The Royal Wedding: Do You Care?

I confess, I don’t. Maybe it’s reverse-snobbery: the less I hear about my socioeconomic betters, the better — that’s why I never got into Desperate Housewives or Mad Men. Or maybe it’s sheer perversity: whatever the world loves, Lindenman must despise — that’s why I have never, to this day, seen any of the Rings movies.

Or it may be something even more basic: the envy I feel toward people of whatever station who are happily married. One time last year, a friend literally thrust her engagement ring under my nose, demanding, “Notice anything different? Hmmmm?” Now, I happened to know that this woman’s road to the hymenal altar had been a rocky one. She’d met her future husband in high school; they dated, then broke up. He married a woman who turned out to be Jerry Springer material and separated from her, but not before siring two daughters. He and my friend then reconnected, which left my friend having to stand in loco parentis not only for his wife, but because he worked long hours, for him. She bore up nobly, grateful to have found true love.

Still, even knowing this, all I could think was, “My God! How nouveau-riche can you get?”

Anyway, for those reasons, I am deeply impressed that Star Foster, my Patheos colleague, was able to find transcendent meaning in the nuptials of these two obscenely wealthy, uninteresting people (at least one of them balding). She’s a pagan; for her, it ties into the festival of Beltane:

In England, this mythos of sacred marriage is a very old one (and still popular today). The legendary Arthur was a sacred king who ruled brightly in the May of his youth, accepting the gifts and protection of the land itself until he was cut down and stored away like winter wheat. In Prince Charles we see this pattern emerge again: he married a woman who became representative of the land itself, experienced a rather public sacrifice of sorts and now resembles nothing so much as a Winter King whose Gráinne has returned to him. As he fades back into the elder pillars of the family, William is the bright new prince taking on the role of the sacred king.

The timing of the Royal Wedding and the way the old mythos fits is important to how England herself is perceived. The growing Pagan movement in the UK, particularly the strides made by Druids to gain recognition, has resulted in a perspective of re-enchanting the land. Spirit of Albion has received a surprising amount of support in the debate over whether Britain should have a national anthem, and the traditional English May Day activities have been taken up with renewed vigor as Pagans enthusiastically use Maypoles, Morris Dancers, Hobby Horses, and traditional music to celebrate what is one of the “holiest” days of the year. “Merry Olde England” is actively reclaiming her heritage: religiously and musically.

Now, I confess, I’m almost completely ignorant on the subject of paganism, save for what I’ve read in two books. The first, Strange Days, is the memoir of a journalist named Patricia Kennelly who doubled as a pagan priestess. In the former capacity, she met Jim Morrison of the Doors; in the latter, she married him. I lost the book a long time ago, but I remember Kennelly being both crazier than a scathouse rat, and very clever. I came away thinking I’d like to have a conversation with her — through bulletproof glass.

When I mentioned this to Star in an e-mail, she warned me: “Patricia’s not the best exemplar of our religion.” I replied, “Yeah, no kidding. She’s your Mel Gibson.”

The other is Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Beyond the Mists of Avalon, a retelling of Arthurian legend through the eyes of Moran le Fay, whom Bradley presents as a pagan priestess. I read it at the insistence of a lady friend, and although I won’t say I regret it, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Yes, there was some interesting stuff about traditional Celtic religion — Cerdiwen, the earth goddess; the Green Man, and whatnot. But there was far, far more about menarche, menses and menopause. By the time I finished, I was no expert on paganism, but I might have been able to fill in for a gynecologist.

  • Stacey

    I really enjoyed the Royal Wedding, especially the inclusion of some wonderful Christian theology regarding the origin and true purposes of marriage. That this was preached to about a billion people around the world definitely made my day.

  • Max Lindenman

    Fair enough, Stacey. That’s the best argument in favor I’ve heard yet.

  • DWiss

    I’m boycotting The Royal Wedding because of a cultural disease I’l call The Cult Of The Wedding. One of my daughters is infected. She’s barely 15 and talks incessantly about her wedding (that I’ll pay for). No, she doesn’t have a boyfriend. I commented here the other day about my 16-year-old Confirmation student who is ready to reject Catholicism in favor a a future beach wedding. Oy.

    I’m glad to hear that the coverage of The Royal Wedding included some marriage theology, but that was probably just a bathroom break between dress critiques (wow, what a grump!).

  • Max Lindenman

    I’m with you, DWiss. When it comes time for me to marry, they can throw me in a pine box for all I care.

    Wait a minute…

  • Yeoman

    I didn’t watch it, and you couldn’t pay me to.

