Royal weddings – there are few subjects which divide the Roundheads (austere puritans and parliamentary republicans) from the Cavaliers (bling romantics and sentimental fans of pretty ritual).
The Roundheads may deplore them as frivolous and irrelevant – they would sooner follow a speech by Herman Van Rompuy on the social dimensions of the administrative sector of the European Council than speculate on whether Chanel or Stella McCartney will dress the next royal bride.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have regaled themselves with three satisfying royal wedding ceremonies this year: Princess Madeleine of Sweden, who married her American beau, Chris O'Neill, and is now expecting a baby – that was a great thrash. The bride wore an off-the-shoulder Valentino gown with appliqued Chantilly lace.
We also had the nuptials of Andrea Casiraghi, heir presumptive to the Monagasque throne – and through his mother, Caroline, grandson of Princess Grace – who married his sweetheart Tatiana Santo, a Colombian heiress with, we imagine, a very fine dowry.
They did it the modern way and produced a baby son, Sacha, before getting married in a charmingly posh-hippy wedding ceremony in Monte Carlo. The bride wore a laurel of flowers in her hair and the four bridesmaids wore Dolce & Gabbana.
And then there was Prince Felix of Luxembourg – son of Grand Duke Henri and the Cuban-born Grand Duchess Maria Theresa – who married Claire Lademacher in two ceremonies, civil and religious. The bride wore an Elie Saab gown for one and a modern peplum wedding dress for the other. The French, who are Roundheads in politics but Cavaliers in culture, reported the union lavishly.
Later this year we shall have a second Monagasque wedding, when Charlotte, Princess Caroline's daughter, marries her French-Moroccan fiancé, Gad Emaleh, either before or after their baby arrives. And it looks as though Prince Harry, in London, may soon announce his forthcoming betrothal to Cressida Bonas, who has been his steady girlfriend for some time.
They ski together, they go to the theatre together and are generally 'inseparable'. The smoke-signal for the nuptials appeared to be that they went shooting together on the Sandringham estate, which is the regal equivalent of meeting the family. If she gets a Christmas invite to Balmoral, that will be the clincher.
What interests me about Cressie Bonas, a 24-year-old accomplished dancer, is that her mother, Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon, was a famed Chelsea girl in the 1960s, often snapped in mini-skirt and thigh-high boots. On one occasion she was photographed en deshabille and coated in engine oil (alongside Julie Christie and Charlotte Rampling).
Some have unkindly described Lady Mary-Gaye as a 'bolter', that soubriquet given by Nancy Mitford to those English girls who, like those nervous fillies, 'bolted' out of marriages when they grew bored. Who would dream of judging Lady Mary-Gaye as anything other than a spirited and amusingly rebellious debutante of her time (and daughter of the late Earl Howe, whose family was ennobled in the 1530s)? Mary-Gaye has been married and divorced four times, has had five children with three husbands and apparently never appears at Ascot without her butler.
Lady Mary-Gaye's husbands have been, in sequence: Esmond Cooper-Key, grandson of Viscount Rothermere, by whom she has a daughter, Pandora, who works with designer Vivienne Westwood.
Secondly, John Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, by whom she had three children: Georgiana, a sculptress, Isabelle, married to Richard Branson's son Sam and her only boy Jacobi, a PR man and pal of Prince William.
Then Jeffrey Bonas, Norfolk local historian and golf buff, by whom she had Cressida. And fourthly, Christopher Shaw – who cruelly left her, after which she then partnered up with one David McDonough.
Apparently, Mary-Gaye now spends much of her time attending her garden and doing charitable works.
If Harry marries Cressie, what an interesting union it may prove to be – though it could also be a precarious one.
Marriage experts say that the best indication of whether a marriage will last is whether the bride comes from an intact family – a family very like that of the Middletons, where there is no divorce, no 'bolting' and no multiple spouses.
But one can scarcely deny that families like Cressida's – where there is a network of half-siblings – can provide a rich and colourful narrative.
Those of us of the Cavalier tendency defend royal marriages because they cheer people up and allow us to take a vicarious, or even gossipy, interest in the wedding pictures which bring all these family constellations together, whereby we may even identify with our own family constellation.
Princely weddings – being but a brilliant edition of an everyday fact – also encourage the populace to get married and marriage is, in general, a stabilising social force, LadyMary-Gaye's multiples notwithstanding.
Royal marriages today have modernised, in that the couple has now nearly always lived together before marrying and some, like the Monagasques, have produced babies before the nuptials. (In Monaco, the heir can inherit, even if his parents were not married at his birth – other dynasties are more pernickety on this point.) But what is significant is that a permanent state of co-habitation is not really acceptable. Once the relationship is established, the young people are expected to tie the knot.
Royal weddings also remain an enduring advertisement for the church nuptial. There may be a civil ceremony, but the union must be blessed by sacramental rite.
And surely weddings of all kinds are usually a boost to the economy, for which reason even the Roundheads may take pleasure in them.
'Royal weddings remain an enduring advertisement for the church nuptial'