Congrats to Wills & Kate, very happy for them both! By the time the confetti has been swept from the Mall this will have probably been the biggest TV event in history - a day where we throw off the lingering heaviness of post colonial shame & remember how to be Great Britain once again. A day where we suddenly feel confident in celebrating our identity in one giant street party before the world's eyes. A day where our ever shrinking planet shares in a truly global, tribal event.
So it is a genuinely significant day for us all, not least the happy couple. Whilst Wills & Kate may wake up tomorrow to the realisation that their ascension to the throne may take another 40 plus years, we can take a look at the top 3 Royal marriages which have had true & lasting significance.
In reverse order!
3/ William & Mary
William, Prince of Orange, married Mary Stuart on 4th Nov 1677. The Dutch Stadtholder was actually marrying his first cousin, & she just happened to be the daughter to James, next in line to the English throne should his big brother Charles die...following so far?
Charles of course did die & James II, a Catholic ascended the throne. The reason this particular Royal wedding was so important is that the daughter & son in law arrived by boat in Devon with 15000 troops the day after their 11th Wedding anniversary! James fled under pressure & vacated the throne which was taken up jointly by William & Mary.
The settlement they agreed with Parliament meant that no genuine Monarch would ever rule again in England. The Divine right of Kings was diminished by powers ceded to government, & the curious compromise of a democracy with a Monarch began to emerge. Here was one wedding which has consequences which still resonate today.
2/ Edward & Mrs Simpson
OK, he had already abdicated by the time the former Edward VIII married twice divorced Wallis Simpson in 1938, but this wedding is the reason we are all having a bank holiday in front of our TV screens today.
Quite simply, Edward's younger brother George VI took the throne & a whole new family line of Royals, including our very own Elizabeth, Charles & Wills came into play.
Even more significantly, without this strange episode in history, Colin Firth would have been denied his Oscar for the King's Speech!
1/ Henry & Catherine of Aragon
This has to be the most important marriage in English history, but for it's untimely ending rather than the many years of relationship. So much has been written about the monster Monarch Henry, but had his marriage to devout Catholic Catherine been sustained we must wonder whether England would have ever entered the Reformation? Our 500 years of history since, our odd democracy & compromised church/state relationship would surely look so very different. Our architecture, our Colonial spread & impact in competition with the Spanish, our national characteristics - all changed for ever because this marriage did not last.
Wills & Kate, enjoy many happy years waiting for your turn without too much burden of history!