The headline reads: ‘Meaghan Markle is the strong, modern, feminist princess we need right now’. In case you have not heard, Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s ill-fated marriage, has proposed to the American (well, sort of) actress, and, as I have heard, the ginger-haired most-eligible bachelor scarcely made it through the ‘will you…’ when Ms. Markle gleefully accepted.
Jane Austen did write that famous line to open Pride and Prejudice:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Good fortune, indeed, most of it ill-gained by the dispossession of the monasteries, the dispersion of the monks, and hanging-drawing-and-quartering for those that resisted, and all this after the dissolution of the Catholic Church in once-merrie England. The concentration of this wealth in the hands of the ‘nobility’ threw Britain into societal chaos.
But we cannot visit the sins of ancestors upon their descendants, and fortune is still fortune, however it is gained. So back to more the more wholesome topic of marriage: Austen is right. Bachelors, not least those who hold such riches, still need wives.
When Harry’s great-grand-uncle Edward VIII, who was not all that great nor grand, but in the end we hope became good, fell in love with the American divorcee Wally Simpson, and determined to marry her, the scandal was palpable. In the waning and troubled days of 1936, with dark storms on the horizon, he had to abdicate the throne of England, upon which he had sat for a scant few months. I found this ironic, in a family whose distant ancestor in 1533 more or less invented our modern notion of the dissolubility and whimsical nature of Christian matrimony.
Well, Ms. Markle is also a divorcee, being married for three years to one Terence Engleson, a union that produced no children. I should clarify, that she may have been married, for both Ms. Markle and her sometime husband had to have intended, publicly and in vowed form, the three ‘goods and requirements’ of matrimony, sacramentum, fides et proles, that is, indissolubility, fidelity and openness to children, for their marriage, even at the natural level, to be valid.
I don’t think this crosses their minds. The Anglican church no longer requires much to get married, nor, on the flip-side, does it bother with annulments, a process which caused all those problems for King Henry back in the aforementioned 1530’s. Rather, this was soon ditched in favour of increasingly easy divorce, at the whim of the couple, or at least one side of the ‘partnership’. Leo XIII waxes rather eloquent on the evils of divorce in his encyclical on holy matrimony, Arcanum, and his stern words seem prophetic in the societal chaos around us. A very worthy read and reflection.
Speaking of King Henrys, there is not much chance of a Henry IX (‘Henry’ is Harry’s real name, and King Henry was himself nicknamed Harry), for with his brother’s and his wife Catherine’s prolific child-bearing (at least by British standards), Henry, or Harry, is now sixth in line to the throne, after his Dad, Prince Charles, then William, then William’s three children, all of whom have first dibs.
By a curious providence, the soon-to-be Mrs. Markle-Windsor (for she may attempt to keep her maiden, or pre-marital, or pre-this-marital, name) is also three years Harry’s senior. Not that her age matters all that much, except that she is getting up there, with the asymptote of the end of her childbearing years within sight.
But back to the headline with which we began: Ms. Markle indeed claims to be a feminist, and a rather vocal and active advocate for that catch-all euphemism of ‘women’s rights’. I wonder about such feminists who sell their sexuality, at least their sexual imagery, as I have heard that the future princess has bared what her parents gave her in a certain television series. At least the royal-hungry paparazzi can save themselves the labour of trying to catch suntanning shots over the walls of Windsor castle and whatever resorts this couple jet to. Same for Harry, who, a few years ago, was filmed romping el fresco in mixed company through a Las Vegas hotel room.
I mean not to throw stones, for who of us is without sin in this fraught domain, as the media-frenzy now evinces, and with things in our past and on our conscience we now regret? But at the very least, they could show just a little shame and remorse, without which the scandal ripples along, for what they have done and will do, many others will do also. Already, the dress Ms. Markle was wearing at her engagement has sold out, and is now named after her.
Ah, well, royalty is not what it once was; or, as I reflect just having penned that phrase, it is likely all too much what it once was, just now in technicolour and on full display in media. Millions will be spent on their nuptials, with full royal regalia, but I have my fears that this is much ado about nothing, and will last just slightly longer than a midsummer night’s dream.
I could be wrong. Amor vincit omnia, wrote Virgil, adumbrating before Christ some truth of this greatest of virtues, if we transform what begins as a fickle passion, so prey to the winds of change, into an abiding act of the will, that is, a vow.
To return to the Bard:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
Perhaps God is leading both Harry and Meaghan to Him through this natural path of human love, or at least current infatuation. On this feast of the patron saint of my own native Scotland, which has had its own issues with English royalty, I do hope God saves the queen, and indeed all her family, present and future. We can always hope, and pray.