs has been a long marriage of love and partnership. (Google can find you several sites celebrating their 60th anniversary a few years ago.)
Prince Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor, first son and heir to the throne, married Lady Diana Frances Spencer in 1981 in St. Paul’s Cathedral. An expert on the monarchy said at the time that “royalty can marry a commoner, but the prince may not marry a common person.” Theirs was the most spectacular wedding ever and bridezillas all over the world have been trying to match it ever since. A television audience of an estimated 750 million watched the ceremony. We witnessed the full day coverage of the event — Diana in her too-heavy eye make-up, awful bulky taffeta dress she could hardly move in, the natural beauty of this lovely girl completely hidden. A foreshadowing of the marriage that lasted only 15 years. A royal divorce logged another first for the reigning family, which only a generation ago was the stiff-upper-lip sort who gave up personal needs and wants to sustain the monarchy.
And now, again, a royal wedding. We may be sick unto death of the names of William and Kate before it is all over. But the world will ever be captivated with the idea of a prince and his bride.
As an engagement ring, William gave Kate the sapphire ring that was Diana’s. That is sweet. I just hope she doesn’t wear that dress.