Will and Kate, can’t you pick another date?
Hearty felicitations on your engagement, Kate and William. Most of your wedding decisions sound great, but your choice of the date has sent me reeling in shock.
Maybe you didn’t know that April 29 was the day Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun in 1945. But surely, someone in the royal household might have checked. Sixty-five years later, that early morning ceremony in a Berlin bunker still sends shivers up and down many spines.
Fooling around with the Fates is always risky; can’t you pick another day? Or, as my grandmother used to say to the fruit man when he offered her bruised bananas, “Is this the best you can do?”
Certainly, there are things even future sovereigns can’t control, like awful weather or those dreaded last-minute cancellations after you’ve spent weeks determining who sits where and it’s too late to get a refund from the caterer. But you should have no trouble finding a new date for your nuptials. When you strolled around Westminster Abbey, I wish you had thought about some of the great people who are interred and remembered there, and chosen one of their wedding days instead.
For starters, there were King Edward the Confessor and Edith Godwin, married on Jan. 23, 1045. Everyone was glad when Edward ascended to the throne, replacing that wretched Dane, Harthacanute, who had treated England shabbily. Edith’s father, the pushy Earl of Wessex, introduced her to the native-born monarch, who thought she was beautiful and bright as well as suitably God-fearing. She thought Edward was affable and gentle, although a bit pale. Most of the time, their kingdom was at peace, and they devoted themselves to religion and early construction of Westminster Abbey.
June 11, 1594, was the wedding day of English poet Edmund Spenser and Elizabeth Boyle, and it was “the joyfulest day that ever sun did see,” he said. She -- not the Virgin Queen -- inspired her remarkable husband, “the Prince of Poets of His Tyme,” to write some of the finest Elizabethan love poems. Describing his bride, he wrote, “Her goodly eyes like sapphires shining bright, her forehead ivory white, Her cheeks like apples which the sun hath rudded, Her lips like cherries charming men to bite.”
Poet William Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson on Oct. 4, 1802. “Oh William,” she wrote, “I cannot tell thee how I love thee, and thou must not desire it -- but feel it, O feel it in the fullness of thy soul and believe that I am the happiest of wives.” He replied: “I love thee so deeply and tenderly and constantly ... that I scarcely can bring my pen to write of anything else.” Much of Will’s best work, including completion of “The Prelude,” was written after his marriage to Mary. Eventually, he became poet laureate of England.
One of the world’s most romantic love stories began on Sept. 12, 1846, when 39-year-old Elizabeth Barrett slipped out of her father’s London townhouse to marry the 33-year-old poet and playwright Robert Browning. The wedding ring was put on and quickly removed before the bride and groom left by separate doors. One week later, they ran off to Italy, after Elizabeth escaped her tenacious father’s grasp and home forever. As she later wrote in “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” because of Robert, “the face of all the world has changed.”
Will and Kate, if you are still determined to marry in April, how about when Elizabeth, the future Queen Mum, married Prince Albert in 1923? They were married in Westminster Abbey on the 26th. Elizabeth knew that marrying into the royal family meant a life governed by rules and restrictions, and she expected to be only the Duchess of York. No one anticipated that “Bertie’s” older brother Edward would renounce the throne to marry Wallis Simpson 14 years later. And no one foresaw that Elizabeth’s warmth, sincerity and strong sense of duty would help restore the monarchy to public favor after that scandalous abdication. She would always be the favorite of her father-in-law, King George V. Years later, he recalled that April 26 “was rather gray and inclined to rain, but as soon as the bride arrived at the Abbey, the sun shone as it always does in her presence.”
Susan J. Gordon is the author of “Wedding Days: When & How Great Marriages Began.”