It is 30 years today since most of the UK sat down in front of their televisions to watch the televised wedding of the current Queen’s second son (and some say favourite), Prince Andrew, to the very red-headed Sarah Ferguson.
I remember it myself (yes I know I am showing my age!), our family huddled in the living room with lots of sweets and snacks, it was a real party atmosphere.
I loved Sarah’s dress, as a teenage girl, just starting to think about romance, she looked beautiful.
Of course there was also the fact that she was not a noble, she was what was known as a commoner. This gave all the women in the UK the supposed chance that she could one day marry a Prince after all. We are more used to this idea now, of course, as Prince William also chose a commoner as his wife in Catherine Middleton.
I was thinking about this earlier and thought about historical royal weddings. Tudor times gave us huge celebrations in London for some of their marriages. A favourite of the people of London in Henry VIII’s day was that the fountains in the city would run with wine to allow the King’s subjects to celebrate with their monarch.
Though not all royal weddings in history were celebrated with such a party. Some were done in private, only coming to the attention of the public when announcements were made, however long afterwards.
The famous wedding of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was a secret to all, even most of their families by all accounts. Edward himself is said to have carried out possibly as many as four secret marriage services, in order to get the women that he favoured to sleep with him. Eleanor Talbot being the best known.
In medieval times, when brides were being brought from royal families abroad, the two parties were often not even present when they were married. Often proxies were sent to ‘stand in’ for one or other of the royal personages. They would make the marriage promises on behalf of the King/Prince/Princess etc. and the married couple often did not even meet until they had been married for weeks or even months !!
Going back further in history, marriages were performed by village elders and a traditional Handfasting ceremony was used. The novel thing about handfasting in olden times was that the couple would be joined for a year and a day, then the ‘marriage’ could be dissolved and both parties would be free for join with another partner if they so wished !
It is still possible to marry in a legal handfasting today, my own marriage was. Though in modern times they do not last the year and a day, a divorce would have to be sought !!
Divorces were not very common in history, they usually were well known on the few occasions that they did happen, think of Henry VIII. It is very recent that attitudes have changed to divorce and re-marriage, as recent as the mid twentieth century, in fact.
Prince Andrew and Sarah were the first of the Queen’s children to divorce only ten years later in 1996. BY all accounts the couple have remained friendly on account of their two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, and actually continued to live together for a few years after their divorce.
There was a rumour of re-marriage between the couple in the early 2000’s but nothing ever came of it.
And thus ended a fairytale wedding day.