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William and Catherine have returned to the monarchy’s Christian origins

This royal wedding was a much more serious occasion than the last one

By on Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Prince William and Catherine Middleton exchange rings in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

Prince William and Catherine Middleton exchange rings in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

Two days before the royal wedding, the Wall Street Journal, with ill-disguised satisfaction – under the headline “Pope Vies With Prince for Public Eye” and the subheading “Royal Wedding Steals Attention From Late Pontiff John Paul II’s Beatification” – came to the confident conclusion that the effect of the worldwide attention being paid to the royal wedding would seriously affect the numbers attending the beatification two days later:

The May 1 beatification of the late Pope John Paul II is an occasion for the Holy See to bask in the aura of a pontiff widely seen as a modern Catholic hero. But a high-profile event involving another European institution, the House of Windsor, is stealing the Vatican’s thunder. The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in London on April 29, two days before the beatification ceremony, is dominating news coverage around the world, leaving less time for the late pope.

Behind closed doors, according to one Vatican “planner” who had, so the paper claimed, been talking to the Wall Street Journal (oh, yeah?), the effect of all this was that he and other “planners” had come to the conclusion that only around 150,000 people would turn up to the beatification. Well, estimates of the crowds who actually came to Rome for the ceremony vary, but they’re all between one and 1.5 million, so sucks to the Wall Street Journal. But the two ceremonies were linked in more people’s minds than one (including my own) if only because they reinforced each other, by anticipating, then recalling, a mood of communal joy and celebration which – to put it no higher – reminded us all in grim times that there’s more to life than the bottom line.

Archbishop Nichols, who attended both ceremonies, made the point that the beatification “is a celebration of the same love that William and Catherine promised to each other – yesterday in marriage, today in service of priest, bishop and Pope – but it’s the same well-spring of love that comes from God that we see on both days… It was very remarkable [that] when Catherine said ‘I will’ there was a great cheer. People recognised the solemnity of the promises that were being made. The second was when the Archbishop of Canterbury said ‘So in the sight of God and these people I now declare you man and wife’ and there was a great cheer.

“There is popular recognition that marriage is a fresh start. That this from now on was something different and it was a profound change in the life of both those young people. And everybody recognises it. I think that gives the lie to the idea that marriage is of little consequence in our society.”

Well, I think there’s more to be said than that, true though it no doubt is. Friday’s royal wedding was in sharp contrast to that of 30 years ago between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. I remember that occasion very well, apart from anything else because I had written the Daily Telegraph’s main leader about the wedding that day; when Bill Deedes commissioned it, he said he wanted my piece to be “the paper’s wedding present”: he wanted an article celebrating the religious and national significance of the occasion.

That wedding itself was, of course, religious enough, it could hardly be otherwise: but what remained in the mind afterwards were irrelevances: Archbishop Runcie’s foolish words, “this is the stuff that fairy tales are made of” (ironic only in retrospect, but just as silly at the time as they seem now), and the showbiz element in the whole thing: Kiri te Kanawa singing “Let the bright seraphim”, the extended drive from the city, that ridiculous puffed-up wedding dress. The BBC got in on the act by showing that wonderful extravaganza “High Society” (Grace Kelly, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby) when they all disappeared into the palace after the balcony appearance: it all seemed to blend somehow into one.

Friday’s marriage was very different, despite the fact that the words of the service were identical. First, the couple seemed (was, indeed, after nearly 10 years) better prepared for the event. Catherine Middleton, despite her splendid sense of humour (which constantly emerged, even during the ceremony) had taken the religious dimension of the event with great seriousness, insisting on being confirmed in good time before the wedding: she was prepared and confirmed by the Bishop of London, who had himself confirmed Prince William, and I have no doubt that that is why it was he (and not the Archbishop of Canterbury, as one might have expected) who preached the homily. The most striking thing in his sermon to me (though hardly mentioned by anyone in the coverage afterwards) was that the couple had composed a prayer for the event, which the bishop ended his homily by praying from the pulpit. It was simple, highly personal and, I found, very moving:

“God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

“In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

“Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Many observers commented on the number of young people in the crowds, and concluded that the couple had brought the monarchy into the 21st century, demonstrating yet again the institution’s capacity constantly to reinvent itself. But that prayer says to me that they have also taken the monarchy back again to its Christian origins: that will ultimately be how it will retain its capacity to survive and flourish anew.

  • tillic

    The prayer shows that these two young people, in addition to being nice, have depth.

