So I’m driving back to Wales from Hertfordshire. The weather’s atrocious; thick fog dissected by blinding shafts of light. Breaking news on BBC Five Live: Buckingham Palace has just confirmed the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton. After eight years of...you know the rest.
My immediate reaction is disappointing; a momentary happiness. After weeks of unyielding gloom a tale of young love raises a smile on this middle aged face. Then normal business is resumed as I realise that this wedding will now be the starter, main course and pudding of every media outlet for month after month.
I can’t say I’m a republican – Cromwell or Crown are both capable of abusing their subjects – but I find the notion of a royal family deeply uncomfortable. There’s too much unquestioning deference to position, privilege and establishment. But again this may be the delirium of someone living in this sceptred isle’s Celtic twilight.
However, a day later and the media coverage is bewildering. It’s all about media figures, commercial opportunities and whether we’ll get a day off to celebrate the nuptials.
So here goes. The Daily Telegraph estimates one billion people will view the great day whereas The Sun opts for an extravagant three billion audience. A New Zealand website (stuff.co.nz) hopes that Marlborough wines will be quaffed at the reception and that the owners of the winery will be invited. BBC Online reports that a Lincolnshire firm is braced to make vast profits; Countryside Art in Spilsby saw its coffers swell during the Queens jubilee eight years ago and this manufacturer of royal merchandise want even more this time around. And yes, The Independent amongst others opines about the prospect of a national holiday.
What meaning therefore in this sea of tea towels, commemorative mugs and union jack dressing gowns? Probably this: Britain ’s latest regal obsession involves the first institution created by God.
Only a matter of days after creating everything out of nothing, He decides that this man and woman should get together. And the pronouncement is formal. No sloping off or shacking up – this will involve leaving other formative relationships and publicly cleaving to each other and becoming a family.
Strange then that this subject has been the least discussed in recent days. The global high and mighty have congratulated the couple on their decision, but no analysis of what they’ve committed to. Now this may be due to the yawning normality of marriage, although this is unlikely considering the soaring rates of cohabitation and divorce.
Essentially this relationship is now counter cultural. It doesn’t quite fit with the way things are in modern Britain . In an environment that advocates social inclusion this quaint arrangement has more in common with William the Conqueror than our modern prince charming.
And what can we say on the matter? An appeal to traditional values won’t wash any longer and statistically Christian marriages are no more permanent than anyone else’s. We have to begin at the beginning. God is a family, where Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally committed to each other in love and mutuality.
In His image we go and do likewise. Go for it William and Kate.
By: Gethin Russell-Jones