To
paraphrase Walter Bagehot, that expert on the monarchy, a royal wedding is a
wonderful occasion for pomp and pageantry. I have been viewing this grand event
all last Friday morning on my mother’s television and would be quite happy to
watch the Horse Guards prancing along the Mall all day. My sister phoned and
said she had planned to celebrate the occasion in her local pub – only to
discover it had declared itself ‘republican’ and was therefore shut. What
curmudgeons some people are!

Three
things about the wedding ceremony itself particularly interested me: Richard
Chartres, the Bishop of London, quoting that great Catholic saint, Catherine of
Siena, whose feast day falls on 29 April: “Be who God meant you to be and you will
set the world on fire.” Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, telling the
young couple that marriage has been ordained by God primarily for the
procreation of children (I think his words were “the increase of mankind” but
it comes to the same thing.) And the young couple’s own prayer, read out during
the marriage ceremony:

God our Father, we thank you for our
families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the
busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life
and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by
our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the
Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

This prayer
moved me deeply; no other royal wedding has ever included a personal prayer as
far as I know. Despite the enormous pressures that will now descend on the
shoulders of this pair, they have a touching wish to fulfil their official
duties and accept their responsibilities, which will be many and onerous, with
a generous heart. When a “pre-nuptial agreement” was suggested to Prince
William before his wedding, an agreement which was made before the wedding of
Crown Princess Viktoria of Sweden and her (commoner) husband, apparently he
rejected the idea out of hand. A commentator said that he completely trusted
his bride and thought them unnecessary.

For her
part, the newly created Duchess of Cambridge brings patience, modesty and
discretion to her marriage, as well as reserves of emotional stability stemming
from her own happy, normal family life. Prince William was undoubtedly damaged
by the unhappy domestic atmosphere he grew up in; his wife, please God, will
help to heal the wounds of his past. Some Christian commentators have been unduly
critical, pointing out that the couple have been living together for several
years before their wedding. This is not the best way to start married life –
but who within their circle of family, courtiers and peer group, would ever
have pointed this out to them?

As I
watched the ceremony and listened to its words, a negative association came
into my mind. It was a news item I had read about Moscow hosting the world’s
first demographic summit on 29-30 June, with the theme of “The Family and the
Future of Mankind.” It is being hosted by the World Congress of Families; its
Director, Larry Jacobs, states, “By the year 2050 there will be 248 million
fewer children under five in the world than there are today.”

The summit
is being held in Moscow because Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is making a
desperate bid to raise the Russian birth rate by up to 30% in three years. At
present in Russia unofficial statistics suggest that there are nearly 4 million
abortions per annum, as against 1.7 million live births. These doleful
statistics speak for themselves. It is called the demographic winter.

What does
this gloomy news item have to do with the wedding of Prince William and his
bride? It is simple: such is the magic and symbolic power of the British
monarchy that this young couple’s married life will inevitably set a new
standard for the country’s views about the meaning and purpose of marriage.
Look at the way the marriage of Queen Victoria gave the name ‘Victorian’ to a
whole cluster of ideas about the strength, stability and fidelity of the marriage
and happy family life that she and Prince Albert enjoyed with their nine
children.

So I hope
that the newly married couple will set an example of long and faithful married
love to our society – something the bridegroom’s parents could not achieve, as
well as other members of the Royal Family and many couples in the country at
large. I also hope their marriage will be fruitful, as Archbishop Rowan
Williams reminded them, and that they will burst the bounds of the average
family size. Six children, I suggest, would be a good number and might
encourage others to follow their example. Prince Charles and the Duke of
Edinburgh, echoing the propaganda of the environmental brigade, have both
spoken pessimistically about the need to curb world population. The fact is, as
Putin knows only too well, we need to increase it before too many countries
suffer irreversible decline.

William and
Catherine: never forget what is “real and important in life” and take the
opportunity of your life together to “set the world on fire”.

Francis Phillips writes from Buckinghamshire in the UK.