  • William

    Please cease passing comment on Christianity in the UK.

    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 such nonsense as the so called 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.

  • James H


    You should really change your script, O Great Wazzock!

  • Thomas Poovathinkal


  • Linus

    Didn’t pay attention to either of the weddings. Meant nothing to me.

  • jng

    With the support of no less a person than the Duke of Wellington, The Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed in 1829. Sadly, it could not abolish the bigotry which had inspired the Test Act which it replaced, but Catholics were permitted to practice their religion and it has allowed them to express their views since in Catholic newspapers.
    It is too late to complain to the Duke of Wellington, but should anyone wish to repeal that Act and return to the Test Act, perhaps they consider whether the Catholic Herald is an ideal vehicle for such a campaign.

  • http://twitter.com/PJTPOOAM Thomas Poovathinkal


  • Anonymous

    What with the most significant global events in the past year being the Papal Visit, the Royal Wedding and JPII’s beatification it appears that the popular consensus is a return to the Middle Ages. Maybe it is time to dispense with this recent experiment in people power (just a thought).

    Great article. It is note worthy that the Royal Family/Anglican Church seem to have a knack of stealing the Vatican’s thunder e.g. Mother Teresa, not not to mention the last minute defeat of the Armada.

    I was extremely impressed by Bishop Chartres sermon. Was it just me or was it verging on right wing for the CoE. After all, he shockingly stated that family was the best model in society, hence upsetting the one parent family brigade. I bet Archbishop Rowan would not have been that controversial. I don’t want to go too far but he could have almost been mistaken for a Catholic Bishop.

    I am Catholic but I have to admit that the Royal Wedding was a great Christian witness.

  • tea drinker

    “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you should abstain from fornication.” – 1 Thess. 4:3

    Prince and Princess Charles of Wales didn’t cohabit for years before marriage. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did. I wish them well, but trying to paint theirs as a “more Christian” union than the 1981 wedding is ridiculous.

  • Hans Máristela

    “All Christian churches and scripture”? Aren’t we rewriting history & ignoring facts? I don’t think the leader of the Anglican church agrees with you. And why are you here in the first place; this is a Catholic paper. Go back to the bitter, angry, holier-than-thou cave where you came from! And may Osama be with you!

  • Jtmmeasner

    Hey, bigot, your church is going through it’s death rattle, as we speak. The TRUE Church (Roman) is triumphant as it always will be.

  • Memory-of-Forever

    hahaha oh God such a funny post! since when is the Anglican church a “church” anyway? you do know how it was created right? ” king with harlot-like desires broke with the pope….wait for it….. for a woman”!!! yeah…. I bet Jesus is proud!

  • Bony

    By what christian authority does the corrupted roman catholic church of the caesers feel it is authorised to pass comment on our anglican christian society?


    ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it’ Matt 7:13-14

    Mr Bigot

  • Weary Convert

    What a strange posting. I become weary of the lack of simple historical knowledge of people who post on this website. Henry VIII did not found the Anglican church – he claimed to be as Catholic as anybody else. After Henry’s reign the country went through the extreme (for those days) protestantism of the ministers of the boy king, Edward VI and then the “Catholic” revival of the truly bloody Mary Tudor. By the time she died much of the country was sickened by her burnings of people of all ages – including a simple boy of 18 in my home town – and generally the settlement supported by Queen Elizabeth seems to have been an acceptable middle way.

    The Anglican church is most certainly a church in the sense accepted by the Vatican Council and its problems at present are to a great extent the result of its honesty and willingness openly to discuss them. In the RC Church, Popes have simply declared that women priests and clerical celibacy are not issues to be discussed – but that does not mean the issues do not remain and they will inevitably surface again and again. The current Anglican torment is a warning not simply to ban discussion and then close your ears and pretend the problem has gone away but to learn from the heartbreaking experiences of the decent men (and women) who serve it.

    Finally, when posters sneer at the Church of England’s difficulties, why do they not think about the Great Schism when for generations the Catholic Church had two and then three Popes at once – all claiming powers over the others’ territory (and income). Was that Unity? It was left to another Council – Constance – to kick the lot out and start again.

  • Ratbag

    That was because Prince Charles was reputedly co-habiting with other women.

  • Ratbag

    Who rattled your cage?

  • Ratbag

    The Church of England was founded by an English king hellbent of siring a son at all costs – even if it meant chopping, changing and divorcing wives!

    The Roman Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and built on a rock. It has withstood and continues to withstand the likes of you.


