Well, a star is born. I refer to the Rt Rev Michael Curry, bishop of that vanishingly rare breed, the American Episcopal Church, who stole the show at the royal wedding. Anyone who can make Elton John look like that – sort of a nonplussed toad – and generate barely suppressed mirth in the congregation to the extent it wasn’t clear whether the Prince of Wales was laughing or crying or trying not to do either, is quite some preacher. He may be Anglican but there was an awful lot of Pentecostalist in there. The other star turn was the young cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the Jacqueline du Pres of Britain’s Got Talent; again, big on feeling. The bride’s mother was dignified and impressive; especially given the melancholy dearth of relatives from her side of the family. The bride’s choice of virginal white was interesting, but her choice of designer – Givenchy – inspired. Prince Harry was that very contemporary phenomenon – the man who shows his emotions; very Diana – which is more than you can say for the Queen (hurrah). The bride gave a speech – inevitable, obviously, given she identifies as feminist.
All terrifically interesting for those of us who like the human side of these things; as for the constitutional aspects, they’re negligible, given we’re talking about the sixth in line to the throne. But there are indeed bigger aspects to it, especially since we’ve been told that the couple represent the modern monarchy and modern marriage in
general. Certainly the new Duchess of Sussex is very contemporary in one respect; at 36, she’s three years older than Prince Harry.
She is also, of course, a divorcee, the 21st century incarnation of Wallis Simpson, and just as thin. One obvious conclusion from this wedding is that there’s not much left of the Church of England’s insistence that marriage is a lifelong affair – as I understand it, the CoE guidelines about remarrying divorcees in church stipulate that this should only be done without prejudice to this teaching. We all know the bride was married before, so that’s a fetching coach and horses driven through that principle. The wedding of a divorcee to Prince Harry is problematic; sorry.
Just as tricky is the real nature of this union, of monarchy and celebrity. Back in the age when artists were fond of allegories, this would have been the symbolic character of the Meghan-Harry wedding as they might have painted it…royalty allied to celebdom, the contemporary version of Fame. This is monarchy for the Netflix generation; a bride who looks uncannily like something out of an American sitcom because that’s exactly what she is. The whole thing was weirdly like watching a film; a Four Weddings and a Funeral crossed with the Disney film, Enchanted, though in a film this would be the conclusion, not the start.
But the royals are in danger of feeding the beast – the insatiable interest of the entire world in a marriage – as it did with the wedding of Diana and Charles. Except that in this case, the bride is very much keener on publicity than her predecessor. She is also infallibly reflective of the preoccupations of the age. I’ve just been watching a woman on the sofa on BBC2 – next to a girl in a hijab, obviously – saying that the day was all about change. The girl in the hijab observed that this was a new tradition for the new generation. I think we get the gist. Except, you know, not all change is for the better. As Charles Moore sagely observed in this magazine, the less we hear about the Royal family, the better. With Meghan and Harry, this is exactly the reverse of what we’ll get.
PS May I say in passing that the cleverest commentary about the event was made by Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Fein leader: “I hope the sun continues shining on [the couple]” she observed, as a way of being inclusive to Northern Irish Protestants at street parties, more or less channelling Miss Jean Brodie: “for those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like”.
PPS I can’t quite remember a wedding where the officiating clergymen referred, as the Dean of Windsor did, to the joys of sexual union. I mean, really.
By Melanie McDonagh, blogs.spectator.co.uk