Magazine article The Spectator

A Sacred Bond

Magazine article The Spectator

A Sacred Bond

Article excerpt

The royal family has a gift for laying on a wedding just when the nation's spirits most need lifting.

The Queen's marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 helped to rejuvenate a nation exhausted by war and demoralised by rationing. The wedding of Princess Anne to Mark Phillips in 1973 aroused extraordinary excitement in a Britain disfigured by vicious industrial disputes (and polyester flares). The marriage of Charles and Diana in 1981 distracted the public's attention from street riots and shocking unemployment figures; indeed, with hindsight, the near hysteria it provoked was an ill omen. Had Prince William popped the question to Kate Middleton during the boom years, their wedding would have seemed like another self congratulatory excess of an era in which bankers were showering each other with champagne.

But now it will be - far more than the Olympics - a moment for the nation to join together in celebration.

To the mystification and petulant annoyance of metropolitan commentators, the bond between the British monarchy and people is still one of the defining characteristics of our country. Moreover, the celebration of the news of the royal engagement around the Commonwealth seems to defy political gravity. Why should it be, at the start of the 21st century, that ordinary Australians and Canadians are toasting the royal couple, thereby hinting (in defiance of republican predictions) that they envisage the prince as their future king? Why should the marriage of a couple with every material advantage in life raise spirits in the estates of Tyneside and east Glasgow? And, when the day comes, why will children be marking it exuberantly in schools from Vancouver to Auckland?

The answer lies in the dignity which the royal family brings to a nation, and in the services it performs. A tiny example of that could be seen last week, when the Queen opened the new office of KPMG at Canary Wharf. Hundreds of staff were present to greet her. Most of them were in their twenties, from many ethnic groups and national backgrounds. The sight of these employees of a modern accounting giant waving Union flags was inspiring enough. But it was the roar they made when the 84-year-old monarch entered the hall that really struck home.

It is inconceivable that any politician would solicit such a welcome. Certainly none would deserve it.

In this often fractious and horrifically indebted country, the monarchy is a far greater source of national unity than the state-imposed experiments of multiculturalism. Yet, despite its origins in the ancient Christian culture of these islands, and its responsibility to preserve that culture, its appeal is not confined by geography, ethnicity or religion. …

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