    I’m here because hypocritical roman catholics feel fit to pass comment on anglican christian society which is nothing to do with them. We left and found salvation a few hundreds of years ago.

    Go comment on your own in rome !

  • Ratbag

    Oh, do belt up!

  • Mendezjb

    By what authority do you have a problem with it? Since you guys were catholic until your murdering, adulterous henry viii wanted the right to divorce and kill in his pursuit of a male heir, that’s why we comment on your “society”


    That doesn’t answer the malaise of my question about the corrupt roman catholic church passing off itself off as a fit and proper body to comment on Christian society.


    righteouse anger I think its called?


    We rejected the vicar of the Caesar replacing one big corruption with a much smaller oh and we further reject the vain use of our lords name.


    The past is present and the church that waylaid millions who seek Christ is as rampant today as ever.

    May the vicar of Christ guide you and I don’t mean the pope!


    I don’t see any great denial

    The great wazzock

  • Ray

    From Jesus the Christ: A new and greater commandment, that you love your neighbor as yourself.

  • http://lxoa.wordpress.com Shane

    The most important wedding guest was not present at this wedding: Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

  • http://heresy-hunter.blogspot.com TH2

    We left and found salvation a few hundreds of years ago. Rather, it should be: “we broke away and have been in heresy since a few hundred years ago”. With respect, William, Anglicanism is on life support and will not last much longer, considering decisions made in recent times. The Ordinariate is the gateway out. The Age of Tea and Crumpets is coming to an end. Time to cross the Tiber.

  • Joan2Phone

    That prayer sounds like it was written by eight-year olds. “Simple” is right. It’s also theologically incorrect. I can understand a “commoner” like Kate being ignorant of her State Religion, but the Prince, whose mother the Queen is the head of the Church of England? Archb. Rowan Williams has long been known as a unorthodox loony toon, but I’m surprised even he would not gently correct this prayer that was being heard by the entire world and is decidedly UN Christian.

    This shows what is really happening in Protestant England with religion, it’s a quaint and comforting practice that we have to keep up because of tradition, and of those goofs of Henry VIII, but as for BELIEF….well, before this wedding, how often do you think Kate and William attended Sunday service?

  • Tiggy

    Oh yes and the C of E is entering through the narrow gate. Please. They now have so many gates to choose from they are light-headed!

  • Tiggy

    Like it or not , corrupt and human though it is. It is The Church was founded to further the Kingdom of God on this planet. All others are man made. Therefore it is the ONLY Church that has authority to pass comment on Christian society.

  • Tiggy

    Bad spelling I think its called!

  • Anonymous

    As a celebrity-struck young teen, I watched Charles and Diana’s wedding. Thirty years on, I can’t care about William and Kate. I hope that I’m not alive thirty years from now to watch their gay son marry his transvestite partner in front of one of the many lesbian bishops of the Anglican Church who will speak of the joyous day when they are crowned queen and queen of England and defenders of the faith.

    A far more likely scenario than Kate and William returning anything in England to its Christian origins.

  • In Our Times

    Weary, whereas I do respect the efforts & open-ness of the Anglicans, particularly regarding issues surrounding women & homosexuality, I do feel they continue to shoot themselves in the foot somewhat nationally.

    Even recently in 2006 we see what seems to me a most bizarre attitude to the Unitarians & Free Christians merely renting space in which to worship & meet. Just one more recent example in Chester being “‘Heretical’ Unitarians cast out by cathedral”… http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article735942.ece

    Maybe they share the opinion of EditorCT that I read somewhere on here; that the “Trinity hates Heresy” or other such vile nonsense. I have rarely happened across a group of people with such humility, care & compassion, as I have found amongst the Unitarians. Who genuinely strive to understand & respect the deeply held beliefs of others.

    As an aside, if it were not so very tragic, it could almost be funny; that I & my family have fallen so foul of what can only really be described as the very deep flaws within Christianity today. My ex-husband still pays for his own weekly therapy, having struggled with the most distressing of positions regarding sexual identity & resulting two broken marriages. “Death or a monastry” he felt were his only options at one stage. Real lives are affected by preservation of logical doctrinal coherancy & the cherry-picking of “moral scriptural truths”. My daughter very nearly lost her father (& also her mother; during episodes of mental anguish & domestic abuse; which none of us could really be held to blame for).

