It only seems fitting for a tradition that has outlived its usefulness (if ever useful) to take place within another tradition that has outlived its usefulness (if ever useful). Kings, queens, and princes aren’t what they used to be. Many Europeans left their Christian homeland to escape rule by the “divine right of kings” and establish a new nation with a bill of rights that guarantees religious freedom for all. Meanwhile most in the United Kingdom stopped believing in either the divine right of kings or in the divine right of deities.
The latest British royal wedding will take place on April 29, 2011 A.D. (an abbreviation for Anno Domini, the Year of Our Lord). This traditional dating refers to the number of years since Christ was born—even though scholars now estimate that Christ was born around the year 4 B.C. (Before Christ), meaning four years before he was born. Yet another miracle for traditionalists to ponder!
Individuals should be free to follow or reject traditions. As long as the royal family doesn’t claim to speak for all British citizens, they can do whatever they please. I’ve exercised my freedom to turn off the television until all the wedding hoopla is over. We may not have royalty in this country, but I cringe when a president claims to speak on behalf of all Americans as he ends speeches with “God bless America.” I also laugh when judges argue for the constitutionality of “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance because the words are merely ceremonial tradition rather than a religious statement. The absence of these two words had a longer tradition from 1892-1954, when they were added during the disgraceful McCarthy era.
The most popular song in Fiddler on the Roof is “Tradition,” sung by Tevya, a father who struggles in vein to prolong outmoded traditions. “If I were a rich man” is another song from the musical that most definitely does not apply to the royal family. It’s difficult to indentify with the shocking news that a mere “commoner” will be marrying into the British royal family, especially when the parents of this commoner own a million-dollar apartment in London and sent their daughter to a $47,000 a year boarding school. They then sent her to the 600-year-old St. Andrews University in Scotland, where Kate the commoner met her future husband-prince.
This doesn’t quite seem like the stuff of fairy tales, but that’s what we call all royal weddings these days. I don’t mean to interject a politically incorrect bad pun, but I think I know when a royal wedding will break the tradition of being celebrated in a traditional church—when a prince or princess marries someone of the same sex. Who knows how many past gay princes felt obligated to enter loveless heterosexual marriages? The first royal marriage I watch on television will be the first royal gay marriage. Royal families will eventually follow commoners, despite objections from traditional Tevyas.
Image via Robbie Dale.