Leading Article: That's Balmorality

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The Independent Online
THE Princess Royal and Commander Tim Laurence deserve every good wish for their married life together. Their desire to keep their wedding private is understandable and their modesty commendable. Two points arise, however, which properly belong in the public domain. The first is that, in attempting to keep their marriage plans secret, they and their family and advisers have (once again) risen above the law. In Scotland, couples who intend to marry have to display their intention for 14 days in the appropriate Register Office, where members of the public may inspect it and, if they have reason, raise objections to it. This law, a provision of the Marriages (Scotland) Act, 1977, does not seem to have been strictly observed in this case, and if the question is 'So where's the harm?', the answer is easy enough. The harm is to the notion of equality before the law - and had they published their intention like everyone else they could still have married in perfect privacy, within the castle of Balmoral or any other of their occasional Scottish homes. A Church of Scotland minister may conduct a wedding service at any time, in any place.

The Church of Scotland brings us to the second point, the Church of England. Why should two people who normally reside in England choose to marry in Scotland? Simple again: because the bride's mother is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the Church of England's official policy is that divorced people who have a former spouse living cannot remarry in church because they have broken the principle of 'lifelong obligation'. Whether that policy is sustainable is the Church's affair. But if the link between Church and state were broken - if the Church of England were to be disestablished - that break would certainly reduce the level of humbug in both.