  • Zhiracco

    I am fully convinced that the million people who watched this wedding are
    giving testimony to the truth that man deeply knows there is something very noble and good
    about his soul. I am a cop’s son from Lindenhurst NY and not a fan of royal anything.
    This is a testimony though that we somehow long for the exultant and noble nature
    that God has created us for His glory.

  • Tom

    Whilst many things are wrong with our church, it does at least have Chr+st as its figurehead.

    We do not have a church that claims its leaders to be a direct descendent of St Peter who never even went to Rome Or G+d forbid, commit perhaps the most outrageous blasphemy of all by claiming to be the equivalent of God himself on earth.

    You would be well advised to discover the devilish base your own church is built on before knocking ours?

  • Weary Convert

    Dear Lady, please forgive me if I have been in any way upsetting. As I have mentioned before, the devilish side of these websites is one can type first and think later. Your own dilemma must be a deadful burden. As to such as the Glaswegian Lady “Editor CT”, its not her fault that the Inquisition has been abolished leaving her only the internet to display her views.

  • Anonymous

    Before anyone accuses any other community of bigotry look at the comment of droolbritannia who purports to be a christian and a catholic.

  • http://jamiemacnab.wordpress.com/ Jamie MacNab

    Bless them both!

  • Ratbag

    From Jesus Christ (paraphrased): Take the speck out of your own eye before you remove the plank from the other’s…

  • Ratbag

    Henry VIII broke away from Rome and called himself the Head of the Church in England. Those who disagreed were beheaded, including Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More.

    Saint Margaret Clitheroe – a saint from up the motorway from where I live – was pressed to death for being a Catholic. A sharp rock was put to her back so that it broke as the weights were being put on top of her. She died an agonising death.

    I guess Catholics were just as sickened of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ of being hung, drawn and quartered, beheaded, pressed to death, tortured. I’m not saying that what Mary I did was right either but more suffered under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I than in Mary I’s short reign.

  • Ratbag

    The Pope IS the Vicar of Christ!

  • Ratbag

    Well said. Well spotted!

  • Ratbag

    And the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, HM Queen Elizabeth II lives in a council flat, shops at Poundland and loves the company of cleaners, binmen and employees of the local chip shop…NOT!

    HM has met more celebrities, kings, queens, grand dukes, princes, princesses and rich people than the Holy Father had biscuits to dunk in his cocoa!

    Jesus Christ Our Lord had friends who were well off as well as the poor and marginalised. Joseph of Arimathea was so rich he could afford his own burial place, which he gave up to lay Christ’s body after He was crucified.

    You are a protestant, William, not an Anglican.

  • Ratbag

    Too darn right, Tiggy! LOL

  • http://twitter.com/PJTPOOAM Thomas Poovathinkal

    Europe lost the Spirit of the religion of Christ the Way (not Christianity) to the Father because, over the centuries, the leaders of the Christian Churches degraded themselves into the decay of being Bishops and Leaders rather than Apostles. If they have succeeded the office of the Apostles, they should, then be Apostles in their own times. For this first of all they should “REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOOD NEWS” and stop being on two boats:POLITICS (reducing the PEOPLE OF GOD into LAITY is politics) AND RELIGION. Jesus ran away from Being made a KING of this world

  • W Oddie

    If you’re unwisely going to invoke your untutored version of Church history, at least learn to spell “Caesars” correctly.

  • Anthony_murphy

    Well done Will, a very thoughtful piece.

  • Weary Convert

    I think the cases you mention are pretty well common knowledge and one hardly need to be reminded of them. Nobody with any sense pretends that Catholics did not suffer enormously under Elizabeth but if one compares the number of people burned by Mary in her “short reign,” as you rightly call it, and then compare that with those killed in Elizabeth’s long one, the “pro rata” difference is very clear. One must also remember that during Elizabeth’s reign, the Pope excommunicated her and called upon Catholics to depose her. Also the country was under threat from Spain and the Armada when there was the same threat of the mass killings in this country that Parma had already carried out in the Low Countries – one of the reasons that after all these years, the Dutch have a strong prejudice against the Spanish. For those families that remained Catholic there were the huge recusant fines that ruined some of them but, of course, had the position been reversed and Mary still on the throne, there would have been no fines for recusants, just the stake.

    My main point as always is that Catholics who sneer at the Anglican Church because of Henry VIII demonstrate their lack of knowledge – Henry did not found the Church of England and while his marital exploits were a convenient stick with which to beat the Anglicans, it is unfair. Also, for that matter, it ignores the antics of the corrupt Popes of that time – and before and after – who stole and stole from the Church to give to their children and relatives.