Elizabeth, I appreciated your post about why you’re watching the royal wedding with your daughter, but to me there’s something about this royal wedding that is quite different from the one you and I watched as children — something that makes it a bit less of a spectacle.
I was seven years old in 1981 when Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles. Like all girls my age — and quite a few women! — I sat in my home and dreamed of what it must be like to become a princess. I didn’t know that Diana’s uncle actually told the press his niece was a “bona fide virgin” (nor did I know what a “virgin” was, other than a mysterious word in some Christmas carols). Historically, royal families marry virgins to ensure the integrity of their royal bloodlines, to guarantee that any children produced from the marriage are legitimate heirs to the throne. Certainly Diana emanated purity, from her frilly, modest wedding gown to her shy demeanor.
The relationship between Prince William and Kate seems — dare I write it — just like many other modern relationships. They met while attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. After their initial first meeting, William went to see Kate modeling lingerie at a charity event. (Okay, so maybe that part wasn’t “normal.”) They dated for eight years, they moved in together, they broke up, they made up. Prince Charles joked with the BBC that he was glad the wedding was finally happening, because, well, “They’ve been practicing for long enough.”
Of course, virginity wasn’t enough to guarantee a successful marriage in the case of Diana and Charles. Perhaps the “fairy tale” wedding thrust such unrealistic expectations on them as a royal couple that their marriage couldn’t withstand the collective weight. It might even be the case — I hope so — that William and Kate are a more stable couple because they dated longer before their marriage. But as I watch them prepare for their lavish ceremony, it just seems oppressively “normal.” Like a doctor marrying a lawyer, not a prince marrying a princess.
Instead of watching the wedding with our kids to provide mental images of big, bold, beautiful weddings, we should focus instead on big, bold, beautiful marriages. You know, the ones that are anything but normal.
— Nancy French is author of Red State of Mind and co-author of the upcoming Home & Away.