I spent the week-end celebrating a wedding. The bride and bridegroom made a fine couple. The church was very old, with a magnificent Norman arch and medieval wall decorations. Afterwards we repaired to a nearby great house built in the seventeenth century of beautiful grey stone, with a chapel of its own, mullion windows, statues, a vast lawn and gardens which I in my ignorance only then learnt are famous. Everything was perfect, in other words, here was a traditional moment of the kind that has made England what it is, and formed the loyalty of its daughters and sons.
In the course of his speech in her honour, the father of the bride then informed the audience that the European Union has passed a Gender Equality Bill. One provision of this preposterous and impudent measure is that fathers are no longer allowed to give away their daughters in the traditional church ceremony. Apparently that is to treat daughters as chattels. The whole European Union is on the point of breaking up, Greece is in flames and the Germans about to rebel, several countries in the eurozone are bankrupt beyond redemption, the euro itself has failed and soon there may be no currency for Europeans to trade in — and the giant statesmen of Brussels come up with a prohibition on fathers giving away their daughters in marriage as fathers have done in country after country, century after century.
All is not lost. Princess Victoria of Sweden is engaged to be married. I shall never forget the grace and elegance with which she escorted an aged prize-winner who could hardly walk to dinner at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm in 2000. She has presence. Heir to the throne, she is insisting that her father, the King, give her away. The more the Swedish church says this can’t now be done, the more she protests that she will have her way. May she and the King remember their Vasa royal predecessors, Queen Christina, Charles XII, the days when Sweden was a great power, and may they help cover the great statesmen of Brussels with well-deserved ridicule.