    But, while I am very cynical about royalty, I found that every single woman who works in my office got up early to watch it. Every single one.

    Not one man did.

    That says something about the basic nature of the genders. And it probably also says something about the value women instinctively attach to marriage, even in this current day and age, the era of “hooking up”.

    Maybe the huge female interest is a hopeful thing.

  • Annie

    I’m with you on the Lord of the Rings movie, Max…but I confess that I loved the wedding (wacky hats and all!)
    …and I agree with Stacey, the homily was just perfect, and even included a nod to Catherine of Siena.

  • Mandy P.

    I’m kind of appalled by it, in all honesty. Maybe it’s my being
    American and the utilitarian nature most of us seem to share, but I just don’t see the point of it. Here you have this family who is revered simply because they’re related to people who ruled the country many, many, many years ago. But at this point in time, and for a very long time, the monarchy in England hasn’t really done anything but be celebrities. They don’t rule anything. And while they’re living the high life on an annual stipend of billions of pounds per year from the tax paying people of the UK, the rest of their “kingdom” suffers from staggering public debt, austerity measures needed to correct that debt, and serious social upheaval due to the massive influx of immigrants- mainly Muslim- and a native population that isn’t managing to have enough children to replace themselves.

    It’s such a drastic contrast between the charmed lives of the “Royals” and the regular citizen of the UK, that I can’t help but look at it with a hefty helping of disdain.

  • bill bannon

    I’m with Stacey. I think it was the Mayor of London who gave a very pro- procreative speech at about 6:45 am our time. And as I noted elsewhere, there is a silver lining metaphoric meaning to Kate marrying royalty. Keep in mind Aquinas’ admonition that metaphors need not match in every detail….”otherwise we would have identity not likeness”.
    That said…. All of us are Kate. When we marry God…..we …commoners…we sinners…marry into a royal family. Ephesians says we are the Bride of Christ…even us males within the Church. The Old Testament yells it to us in Isaiah 54:1-5…” Raise a glad cry…..
    For he who has become your husband is your Maker.” Kate is each of us symbolically and the huge crowd waiting for the 8:25 kiss is the angels rejoicing at each conversion of a commoner to God. Kate is each of us today in a veiled metaphor. Do not judge Kate and say she is a sinner…the metaphor needs her to be. And Trent’s Council stated that known of us can have absolute certitude that we are in sanctifying grace though we can have moral certitude else we couldn’t receive…but absolute certitude…no.

  • Tim

    I enjoy spectacles but I preferred the NFL draft over the wedding.

  • Will

    I watched some if it with my wife and found it better than I thought. They do have some strange hats over there. May God bless Will and Kate.

  • Lori

    I just had to watch the clip where the wedding gown was revealed. The rest, I can skip.

  • Lori

    And by the way, the gown was FABULOUS.

  • Maryette

    I watched a little of the wedding… What can I say, I like pretty dresses, and I like it even better when one of the guests shows up in an ugly one.

    As for The Lord of the Rings, you’re only hurting yourself, Max. Though someone should do you the service of tying you to a chair and forcing you to watch. I’d volunteer, but, alas, I live too far away.

    Patricia Kennelly? I’ve read her fiction but not her probably partially fictional non-fiction. I tried to slog through Marion Zimmer Bradley’s endlessly dull mists, but I failed about halfway through. That woman writes some seriously sub-par fantasy; don’t use her stuff to judge the genre! I never, ever would have guessed that you’d read anything by either of those womyn, Max. I guess we share more books than I thought.

  • Bernadette

    Actually, I think just getting married period in our day and age is a rather courageous thing, and I have to admire those who are willing to take the plunge rather than take the easy way out of cohabitating indefinitely, particularly when they don’t have any moral reasons to choose marriage. To say “You and no other, for the rest of our mutual life,” and really mean it, takes some guts. It reminds me of the moment at the Easter Vigil when the converts to Catholicism say something like (and I know I’m not getting this exactly right) “I profess and believe to be true everything that the Catholic Church teaches.” That’s a pretty ballsy statement. Gives me goosebumps every time.

    Granted, Prince William has rather overwhelming cultural and familial reasons why he must marry sooner or later, but given his personal history (and given the intense scrutiny he and his bride will be subjected to for the rest of their lives), it still has to be a rather nerve wracking thing. I have to admire her courage too. The last woman who attempted this job got pretty thoroughly destroyed by it. To my mind, they’re both doing something fairly impressive. So I don’t mind all the fuss. Plus, it gives me some pretty pictures to look at. :)

  • Another Old Catholic

    Anything that gets millions to take marriage and Christianity seriously is fine by me. They see like lovely young people. May God bless them and keep them.

