Jane Austen's Life & Times

Follow Friday: The Royal Wedding on BBC America

William and Kate Royal engagement 2010Since Jane Austen always ended her novels with a wedding or two, we thought we would be remiss if we did not mention the Royal Wedding of Catherine Middleton to HRH Prince William at Westminster Abbey in London today.  Approximately 2 billion viewers around the world will be tuning in to watch the five and a half hours of commercial free coverage being broadcast live on BBC America. We will be one of them.

For Royal watchers this will be the event of the decade and many will be setting their alarm clocks for 3:00 am Eastern and 12:00 am Pacific time here in the US to watch the glitz, glamour and the reveal of the wedding dress designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. For anyone who remembers the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and HRH Prince Charles in 1981, it is well worth the loss of sleep. No one does weddings with more pomp and style than the British. We are sure that every milliner in the UK has been laboring away on the perfect bonnet for the occasion for months.  We only wish we had planned ahead and taken the day off of work.

Lady Diana Spencer and HRH Prince Charles Royal Wedding 1981

For those who miss the live Kate and Wills action, there are bound to be re-runs and highlights shown online and on TV for days, and you can pre-order the official DVD from BBC America which will be available on May 24th. And, for those of you who would like to explore the one thousand years of Royal Wedding history, from William the Conquer to Kate and Wills, we highly recommend Emily Brand’s new condensed volume Royal Weddings published by Shire Libraries. Here is the publisher’s blurb:

Royal Weddings, by Emily Brand (2011)With the impending nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton this April, Shire Publications offers Royal Weddings, the perfect primer on Britain’s rich nigh-millennial history of kingly couplings and the ideal accompaniment to the aforementioned must-see event of the twenty-first century.

Royal Weddings traces the evolution of matrimonial majesty from the politically charged, relatively austere, private affairs which dominate much of English history, to the grandiose extravaganza of Prince Charles’s and Diana’s union in 1981. Over time, British royal weddings have become the standard by which all other wedding ceremonies are compared.

The book abounds with eye-opening details and interesting stories, such as how King Henry VIII’s marital vows—“…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part…”— have been paradigmatic ever since; or the touching account of the 15th century monarch, Edward IV, who married beneath him and had to keep his marriage to a poor soldier’s widow a secret.

Even with nearly a thousand years of British royalty to cover, author Emily Brand deftly keeps from wallowing in a mire of historical pedantry. Instead, she has culled together exquisitely fascinating facts and anecdotes and presents her discoveries in a lively and inquisitive tone. Her account of the 1625 wedding of King Charles I—for which the monarch wasn’t even present (he sent a surrogate for the lavish affair held at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris), reads as if she herself was present at the scurrilous event.

Royal Weddings is a sleek 56 pages volume, generously enhanced with 60 full-color pieces of rare art and photos that go beyond traditional wedding pictures and add to the guilty, yet informative, pleasure of the book. There are examples of elaborate decorations, feasts and wedding cakes; ornate jewelry, commemorative medallions and other unique items; wedding dresses and evolving fashions; marriage certificates, announcements, menu cards and other juicy particulars; even the nullification document of King Henry VIII’s short-lived marriage to Anne of Cleves, who Henry believed was misrepresented in the picture he was shown of her before agreeing to the coupling.

About the Author

Emily Brand is a writer and historian with a special interest in eighteenth and nineteenth-century England. She has written widely on domestic and family life for a number of history and genealogy magazines, including publications from BBC Magazines Bristol, the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and the National Archives. She is also an author for history society London Historians, of which she has been made an honorary member.

