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Prince William and his bride have the chance to shape Britain’s ideas about marriage

The monarchy has great symbolic power: the royal couple could set a standard about the purpose and meaning of matrimony

By on Monday, 2 May 2011

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge exchange rings during their marriage ceremony (CNS photo/Dominic Lipinski, pool via Reuters)

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge exchange rings during their marriage ceremony (CNS photo/Dominic Lipinski, pool via Reuters)

To paraphrase Walter Bagehot, a royal wedding is a wonderful occasion for pomp and pageantry. I viewed this grand event all last Friday morning on my mother’s television and would be quite happy to see the Horse Guards prancing along the Mall all day. My sister phoned and said she had planned to celebrate the occasion in her local pub – only to discover it had declared itself republican and was therefore shut. What curmudgeons some people are!

Two things about the wedding ceremony itself particularly interested me: Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, quoting that great (Catholic) saint, Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” And Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, telling the young couple that marriage has been ordained by God primarily for the procreation of children (I think his words were “the increase of mankind” but it comes to the same thing).

As I listened, a negative association came into my mind. I do not want to sound like the wicked fairy at the feast but I’ll still repeat it: it was a news item about Moscow preparing to host the world’s first demographic summit on 29-30 June, with the theme of “The Family and the Future of Mankind”. It is being hosted by the World Congress of Families; the director, Larry Jacobs, states, “By the year 2050 there will be 248 million fewer children under five in the world than there are today.”

The summit is being held in Moscow because Prime Minister Putin is making a desperate bid to raise the Russian birthrate by up to 30 per cent in three years. At present in Russia unofficial statistics state there are nearly four million abortions per annum, as against 1.7 million live births. These doleful statistics speak for themselves. I have blogged before about the “demographic winter” facing not only Russia but also countries in the West.

What does this gloomy news item have to do with the wedding of Prince William and his bride? It is simple: such is the magic and symbolic power of the British monarchy that this young couple’s married life will inevitably set its own standard for the country’s views about the meaning and purpose of marriage. Look at the way the marriage of Queen Victoria gave the name “Victorian” to a whole association of ideas about the strength, stability and fidelity of the marriage and lively family life that she and Prince Albert enjoyed.

So I hope that the newly married couple will set an example of long and faithful married love to our country – something the bridegroom’s parents could not achieve, as well as other members of the Royal Family. I also hope their marriage will be fruitful, as Rowan Williams reminded them, and that they will burst the bounds of the average family size. Six children, I suggest, would be a good number and might encourage others to follow their example. Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh, echoing the environmental brigade, have both spoken pessimistically about the need to curb world population. The fact is, as Putin knows only too well, we need to increase it before too many countries suffer irreversible population decline. William and Catherine: here is your opportunity to “set the world on fire”.

  • ms catholic state

    Thank God someone is waking up to the demographic crisis……the result of evil and idiocy. And Russia will suffer for it……for Russia was the first to legalise abortion.

    Is it too much to hope that Russia….standing on the verge of its own wipeout…..will grasp the nettle and outlaw abortion. God Willing. But something tells me the nations of Western Europe would rather go to the wall than ban abortion. And go to the wall they will……for the wages of sin is death.

  • http://spreadthyfragrance.blogspot.com/ Jackie Parkes

    Great post Francis..especially re the demographic problem. I wrote a short reflection on marriage

    http://spreadthyfragrance.blogspot.com/2011/04/reflections-on-marriage.html

  • Martin

    Totally agree! Good post

  • Anonymous

    This is Planet Earth calling Planet Vatican. Francis Philips considers six children a good number for a couple to have. I hope we don’t all follow that model, because if we do, the world population will at least double every generation, allowing for celibacy, infertility and child mortality. Francis Philips, I ask you this. When is the god (lower case intended) on which you base your life and thinking going to give us another planet, or double the size of this one? Western societies are ageing because, thanks to science, we live longer than before. The long-term answer for ageing societies is to work longer to provide for the increased old age. The answer is NOT to increase the birth rate because the resultant extra babies will one day also be old people needing provision. Increasing the birth rate perpetuates the problem in the long run. That is why China, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, wants to limit its population growth. In an age of mechanisation huge populations do not make economic sense, and in an age of environmental uncertainty they threaten disaster. Philips thinks that William and Catherine have an “opportunity to set the world on fire”, but who wants a burnt world?

  • Anonymous

    I hate to rain on people’s parade but it is well known that irrespective of the fairy-tale wedding, the couple have been living together for many years; during which time they had separations and sexual dalliances with other people.
    It might be an awkward subject to address but let’s face facts: During this time they were forced by reasons of state to use contraception and although a hypothetical situation – should that contraception have at any time failed – the very notion of an illegitimate child being allowed to be born would have been inconceivable – and there would have been immediate recourse to abortion.

