Count me among the abstainers. I won’t be watching over-the-top media coverage of Friday’s wedding between Prince William and the “commoner” Kate Middleton.
After the “wedding of the century” of William’s mother and father in 1981 and the ensuing drama that led to their divorce in 1996 and, eventually, her death on Aug. 31, 1997, the wedding of their son is unlikely to match the earlier nuptials in pomp or circumstance.
Pete Broadbent, the bishop of Willesden in northwest London, demonstrated just how cynical we have become about these fairy tale weddings. Last November, the bishop compared the couple to “shallow celebrities.” He said their marriage is bound to fail. “I give the marriage seven years,” he wrote on his Facebook page. But he wasn’t through. He went on to trash Prince Charles and Princess Diana, saying of the media coverage of their wedding, “I managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll, and I hope to avoid this one too.”
The bishop, an anti-monarchist, cited a history of “more broken marriages and philanderers among these (royals) than not. They cost us an arm and a leg. … Talent isn’t passed on through people’s bloodstock. The hereditary principle is corrupt and sexist.”
After the pro-monarchy British press strongly criticized his remarks, the bishop issued an apology.
He may be on to something, though, at least when one considers statistics for people who shack up, as we used to say before the modern and less judgmental, “in a relationship.” Prince William and Kate have been living together in North Wales for several months.
How far the British have come from the days when Edward VIII was forced to give up the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite. See all about it depicted in this year’s best picture, “The King’s Speech.”
Once, women who married royalty had to prove their virginity. That included Lady Diana Spencer. Now they don’t even have to promise to “obey” their husbands, which Diana refused to do in her vows and Kate won’t do either. Why do we even call them “vows” anymore since they are so often broken? As defined by dictionary.com, a vow is, “a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment.”
A recent front page USA Today story noted, “Cohabitation has become almost a rite of passage before marriage…” Yes, and with many speed bumps. According to figures published in 2002 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cohabitation before the first marriage (is) associated with a greater chance of divorce.”
And why are William and Kate getting married in a church when they don’t appear to be regular churchgoers? The number of regulars at church in the UK has been in decline for years. According to a survey conducted in 2006 by Christian Research, a British think tank, only 6.3 percent faithfully attend services. Wouldn’t William and Kate be more representative of their country’s secular majority if a judge married them and they eschewed the religious trappings of Westminster Abbey?
At Charles and Diana’s wedding, The Right Honorable George Thomas, speaker of the House of Commons, read from what is often called “the love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. It is about love always being patient and kind, never envious, or proud and never failing. Love didn’t fail them; they failed love. That’s largely because too many define love as “a feeling” so when the “feeling” dies, the bond is broken.
I hope Bishop Broadbent is wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope William and Kate really do live happily ever after, that their children and grandchildren never give them problems and that someone in the family will become king or queen. If the monarchy endures, that’s the only certainty it can provide.
At 4 a.m. EDT on Friday I will still be asleep. When the ceremony begins around 6 a.m. EDT, I will be rising, brewing a cup of coffee and reading the papers, but won’t turn on the television until the spectacle is over.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist and author.