And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
So begins the thoroughly British hymn, by the eccentric genius William Blake, that featured in the royal wedding, and captures to some extent an England that until today seemed to have vanished from the earth. The old England was bold enough to wonder if the Son of God once stood where they stand. The England of late has seemed to wonder why it still stands at all.
I’ll confess to having watched the royal nuptials today with an amused cynicism. I wasn’t even up for the wedding, but for a radio interview, and couldn’t sleep afterward. I hoped the ceremony would cure my insomnia, but it didn’t. There is plenty to be cynical about in all the massive ceremony and sanctimony, and as a Protestant and a Texan I see mostly reasons to disbelieve in it all. The big funny hats, the vastly crowded yet empty cathedral, the notion of royalty itself — all of it. The current crop of royals didn’t earn their lofty places in life of course; they were born to them, as were the millions of subjects of their tarnished crown. And many in that family have turned out to be an unaccomplished bunch, figurehead aristocrats over a country that has fallen from proud empire to a multi-culti state of such wounded self-image that it keeps its most virulent and murderous critics on the public dole. The king in waiting, Charles, seems content to be a fringe figure mouthing platitudes about the glories of Islam, while the functional head of England’s official church and who presided over today’s events at Westminster is not exactly a staunch defender of the faith. But then again, the church he heads was founded for no other purpose than to get a king out of an inconvenient marriage, and its founding stands upon the severed heads of better men such as Sir Thomas More. So, yes, there is a lot to be cynical about in all this.
But the future King William and the people of Britain sent a signal through the noise that things might be turning around. William wore a bright red tunic, festooned with some significant symbols.
Prince William’s decision to wear the red tunic of the Irish Guards on his wedding day has reportedly disappointed some of his Royal Air Force colleagues. Only the helicopter wings above his left breast will denote his role his role as an officer in the RAF.
But his choice will provide an immense boost for the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, which is currently on operational deployment in Helmand province, Afghanistan. As the Queen prepares for her visit to Ireland, it is also a smart diplomatic move.
The prince’s uniform and the military ceremony today serve as a poignant reminder that, while the nation’s attention is directed towards a historic event at Westminster Abbey, the Armed Forces – including some of Prince William’s fellow officers in the RAF – are risking their lives in Libya and Afghanistan.
This England uninvited the bloody Syrians from the wedding at the last minute, and good for them. The future king’s subjects crowded London’s streets and seemed to reclaim it from the retrograde forces of Londonistan, at least for a while. A sea of Union Jacks waved from nearly every hand, a sign that the old national pride is not quite extinguished, not yet. As for the Duke of Cambridge, he is certainly his father’s son, but maybe not, in the one way that might matter most.