Politically – rationally – I don’t agree with royalty. I believe that in spite of our differences, we’re all equal by virtue of our humanity. So I didn’t watch Harry and Meghan’s wedding ceremony yesterday afternoon, and this morning the phrase ‘A List’ rankled when MSN offered me pictures of what those supposedly superior humans on the guest list were wearing for the occasion. As an opponent of the currently relentless assessment in school I don’t enjoy hearing the language of ‘success’ in social terms outside the classroom. Like many, I was saddened and angered to see that rough sleepers were being cleared form the streets of Windsor or relieved of their sleeping bags, because they are as fully human and valuable in their humanity as any celeb or prince. And an expensive, champagne-fuelled, deluxe wedding highlights the gaping inequality that shames our society – a differential between rich and poor that has grown under the Tories and been shown to create or exacerbate just about all the social problems you or I could identify in modern Britain. I could throw in the ‘bread and circuses’ idea that the ruling class manipulates and distracts with pomp and partying, or I could claim that with an NHS in crisis there are just much better, fairer and inclusive ways to spend all that money. Factor in my Quaker (Pacifist) convictions and Harry’s military identity – come to think of it, the Church of England’s military identity – along with my belief in simplicity and keeping one’s carbon footprint as low as possible, and I had many reasons not to turn on my TV at midday on Saturday 19th May. There’s a BUT coming…
So why did I switch on in the early evening to see what I’d missed? I could blame curiosity. I could explain that my favourite moment in the Colin Firth adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is the look of love between Darcy and Elizabeth when she is helping Georgiana at the piano – because I’m a romantic. More than that, I believe in Love, agape love, giving love for people and planet, as the way to live and be. I don’t know Meghan in any sense at all that makes sense, but I like the little I see, and I’m delighted that we’ve reached a point in human history where an American of colour can marry a prince – but also ashamed of the newly vocal racism liberated and aerated by Farage, Trump and Brexit. The programme I landed on, iron in hand, was Channel 4 News, and I was glad to find the excellent Krishnan Guru-Murthy focusing on this very aspect of diversity and the change the wedding could be seen to represent. Considered too was another kind of equality: feminism, as demonstrated by Meghan’s speech at the wedding party but also by the gospel choir and animated preacher, both of which we assume were her choice. The message was that she was responsible for the relative (and I do mean relative) lack of formality, that she has influence and personality, and a connection with her generation. I will add that it’s a little sad that in 2018 we are impressed by a woman who has her say in shaping her own wedding, but of course it’s progress and I welcome it.
Channel Four News asked young people of colour about the change seen in this wedding and some were positive about an impact they hope will be lasting. Another said she thought that many people do greater work for diversity than a rich white man marrying a mixed-race woman. By this time, watching as I ironed, I was intrigued. I wanted to hear Bishop Michael Curry deliver an address the like of which had apparently never resonated within the walls of St George’s Chapel – one which left many Twitter atheists veering towards conversion. I wanted to hear Lean on Me resonate too.
Although I turned off after catching both on the highlights show, I wasn’t disappointed by either. Michael Curry believes in love too, in all its forms – I read that he’s an activist for LGBTQ rights – and said so with the kind of passion and authenticity for which the C of E isn’t famous. He quoted MLK as well as Jesus and alluded to slavery. He spoke, in fact, to everyone who cries out, in the face of the world’s darkness, “Surely it doesn’t have to be like this?” by telling us straight that it doesn’t. Love can make a new world of the old. Which of course is what happens when any two people commit to sharing a life, and I wish for the royal couple what I wish for any newly-weds: enough love to keep rebuilding that new world when it’s crumbling: under attack from time, unforeseen challenges, or the other world outside the bubble. That the royal bubble is so public and so downright unhealthy a living space is not their fault and I pity them their false freedoms. What I think we should all avoid, whether royalists or republicans, is judgment that divides – but also the artifice and illusion that makes us believe in the fairy tale we should have outgrown at primary school. That Meghan is beautiful and seems both spirited and gracious does not justify a cruelly, dangerously unjust world where little girls want to be princesses but a handful of super-rich individuals own as much as the rest of us put together.
P. S. After the last royal wedding, which I didn’t watch even in highlights form, I wrote a novella about how the lives of five teenagers changed in twelve hours on that day, when the rules were different and paths might cross in ways that might seem unlikely. It’s about diversity and equality as well as love and death.