Sunday, 1 May 2011
Setting the world on fire
Mary Corry is American. She’s now eight-one years old. When she heard of the engagement of William and Kate she had just had open heart surgery. In spite of her medical condition she flew in to London from Florida on Wednesday, spending the eve of the royal wedding on an inflatable mattress outside Buckingham Palace. “England would not be England without the monarchy”, she is reported as saying in the Times.
No, it would not; it’s part of what we are, part of the warp and weave of this nation. When we lose all other points of reference the monarchy will still serve to define what we are and where we have been. It’s the one guarantee, when Parliament and politicians have been found so wanting, have sacrificed so much of the sovereignty of this nation to an alien Continental power, that we will never be fully absorbed into the déclassé European Union.
Mother and I watched the wedding together on TV, not wishing to miss anything by being lost in the London crowd. I’ve never been so moved by a state occasion, by the majesty and the splendour of it all. We may have lost out in so many areas but we still do this kind of thing superlatively. I was concerned that the anarchists and thugs who recently rampaged in the streets of London would have spoiled it all, even in a minor show of sourness, but they were nowhere to be seen, the police for once doing a splendid job.
I have no hesitation in saying that from time to time my emotions took over, the tears rising to the point of overflowing. Kate looked magnificent in that McQueen dress. But the new Duchess of Cambridge is magnificent in every sense, full of quite humour, humanity, calmness and natural aristocratic poise. She will make a splendid Queen Catherine, the mother, one hopes, of generations of royals to come.
The most moving part of all for me was when the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, reminded the congregation in Westminster Abbey that the wedding day was also the festival of Saint Catherine of Siena, drawing on her beautiful words – “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
William and Catherine will set the world on fire; they have set the world on fire for so many, here and abroad. Princess Diana would have been so proud. How proud the Middletons must be, proud to see their girl, the descendent on one side of the family from Durham coalminers, linked with the ancient royal blood of England. The monarchy does not need to be updated or modernised, does not need the interference of ignorant politicians. It invariably adjusts itself to the atmosphere and to the times. It always has, which is precisely why it has endured when so much else has gone.
I’m a royalist, that much is obvious; I will always be a royalist. I would even say that it’s in my blood, part of my makeup as a human being. My grandfather, an amateur genealogist, was able to trace our family lineage back so far as the Civil Wars of the seventeenth century, to people who served in the royal army of King Charles I. So, we were supporters of the crown then and remain supporters of the crown now, supporters of a wonderful and undying tradition. I’m writing this in a mood of heightened emotion, perhaps more than usually revealing, a measure of exactly how I feel at this moment in time.