I did not actually intend to watch to royal wedding. The truth is that I was unable to sleep. So, I found myself up at 3:30 a.m. central time. What was I to at that hour? I read a little Bible, something else I don’t do often enough, and then turned on the television. Really, I had forgotten that this was the day millions of people all over the world were waiting for.
Just seconds after clicking the remote, I found myself one of an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world watching one of the great historical moments of the twenty-first century. In fact, I am quite sure that I had a better view than the million or more who were in London for the event. And I must admit that it was a most delightful event.
Yes, all of the pomp and ceremony was there, but also many of those wonderful moments you see in any wedding where two lovers commit themselves to each other before God and, in this case, the whole world.
Protocol required Prince William to remain facing the front of the church as his bride walked down the long aisle of Westminster Abbey. Prince Harry, the best man, defied protocol by turning to look at the bride. He then smiled and said something like: “Wait until you see her. She is beautiful!” At least, that is what the narrator thought he might have been saying.
William, of course had not yet seen his bride in her bridal gown. He smiled, but did not look back. Like a good prince and future king, he remained facing forward as the very beautiful Catherine Middleton walked confidently and smiling down the aisle to join her soon to be husband, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor. Actually, the family name is, or was until World War I, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Confusing? Not at all. You see Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert was from the German royal house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, referred to by Otto von Bismarck as the “stud farm of Europe,” because of their habit of producing male children. Whenever a royal lady was in need of a groom with the appropriate pedigree, you could always look to the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
It was George V who changed the family name to Windsor by royal proclamation on July 17, 1917. It was in part a response to the strong anti-German feeling in England resulting from the First World War. In March, 1917 the Germans introduced a new heavy bomber named the G.IV, or Gotha IV. With it they began bombing London. Bombers, like U-Boats, were a new and uncivilized way of fighting.
In March, 1917, a Revolution in Russia led to the abdication of George V’s first cousin, Tsar Nicolas II. Within a year, most of the royal heads of Europe, including his other first cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, were unemployed. The end of the war in November, 1918 was a bad time for European royalty.
The German-English royal family weathered the storm to become, not only one of the few royal families remaining, but by anyone’s standard the most popular. We in America love the English royal family. Despite our differences with Parliament in the past, Queen Elizabeth II is still our honorary queen, George Washington having refused the honor of becoming George I.
We Americans do not care a whole lot for Prince Charles. He is, after all, a bit of a rake like his great, great, grandfather, Edward VII. Queen Elizabeth has always been loved by us, and even more so as a result of Colin Firth’s portrayal of her father in “The King’s Speech.” And of course, all of us loved the tragic Princess Diana?
I have to admit to finding the wedding of William and Kate a little sad, also. I could not help but think of the once great British Empire, the greatest empire since the fall of Rome. At the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901, the British Empire covered over twelve million square miles. Truly it could be said that the sun never set on the Union Jack. England was the shining example of Western Civilization at its best and most glamorous.
All of that changed with the outbreak of civil war in Europe in August, 1914. Tragically, the two Saxon empires of England and Germany dueled with each other for four bloody years. The end of the war began the decline of Western Civilization that continues until today, and with it, the decline of civilization, itself.
Pomp and ceremony is still there. We cling to it as a glimmer of past glories, much as a drowning man clings to a sliver of wood. If the English monarchy should last until William and Kate become king and queen, and we hope it will, then they will inherit but a mere fragment of an empire. All that is left of the British Empire today are the Falkland Islands, and nothing lives there but a few penguins.
Until next time, be good to all God’s creation, and always live under the mercy.