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Royal wedding: A marriage of equals that heralds new royal era

Nation can be proud love, not duty, catalyst for historic day

By Jane Hardy in London

The Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton put a smile on the faces of the manufacturers of bunting and flags. This is because London — and much of the rest of the UK — was festooned with Union Jacks.

But the marriage, which was burdened with as much symbolism as the buildings decorated with patriotic balloons and flags, has more significance than that.

One of these is to do with social mobility and a move away from the rigid class system that has held Britain back economically and socially while countries such as France and Germany benefit from being established meritocracies.

The seemingly modern idea that future kings can choose their consorts from any social class they choose is an important step.

There is no doubt that the main difference between Prince William's marriage and his mother's is that hers was an arranged one, cooked up between the Queen Mother and Diana’s grandmother, Lady Fermoy.

But William, if the tabloid analysis of his romance is to be believed, saw Kate model a rather revealing dress in a charity catwalk event at St Andrews, liked what he saw and pursued her. More DH Lawrence than Debrett's, then.

However long the idea of free choice of partner has been in currency, the love affair, engagement and now marriage of William and Kate have given it a welcome boost. And the snobbish sneering at the Middletons' business and Mrs Middleton's former job as an air hostess will now cease.

As Kate allowed the fact she was married to her man to sink in, she glanced round Westminster Abbey with a slight smile as if to say ‘this belongs to me’. She clearly has a relaxed sense of humour about the whole mismatch notion, illustrated by the fact she allowed wisteria in her floral decorations. She and sister Pippa used to be called the ‘wisteria sisters’ as they were “very pretty, fragrant and incredible climbers”. Kate will be feeling relaxed about that sort of remark today.

A cynical view of proceedings between 11am and noon on yesterday might suggest that the pomp and circumstance and quite lovely ceremony was a good distraction for the public in tough economic and social times.

Ian Jack writes in this week's Newsweek that “for a whole day, Britain will play the game the world loves us for: royal Lilliput”.

Although nobody could send the fine horsemen who accompanied the Royals to and from Buckingham Palace into battle, their fine performance illustrates other

aspects of the British character that we could be proud of, and may need reminding of.

The reason we do the ceremonial aspects of grand events so well is that we have discipline, a flair for organisation and an ability to put on a good show in difficult circumstances. None of these qualities should be underestimated.

The magic moment when the two individuals became one was important for a myriad reasons, not least because it was a marriage of a bride and groom who felt equal. The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, gave a stirring address and pointed out that everybody who gets married has a kind of royal status.

“In a sense, every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them to the future.” The relaxed religious tone of the service underlined a way in which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may usher in the kind of worship that could help the Church of England through a difficult period, when Rome seems ready to encourage traditionalists into its fold, and the fundamentalist wing seem intent on deliberalising the institution.

It has been reported that Prince Charles, with his interest in religion, might like to be Defender of the Faiths rather than Faith when he succeeds to the throne.

William might reasonably feel that he could maintain Granny's title as head of the C of E while being a subtle moderniser.

Although Kate was recently confirmed as an Anglican, her views aren't known, yet they are a contemporary couple, have lived together before marriage and |yet wanted their union to be blessed and acknowledged in church.

There could even be a role as modernisers of the monarchy itself. The fact that Kate chose a buffet for the big meal may not seem that significant, and one knows that the 600-plus guests weren't served M&S sausage rolls, rather quails’ eggs and caviare, but it is a gesture.

When we got to the balcony and the kiss, the shade of Diana was almost visible — young, pretty and very in love.

Although William and Kate's two attempts lacked the welly of his parents' version, they showed good humour, an ability to laugh and a determination to preserve some of their inheritance.

There is a sense of healing in this marriage, a feeling that the page has been turned on the toxic relationship and split between Charles and Diana.

We may be heading for a more mature monarchy that can take criticism, learn from its mistakes and acquire an awareness of emotional intelligence.

Wandering round central London, a medium-sized Union Jack dangled from an idle crane high above the street.

Yesterday it represented Great Britain rather than Little England.

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