He and She and the Royal ‘We’

by Robert Morrison

“In my house?” I was stunned when my wife informed me she was planning her own royal-wedding reception, with 35 ladies coming for tea, all dressed up in hats and gloves, to be served jam and scones on our best china.

“That’s a day when I’m scheduled to work from home,” I protested. “Yes, and you can stay in your study and we won’t disturb you,” she said soothingly. It was agreed that if I didn’t wander around muttering waspish comments about monarchy, and didn’t flash my well-worn copy of Tom Paine’s Common Sense, then I would be kindly fed through the bars.

This isn’t the first time our family has succumbed to the buzz of a royal wedding. We drove 50 miles through the dark to my mother-in-law’s house in 1981, back when we lived in Washington State. We had our six-week-old son with us. He slept through it all in a Moses basket decorated with a Union Jack and a Welsh flag. My late mother-in-law was a proud Lloyd, from a family that hails from Wales.

We watched as Charles and Diana were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral. And we were struck by the beautiful wedding sermon preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Every couple is a king and a queen on their wedding day, said His Grace on that memorable occasion. And, he said, a marriage is strongest when it works for others.

We loved that sermon. It has shaped our own marriage. We clipped it out of the Christian Science Monitor and taped it inside our kitchen cabinet. That yellowing copy of his Lordship’s sermon made it through two or three house moves with us. Thirty years later, undimmed by fading memories, it still motivates us. We felt like a king and queen on that day, too. No amount of tragedy for those star-struck royals diminished our gratitude for that gracious wedding message.

Bill Bennett likes to quote Chekhov: “He and she is the engine that makes fiction work.” Thirty years after Charles and Diana’s wedding, he and she still has a powerful appeal. Some 2 million people lined the route of the wedding party through London’s ancient, narrow streets, and billions more watched on television.

Of course, monarchy itself is endangered in a world they constantly tell us is flat. Her Majesty’s Government — those who actually rule Britain while the royals only reign — announced this month they are giving serious thought to changing the order of succession. Henceforth, the eldest child of a royal couple — he or she — might ascend the throne.

They might also drop the 300-year ban on any Catholic becoming a king or queen of England. My late friend Joe Barrett was forever reminding anyone who would listen that the English monarchy was legally a bigoted institution, constitutionally anti-Catholic. I always reminded him of the luck of the Irish. They at least had an alibi when the London tabloids splashed stories of yet another royal scandal.

Walter Bagehot, in his classic book The English Constitution, reminds us that all government needs a dignified and an efficient aspect. Bagehot, the founding editor of the famous Economist journal, thought monarchy made the most sense. To be fair, William and Kate have largely avoided the behavior that make it hard to say “His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales” and “dignified” in the same sentence. Prince Charles’s green notions have him talking to his plants. His ancestor George III was given a straight waistcoat for talking to trees.

There’s never been so much confusion over he and she. It’s the engine that makes fiction work, true. But it’s the mainspring of romance, too. So, for this one day at least, I’ll suppress my starchy republicanism and cheer William and Kate. In this 400th anniversary year of the King James Bible, we will pray: “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

— Robert Morrison is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.

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