Leader: For mutual society, help, and comfort

26 April 2011

THERE has been no shortage of advice for Prince William and Catherine Middleton as they prepare for tomorrow’s wedding. This has ranged from “Concentrate on that helicopter now and think of Catherine later on” (Constantine, formerly King of Greece) to “Start the day with a kiss” (Jackie Elton, of the Christian Connection online dating agency, in this paper). It is easy to be dismissive of such counsel, but it is a sign that people are thinking about the couple, and not about some of the larger constitutional issues that tend to be hung on to grand occasions. Republican grumbles and Islamic outrage have little to do with the Prince and his bride, and it is unfortunate that security concerns relating to these mean that the day cannot be one of unadulterated cheerfulness.

The desire to offer advice stems from experience. Anyone who is married will know what pitfalls exist, and will naturally wish to guide a new bride and groom away from them. Most notions of married life lurk near the level of the subconscious, based on what the couple observed as children. In this way, the failings of parents can be perpetuated. Prince William, like too many young people in this country, has seen a marriage break up at close quarters. The union of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, was the focus of much prayer, but also of equal amounts of ignoble curiosity. The pressure on their relationship of living in the public eye was great; in the end, though, the marriage collapsed because of internal tensions that had existed even before it was solemnised.

Those whose parents have been divorced can carry with them a degree of damage that threatens their own chances of happiness. Fortunately, they also exhibit a resolve to avoid repeating the same mistakes, and this, with the support of wise friends and a patient spouse, can break the mould. We do not know what Bishop Chartres’s sermon will hold, but he would be wise not to stray too far from the pattern given by the then Archbishop of York, Dr Garbett, who preached at the wedding of William’s royal grandparents, on 20 November 1947. Here is the report from the Church Times of the following day:

Appropriately he added counsel and instruction such as any parish priest might give to those who enter upon the adventure of married life. He spoke of the unselfishness which is the fruit of love and the secret of married happiness; the thoughtfulness, sympathy and patience which must every day be exercised by husband and wife; the happy home which can be an oasis of peace in a busy life. Finally, he spoke of the blessing given by God through the marriage rite, and the constant presence of Christ to those who admit him as their Guest into their home, and seek him by daily prayer and trust.

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