    This is hardly a shining example for exemplary sacramental marital life.

    There is also a secondary hypothetical: Would the Royal family permit the birth of a royal child when a ultrasound test or amniocentesis determined a physical abnormalty or a genetic disorder?
    This might sound highly judgmental ; but we must take note – as Mrs Phillips has – that both Prince Charles and Prince Phillip are vociferous advocates of eugenics via population control [Prince Phillip gave a speech in which his stated desire was to be reincarnated as a deadly virus which would decimate humanity] and albeit a different era; most of us are aware of the sad tale of Prince John [1905-19] who was hidden from the public because of his severe epilepsy; and the 1975 tragedy of the Duchess of Kent [and we can only conjecture if this was under duress] terminating her pregnancy after contracting rubella.

    This might seem deplorably scandalous to ever imply such things; but we dwell in a cruel, callous world where ‘image’ of our superiors takes a priority over such things as personal morality or the dignity of the human person.

    So yes: Let’s pray that the Royal marriage is a successful , loving and fruitful one which does indeed evoke a shining example to the nation – but please: Let’s not be naiive enough as to presume it reflects the potential reality of the situation.

  • ms catholic state

    There is no long term solution to ageing societies…..eventually they will need new young blood. And that can only be brought about by immigration…….or upping the birthrate.

    We are destined to go forth and multiply….that is the only form of society that brings economic and scientific development.. Haven’t you heard of all the earth like planets being discovered?! If left up to atheists and secularists we will never reach these planets….because there will be no incentive to do so. Also China is seriously considering relaxing its one child policy. It’s madness they haven’t already done so. Now….their one child policy means that one young person of working age is supporting 2 parents and 4 grandparents. Totally ineffective economically. No wonder that African nations with high birthrates have faster growing economies than China. And India will soon too.

  • ms catholic state

    Check out the facts…..http://www.economywatch.com/economy-business-and-finance-news/12-fastest-growing-economies-of-2011-8-12.html.

    It just goes to show how moribund the West has become under the auspices of godless secular governance. They really haven’t a clue.

  • Anonymous

    The long-term solution to ageing societies is a higher retirement age. If we now live longer, we must work longer, and that goes for China and India too. Upping the birth-rate is not a long-term solution for the reason I have given above.

    No, I haven’t heard of the discovery of earth-like planets. How far away are they, and how do we get to them?

    I don’t believe that young working people in China are usually supporting their parents. Young people usually have parents of working age.

  • ms catholic state

    Raising the retirement age is a short term solution only…..that is flimsy and not veryeffective. Upping the birth rate is a must…..or whole nations and people can expect to go extinct. Fine ….if that’s what they want…..but shouldn’t the government spell it out to their sub-fertile unthinking people.

    Please look up the earth like planets that are continually being discovered yourself. I’m surprised you haven’t heard about them. They were all over the news last year. And of course young pple have to pay for their parents retirement and their grandparents if they are still alive…..and their own child when they eventually can afford to get married and have one. The one child system is ridiculous and economic suicide….China must wake up. The Vatican should have a serious word with them.

  • ms catholic state

    Good news from Hungary too……its new constitution … ‘heavy with references to Christianity, protects the life of a foetus “from conception” and preserves “the institution of marriage between man and woman”. It’s giving the EU palpitations.

    Let’s all pray for brave Hungary as it defies the status quo of Western secular godlessness. I haven’t seen a word about this in the secular media.

  • William

    Your Roman Caesar teachings are rejected as false doctrine by virtually all Christian churches and scripture. That includes the real orthodox catholic church as we Anglicans also do.

    Whoever heard of the self professed heir to St Peter who loves the company of kings, celebrities and the rich compare himself equivalent to Jesus’s who not only loved the poor and dispirited but lived amongst them, not in splendour.

    So why do you think your roman church a proper Christian institution to lecture our future monarch?

  • Anonymous

    I have explained above why your proposal – raising the birth-rate – is not a solution to the ageing of societies. It is because children in turn grow old, but you have not addressed this inconvenience. You allege that my solution – raising the retirement age in proportion to increasing longevity – is flimsy and ineffective and fails in the long term, but you do not give one word of explanation as to why you believe that. Would you care to offer your explanation and also to address mine?

    We cannot keep upping the birth-rate to compensate for growing older, because that is an unsustainable vicious circle. At some point we must bite the bullet and stabilize the population within manageable limits. The medicine – working a few more years – might taste bitter, but it is the safest and most effective available. The trouble is that we in the economically advanced world are spoilt. We want to live to 90 or more but work only to 65 at most, and that is unrealistic.

    Perhaps I haven’t heard of all these Earth-like planets continually being discovered because my mind is focussed on the planet on which we actually live, but I will ask this question again in hope of an answer: how far away are these planets and how do we get to them? Are you considering them as a potential solution to the human overpopulation of Earth?