It's not all that surprising, actually, that the prince of Wales and his fiance did not consult me, or even The Washington Post, in deciding the site of their forthcoming wedding. I do not fault them for that.
But how very odd to read they are not going to be married in Westminister Abbey because it has sad memories for both of them. Lady Diana's parents were married in that abbey, you may read nowadays, and later were divorced. Furthermore the prince has memories of Lord Mountbatten's funeral in the abbey. So they will be married in St. Paul's Church.
This suggests to me that neither of them has any sad memories of Winston Churchill (buried from St. Paul's).
Once you get into the memory business with highly symbolic buildings you run into trouble. No doubt the great abbey has sad memories along the way. How could it help having them in its thousand years?
Now it was all right for Churchill to be buried from St. Paul's. For one thing it is the ultimate example of British baroque architecture, which well suited Sir Winston, and far better than the solemn Purbeck marble of the old abbey. Furthermore the abbey has royal associations (the site of so many coronations, etc.) that St. Paul's doesn't. And since Sir Winston was a commoner, his natural taste suggested to him (as well as his flair for showmanship) there was no point having people at his funeral thinking about Edward the Confessor and so on, which they were sure to do in the abbey.
No, far better to settle for St. Paul's with its spacious modern look and the Grinling Gibbons carved woodwork (in case attention wandered) and its quite adequate pipe organ. A better place than the abbey for a large open events of public note.
But a prince of Wales would do well to get married -- and buried, when the time comes -- from the Confessor's abbey. As his parents were married and crowned there.
It would seem obvious that it makes no difference what a prince wants. Surely that was settled at the time of the duke of Windsor. There is a track well beaten for princes of Wales. God and I expect it to be trod.
Now if he had wanted to get married at Winchester, that would have been sort of all right. History and all. Or if he had wanted to get married in the parish church of the bride -- St. Porcups in the Pines, say -- that would have been fine, though a bit sentimental for a future king.
There is nothing wrong with St. Paul's except -- and this objection is the ultimate one -- that it is not where princes of Wales get married.
I gravely fear the prince illustrates (though this may be a one-time youthful error) the modern tendency to do things differently just for the hell of it.
Already, as the world knows, he has made many dives examining shipwrecks. Nothing wrong with it. But did Henry II go deep-sea diving? Did Henry VIII? Or, for that matter, the great Elizabeth? Not that new things must be avoided. I do not say the present prince may not eat hamburgers or ice cream simply because Edward the Confessor probably did not. h
But marriage is something else again. You get married where you are supposed to get married and that's that. Next thing you know the royal couple will be requesting acid rock for the processional. Or getting crowned at Covent Garden.
Turn again. The Confessor's abbey was good enough for everybody else. This newfangled St. Paul's is all right for Churchill, but the prince is not Churchill, but the prince is not Churchill and is destined for a quite different role.
Maybe he doesn't want to play a role? Well, it's a hell of a time to start thinking of that now.