  • jkm

    Being, as we established yesterday, Ms not Brah, I was up in front of the TV at 5 am EDT, wearing a homemade fascinator (frivolous little hattish thing) and faux crown jewels, but I did it mostly for the music and the architecture and the pageantry and the religion of it. A truly beautiful bride (with all the biblical imagery that evokes, as mentioned in other posts) was only one of many rewards: the sight of the restored Cosmati marble floor in the Westminster Abbey choir, which rivals the floors of St. Peter’s and many other Roman churches in the sacred geometry of colored marble (and speaking of the wealthy, the restoration was the Getty Foundation’s wedding gift to England); some fine hymnody and psalms and anthems (including a new setting of Ubi caritas by a Welsh composer, as well as the Anglican rousers “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer” and “Jerusalem”); the bride’s entry, not to the traditional “Look at me” wedding march but to a choral rendition of Psalm 122 (“I rejoiced when I heard them say, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’”); the (C of E) Bishop of London’s introductory remarks (“Every wedding is a royal wedding, because we are all subjects of the King of creation”) and sermon citing Catherine of Siena on her feast day; the clear, thoughtful, and moving proclamation of passages from Romans 12 by the bride’s brother (in the NRSV, not King James version); and the simple prayer composed by the couple, concentrating on service to others.
    Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but I can’t help but rejoice that so many millions were evangelized today–and the hats were just a bonus. :-)

  • Bernadette

    @jkm – You almost make me wish I’d actually gotten up to watch it instead of just browsing through one of the photo galleries.

    Though I have to admit that I didn’t find most of the hats particularly attractive. Interesting as works of sculpture, maybe, but they didn’t do much to enhance the beauty of the women who wore them, so in my mind they failed.

  • jkm

    @Bernadette – Oh, I agree. I count the hats as architecture. There was one in particular, on a woman seated directly behind the Queen, that looked exactly like a mask of Medusa. I guess that brings us back around to Max’s pagans.

  • Max Lindenman


    I forgot Kennelly also wrote fiction! See how out of touch with fantasy I am?

    I read her memoir when I was in college and going through a Jim Morrison wannabe phase (which ended, by my reckoning, at eight o’clock Tuesday morning). I’d already read Danny Sugerman’s No One Here Gets Out Alive; that left Kennelly.

    As for Bradley, like I said, I read her for love. Cheaper than a tattoo, and somewhat less painful.

  • lethargic

    No, I don’t care about celebrity weddings of any ilk … I’m too busy trying to keep my family from falling apart.

    And as for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon … yeah, I can’t stand that strain of feminism that’s all twisted up with menarche ritual intiations and the croneness of post-menopause and all that nonsense — The Red Tent was a real hoot, too, in that regard — I’m sorry I read them both, what was I thinking? I’m too busy trying to keep my family from falling apart.

  • Max Lindenman

    lethargic: Preach it, daddy. Should I blog on “Books I Have Read to Impress Women”?

  • ThirstforTruth

    @jkm…I enjoyed the thrill of it all for all the reasons you stated…even though I am most happy my ancestors were
    among the Brits who long ago saw through the monarchy for what it is and opted for crossing the pond! That all being said..I think we can hold to our Faith and still wish the newly weds our prayers and hopes for their wedded future. There is always some positive in all this it was the joy and optimism exhibited today by those in the happy throngs! To see the thousands of people respectfully following police orders as they went from the Cathedral to the Palace in orderly fashion was impressive and encouraging. It is nice to know that for a short time and in a single place there was peace and happiness on earth. Most days the news simply makes one want to pull the covers over one’s head. Those who got out of bed early this morning were rewarded like the proverbial early bird…and those who did not will never believe what they missed…sour-pusses all!!

  • Mary

    Eh– modern paganism. I recommend Ronald Hutton on the topic. Though I must say that any familiarity with it and with real paganism, whether pre-Christian or in a country that was never Christianized, will rapidly lead to the conclusion that it’s extremely liberal Christianity. (For one thing, they haven’t revived animal sacrifices.)

  • Rachel

    Awesome Liturgy. So pro-life and so Theology of the Body. It was a great catechesis on Christian marriage for the millions tuned in to see it. The three purposes of marriage, in the preamble to the vows listed procreation as its first purpose. The entire ceremony was Christ-centered, Church-centered, and the deep meaning of spousal love was celebrated in a wonderful homily by the Bishop of London. The boys and men choir gave one goosebumps. Unfortunately all of these things are never featured in the highlights that are re-broadcast ad nauseum by television.

