A private, serious royal wedding

Historical Notes

DOWN THE centuries, the marriages of royalty have more often then not been solemnised away from the public view. Most royal castles and palaces had private chapels, and it was here that kings, queens, princes and princesses made their vows. Such ceremonies were brief and witnessed only by the chief magnates of the realm. It was during the 14th century that royalty began to include the public in its nuptial celebrations, and the concept of the wedding procession was born.

The first royal wedding to take place in public was the marriage of the Prince of Wales, to Catharine of Aragon, in 1501 at St Paul's Cathedral. The bride went in procession through London, to the cheering of vast crowds, and was then escorted to a platform built in front of the cathedral, where she and Prince Arthur took their vows. As was the custom before the Reformation, the bride swore to be "bonair and buxom in bed and at board", and the royal party and their guests proceeded into the church for the nuptial mass. This was followed by a splendid feast, after which the young couple were publicly bedded together in front of many witnesses.

Henry VIII may have been married six times, but every one of those six ceremonies took place in private. His marriage to Anne Boleyn was secretly solemnised before dawn in a turret room of Whitehall Palace; not even the Archbishop of Canterbury was certain of the date.

In the 17th century, during the time of the Stuarts, royal weddings once again became private affairs. George III and George IV met their brides only a day or so before their weddings. George III's marriage to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz proved successful and produced 15 children, but George IV took one look at the rather malodorous Caroline of Brunswick and called for a glass of brandy. His bride recorded that he spent his wedding night lying drunk in the fireplace.

George V had been married privately in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace, but three of his six children were the first of the modern generation of royals to have public weddings. The Princess Royal, the Duke of York and the Duke of Kent all went in procession to Westminster Abbey, and their nuptials were the subject of intense public interest. It was the newly married Princess Royal who, in 1922, began the tradition of making an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

The development of the media in the 20th century has enabled the public to participate as never before in the celebrations of royal weddings. The first royal wedding to be televised was that of Princess Margaret in 1960. This was followed in rapid succession by the wedding of the Duke of Kent. Royal wedding fever reached its height in 1981, with the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. Never had media and public interest in a royal wedding been so intense, and it has been estimated that a hundred million people world-wide watched the event on television.

There was a similar response when Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson. During the following year, however, adverse publicity attached itself to both these marriages and, when they both broke up in the early 1990s, public disillusionment set in. The happy endings promised by the fairy- tale weddings had been an illusion; when Prince Edward announced his engagement to Sophie Rhys-Jones, it was felt that the time for change had come. Wisely, the engaged couple have opted for a more muted ceremony. They have returned to the tradition established by their forebears in an age when marriage was taken more seriously.

It is encouraging that, in an era obsessed with the superficial, Edward and Sophie have indicated their wish to accord substance precedence over style, and are perhaps setting a new trend for royal weddings.

Alison Weir is the author of `Elizabeth the Queen' (Pimlico, pounds 8.99)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone