We had planned for 20 guests, but in the end several who had promised to come to our royal wedding party found the early (or late) hour too much of a stretch. A dozen of our friends did make it over at 1:00AM California time this morning to watch the royal wedding. We offered tea and scones, Stilton and Plymouth gin. We had a wonderful time, enjoying the build-up as well as the ceremony itself. I tried to explain the intricacies of the British class system to our guests, but gave up; it was an overask for the middle of the night.
I’ve explained my fondness for the royal family before, noting the distinction between respect and undue reverence. Both American and British, I’m comfortable with moving in two different cultures — though I am certainly at my core more coastal Californian than anything else. (I feel more at home in L.A. than in London. But I feel more at home in London or Exeter or Durham than I do in Bakersfield or Baton Rouge or Boise. My thoroughly cosmopolitan wife feels much the same way.) My brother, raised as I was in the same places, feels English, and has chosen to make his home in the land that saved my father’s family from destruction.
I posted on Facebook about the wedding, and “live-tweeted” my response to various happy aspects of the ceremony (like Princess Beatrice’s splendid hat and Bishop Chartres’ wise homily). I was stunned by the vehemence of some of my friends and acquaintances who were not only uninterested in the goings on at Westminster (perfectly understandable) but nakedly hostile to the entire event. I knew it was coming: on this Feministe thread, some commenters were unhappy that a feminist blog celebrated the wedding uncritically. And a few Facebook friends of mine went further, insisting that progressive politics were fundamentally incompatible with affection for the monarchy. It got a bit heated.
I like Dan Hodges’ bit in the Guardian today: We needn’t be royal wedding party poopers just because we’re leftwing. Hodges wrote: What we saw today wasn’t a celebration of aristocratic privilege. It was a celebration of a shared heritage. A heritage that is owned as much by the left as by the right. I agree.
As for the sermon by the Bishop of London, it was splendid. My favorite bit:
Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:
“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,
Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.”
As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.
Bold mine. (And I’d add that this is true of any enduring commitment, including those between two people of the same sex. What is needed is the complementarity of spirits and hearts, not necessarily the complementarity of male and female.) We all need reminding that no other person can be the sole, or even primary, source of our joy.