Since 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.
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:
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.
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.