    The bride’s gown was also surprisingly modest for a royal wedding, no train 25 meters long, but a very short one—the shortest I’ve ever seen for a royal wedding. The simplicity was striking.

    As for royalty, it is what it is, timeless, mythical, and representing values beyond the 5 year voting cycle, in spite of the human failings of those who hold positions within it. You don’t have to be slavish, or pandering, or celebrity-stricken to note what it stands for within the parlimentery democracy.

    Link to the sermon:

    Link to the liturgy:
    double click on the passages to read them

  • Terry Fenwick

    We are a wonderful country but so very, very young. I am always so amazed in Europe to look up in Notre Dame and think “This was built before Columbus discovered America!”

    We can learn so much from the history of these countries where we ALL came from! Many of my genes came from England and France and others; I want to follow and care about these countries and watch their people! The wedding was beautiful and the people in the streets made me long for a type of patriotism we have not seen for a long time – unless we count 9/11 – which did not last long enough.

    So England may need us now as we may need them. Good to watch as history does repeat itself and, the one thing we will all agree about is the only thing we – the USA – have learned from history is we have learned little from history. This wedding was filled with history.

  • Beth

    Didn’t watch or even know much about it; as with lethargic, too busy with my own family to even know it was going on. A Confirmation, First Communion and the beatification of JPII have taken our attention.

    Not watched LOTR? Really? What is worth your time? If it’s media hype, tell me you have not, then, read Harry Potter….

  • Edward

    He’s my future sovereign and this is a once-in-30-year event, so despite being a man I sat down and watched it. Enjoyed it too, except for the trees in Westminster Abbey.

    Besides, English republicans (those in favour of abolishing the monarchy – nothing to do with US Republicans) tend to be miserable, joyless and boring people – rather like their Puritan predecessors, who were also staunch republicans.

  • Susan

    Didn’t think I cared much. However, I was temporarily housebound and too wacky on medication to read. So, I watched the Royal Wedding. My attitude definitely changed. How refreshing to see a young woman in a gown that did not have cleavage hanging out everywhere. She was simply elegant. How wonderful to have a brief sermon go out to millions of people that included Christ and the meaning of marriage. And, the thought that really hit me – thank God that someone is keeping up some beautiful Christian/Western rituals in a world that is quickly becoming overly politically correct and Islamacized.

  • Maureen

    As a citizen of one of the colonies, I watched it all and I admitted that I teared up at the vows, the prayers for the couple and the clergy’s address to the couple. It reminded me of what marriage really is about – two people committing to each other and bringing new life into the world.

    I tear up at all wedding vows because I think they are so profound (except when I know the couple shouldn’t be getting married because they are not willing to make the commitment and sacrifice required in a marriage and are really just in it for the party!, but that is another debate – I’m glad that most churches are requiring couples to go through some type of marriage prep course before using their church as the ‘backdrop’ to the party).

    It is the same when Charles is crowned King – it is a solemn ceremony where he makes a commitment to serve, not rule. It is the same commitment is mother made and will abide to for the rest of her life. Yes being royal puts in the lap of luxury, but you must commit for the rest of your life and in a constitutional monarchy you are the constant – and that is an awesome responsibility.

  • Elaine S.

    I think it was wonderful to see a living reminder of the purposes and importance of marriage broadcast to millions around the world.

    I hope also that the new Princess’ dress sets a trend toward more MODEST wedding gowns… I constantly see complaints on other Catholic/religious blogs about immodestly dressed brides and the difficulty of finding gowns that aren’t strapless, plunging or exposing the shoulders, etc.

  • TXRed

    I watched bits of the wedding and looked up the music. And I agree with Elaine S. on wedding dressed. I find it fascinating that you can go to a business such as Recollections (Victorian and Edwardian reproduction clothes) and get lovely, elaborate or simple, flattering and modest wedding dresses, hand made in the US, for less than the cost of a lot of those strapless, unflattering designs that have been so popular recently.

    And I’m for anything that spreads the message that marriage is something of and (to an extent) for G-d. I was also pleased with the couple’s quiet gestures to keep in mind the military. William chose to wear his squadron’s uniform rather than the honorary colonel’s uniform he is “entitled” to, and had a piece of instrumental music based on his squadron’s motto. Again, tasteful, restrained (relatively speaking) and respectful.