What a British Royal Wedding Says About Marriage in America


Us Weekly

It seems almost too perfect: The Time/Pew poll revealing that 39 percent of Americans think marriage is obsoletehref> was released on the very week that seemingly everyone on both sides of the Atlantic went wild over an engagement.

Of course, it wasn't just any engagement: It was the engagement of Prince William, heir to the throne of Great Britain, and his lovely, soft-spoken "commoner" (to the extent that being a fabulously wealthy heiress can be "common") girlfriend, Kate Middleton. I must tell you, in the spirit of full disclosure, that Prince William and I have a special relationship; we were born ten days apart in June of 1982, which my mother felt gave us a karmic bond.

Now, reading through the countless blog posts and comments about the engagement, I find myself unreasonably shocked to learn that I wasn't the only girl whose mother told her that she might marry William when she grew up. Of course, we all thought we were going to marry him; he was a tall, blonde, handsome prince with a gleaming smile, and he looked so brave at his mother's funeral. Since he's not marrying us, however, Middleton seems like the best choice: Stunning, modest, and with hair that shines like a L'Oreal commercial viewed through a heavy Klonopin haze, she's the most winsome bride since Wedding Day Barbie.

Or since Prince William's mother, Diana Spencer. Dodai Stewart, of Jezebel, is right in noting that American reactions to royal betrothals are more informed by Walt Disney than the history of the UK: Such an engagement, she writes, "speaks of dreams, and daydreams, in which a girl could go from ordinary... to royal in the blink of an eye, and suddenly have the world—and a horse-drawn carriage—at her feet. A fantasy where love is all that matters! Where living happily ever after is inevitable." But this was precisely the sentiment in 1981, when the world tuned in to watch Diana, in a wedding dress that looked as if the Titanic had been reconstructed entirely in tulle and satin, proceeding toward her fate—a fate that was, much like the Titanic's, icy, grisly, and inevitable in retrospect.

At the back our minds, as we watch this royal engagement, is the knowledge that the groom's parents had one of the ugliest, most drawn-out public divorces in recent history. William and Kate do seem to love each other, which is heartening. But when he produced his mother's engagement ring—a genuinely sweet, if double-edged gesture—one imagines Kate had to notice, if only for a moment, that it looked vaguely like the famously accursed Hope Diamond.

Some are opining, as Christina Odone has done in the Telegraph, that the engagement of William and Kate "is wonderful news—not just for them, but for all of us who believe that there is something special about marriage." William, she continues, "is the child of divorce. He has seen what a bad marriage is like. And yet this has in no way shaken his faith in the institution as the ideal to which we should aspire."

That's a lot of projection for one brief essay. We know less about whether William perceives marriage as "the ideal" to which "we" should aspire than we do about the fact that it would, very probably, be impossible for someone in his position to live with his girlfriend indefinitely. Only one U.S. President has ever lived as a bachelor—James Buchanan—and here, we're talking about monarchy. Providing heirs is more or less the job.

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Sady Doyle is a freelance writer based in New York City. She blogs at Tiger Beatdown. More

Sady Doyle is a writer living in New York. She has contributed to Salon's Broadsheet, the American Prospect, the Guardian's Comment is Free, and Feministe. She blogs at Tigerbeatdown.com.

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