William and Kate
News of a royal engagement has set hearts aflutter around the world, but will William and Catherine become the kind of king and queen this country really needs?
When Clarence House announced on Tuesday 16 November that Prince William had become engaged to ‘one of the people’ Kate Middleton, it caused a media frenzy on every news channel.
People all over the world connected with Twitter to post their views and congratulations. Lord Sugar, ever the cynic, commented, ‘If any footballers or politicians want to break bad news, today’s the day to bury it’. In the US, CNN devoted nearly the whole news coverage to the royal engagement.
Why is everyone so excited? Perhaps, because as far as royal families go, the British Royal Family is the most famous in the world. It has been in existence for centuries and fought over by not a few European nations.
The English monarchy ushered in the Reformation under Henry VIII and was the seat of British Empire under Victoria. Our present monarch, HM Queen Elizabeth II, is head of a commonwealth of 16 nations across the world.
Sadly, the Royal Family has also courted controversy, with a spate of divorces and public spats, from the affairs of the late Princess Margaret through to the very public affair of Charles and Camilla, the ensuing bitter divorce with Princess Diana, and Diana’s tragic death in a Paris tunnel in August 1997.
William’s tendency to avoid press attention is unsurprising. Second in line to the throne, he has needed to be presented as the squeaky-clean prince, compared with his less restrained younger brother, Harry.
His eventual proposal to Kate has set a precedent among the UK royalty. Controversially, she has no claim to noble birth – the first such bride for centuries. Prince William is expected to stop being called William of Wales and will become a royal duke, with Kate becoming a duchess.
Already being hailed as the queen of fashion – as indeed was Princess Diana before her – Kate now wears the same engagement ring with which Charles proposed to Diana nearly 31 years ago.
Just as she was said to have done with his father, the Queen herself reportedly encouraged the somewhat reluctant William to ‘get on with it’. She is said to approve of Kate, who has kept out of the paparazzi’s glare as much as the girlfriend of a prince can.
Their marriage on Friday 29 April 2011, in Westminster Abbey, with a public holiday announced to mark the day, also marks the 30-year anniversary of the marriage of William’s mother and father (29 July 1981).
Are these things auspicious? Many commentators seem to think so in both the British and American press. The Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer said, ‘He gave Kate his mother’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring.
‘It is a piece of jewellery as well known as his mother’s face, but it became a gaudy symbol of a marriage that should never have occurred. Let’s hope Kate and Wills avoid royal mistakes’.
When Charles and Diana were interviewed, he was asked whether he was in love with Diana. Famously, he said, ‘Whatever that means’. His comment to the BBC on his son’s engagement was merely, ‘They’ve been practising for long enough’.
What will the future have in store for this young couple, given that they are no ordinary couple and, this year, they will start on a new public life as trainee king and queen.
We are called to pray for those in authority over us (1 Timothy 2:1-2). It is also a biblical maxim that, ‘When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice’ (Proverbs 29:2). This refers as much to HM The Queen, who swore at her coronation that she would be defender of the Protestant Reformed faith, as to her son and heir Charles, and to William.
Constitutionally, William and Kate’s wedding must follow the Royal Marriages Act, because no descendant of King George II can marry without the approval of the reigning sovereign. Sky News predicted, ‘In the end, it will be a Christian marriage just the same as anyone else’s’.
But too much ‘tradition’ is wrapped up in many ‘Christian’ marriages. The liturgy and music, although couched in scriptural language, is considered by most people to be just a part of the trimmings of a church wedding to be left behind after the ceremony.
And it is sad to think that the deepest meaning of marriage as a picture of Christ’s redeeming love for his church may be lost on Kate and William, who, as far as we know, have not professed an evangelical and saving faith in Christ.
Stephen Cave, spokesman for the Evangelical Alliance, said, ‘With a divorce rate at one in three, it’s important for couples to think beyond the wedding day and realise that marriage is about a life of compromise and sacrifice as well as the rewards of companionship, children and shared love. The Bible has a great deal to say about the importance of marriage that is as relevant today as it has ever been’.
William and Catherine may not yet know the Saviour, but they have a Protestant heritage to uphold by law, and the example that William’s grandmother, a professing Christian, set before them.
Let us pray that they will avoid the mistakes which have dogged past royal marriages, that they meet increasing media attention with dignity, and that they come to know in their hearts Him by whom kings reign and princes rule (Proverbs 8:15-16).