Wedding of Prince George and Princess Caroline 1795

The most infamous wedding of Jane Austen’s era was the disastrous union of George, The Prince of Wales (later George IV) to his first cousin Princess Caroline of Brunswick on 8 April 1795 at The Chapel Royal at St. James. Forced into an arranged marriage by his father King George III and Parliament, who pledged to pay off his debts, the Prince arrived for the ceremony “in his cups” stumbling up the aisle supported by the Dukes of Bedford and Roxborough. When no one objected to the proceedings, the Prince tried to escape and then sobbed openly. Jane Austen had a very low opinion of Prinny and his outrageous lifestyle, and for good reason. He openly cheated on his wife, ran up astronomical debts and plummeted the reputation of the British monarchy to the depths of despair by dragging his failed marriage through divorce court. Let’s hope that Wills and Kate have a happier life together.

14 thoughts on “Follow Friday: The Royal Wedding on BBC America”

  1. While I didn’t get up in time to see the wedding,I did see the kiss at Buckingham Palace live(or rather,two kisses I should say,so sweet!). They look like a truly happy couple and I wish them well.


  2. I’ve been accused of being an “incurable romantic” often and will not deny it. Yes, I watched most of the Royal Wedding with total delight. Thank you England, for your continuing superiority in showing all the world the finest in celebration, pageantry, and tradition. I wish for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a marriage like Queen Victoria and Prince albert enjoyed: True love, faithfulness, and many children!


  3. Thanks for the review on the book. I’ve got it in my shopping basket. I wasn’t able to get up for the wedding but will be watching it on PBS. I did sneak online while my students were at the library and saw a photo of the kiss and the dress. I saw some of the fashions of what guests were wearing. Did anybody notice what hat Princess Beatrice wore? Strange! The Telegraph of London had several articles that I looked at with the pictures. Check out Jane Austen in Vermont as she posted links to the picts.

    Laurel Ann, I, too wish I had taken the day off. I did for Diana’s wedding and will always remember it. I have hopes this marriage will be far more successful than her’s. Thanks for the post!


  4. Fun post! I didn’t get up to watch the wedding but I’ve been watching recaps and reading articles about it all day. I can’t get enough!


  5. I’m so glad I stayed up to watch. I very nearly didn’t, since I had to work today as well, Laurel Ann. However, watching a royal wedding was more than worth a few missed hours of sleep. Will and Kate both looked so happy and confident in each other.

    And of course, her dress was To. Die. For. *sigh*


  6. Thanks for posting that video, LA! Lovely retrospective on royal wedding dresses. =)

    Wasn’t terribly ‘wowed’ by Kate’s dress. Very safe. They say it’s a mix of tradition and modern… I see the tradition, but modernity? It may be from the house of McQueen, but it doesn’t have the avant garde stamp of MacQueen’s style.

    And I rather wished her bouquet was a bit more substantial.


  7. I was too disgusted by the furor over the wedding invitations. And it sunk my opinion of the Royal Family to a new low. So, I didn’t bother to watch.


  8. I got up at 3:30 am to watch the Royal wedding live — I had tea, scone and jam around 7. I thought it was enchanting — I also watched Princess Anne’s wedding live and Charles and Diana’s live as well. I thought the bridal gown was exquisite and just right, and the veil and tiara looked like the 1930s to me, of course the tiara is from the thirties and by Cartier. Commentators are comparing the dress to Grace Kelly’s wedding gown and I can see that, also a bit like Princess Margaret’s which I think is still my favorite. I loved seeing the Queen and other Royals — and the hats! I also loved the little bridesmaids and page boys, so English! The music was beautiful and Westminster Abbey a star! The couple look very well-matched and happy, I hope their marriage will be blessed. Thanks for the tip about the Royal Weddings book — I notice the mention of the secret marriage of Edward IV and his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, who may have been the first commoner to marry a King of England — they were sadly the parents of the little princes in the Tower. Harry and Wills are much luckier!


  9. How do you know you have Royal Wedding fever? I am rereading Sense and Sensibility — the name of the family at Barton Park jumps right out at me — MIDDLETON — the maiden name of the new Duchess of Cambridge.


  10. I just got the Emily Brand book Royal Weddings in the mail, good things come in small packages. I love it, thanks for the recommendation,


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