Walter Bagehot and those "riveting" marriages

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Walter Bagehot, that chronicler of all things royal, said some mighty stupid things in his time. Barry Everingham comments on one dug up guessed it! Read on.

Walter Bagehot - said a lot of rubbish

Having made total fool of himself by falling for The Guardian’s send-up the other day, I for one would have thought Professor Flint would be more careful about what he trots out.

His personal website is required viewing for those interested in the rambling fantasies of an old man obsessed with royalty—go on, look at it, I dare you: then let me know what you think by emailing me at

Judging from his current state, I reckon Flint will be a total mess once the wedding is over — on the big day it will be frantic for him; a hair trim at the barbers, collect suit from cleaners, a nail buff, shirt and tie inspection, shoes polished, sock seams straight. Then the menu for the meal the mates will be served while watching the nuptials and I’m reliably informed the pudding will be that old English favourite, Spotted Dick!

However, be all that as it may, let’s go back to Walter Bagehot who wrote:
A princely marriage is the brilliant edition of a universal fact — it rivets mankind.

Don’t know about our readers, but I have never heard such pure unadulterated crap in all my life.

Lets’ take a look at some of the marriages during the life of Queen Elizabeth.

First her Uncle David — Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII.

An absolute playboy and philanderer, nevertheless unique for a royal of his day. He had the common touch. He cared for the working men and women. He also fell in love time and time again but his last love was the cause of his undoing. Mrs Wallis Warfield Simpson was a twice married American divorcee.

The then Establishment forced Edward off the throne and forbade the couple to marry in England. Edward was created Duke of Windsor — his wife of course became his duchess, but the style “Her Royal Highness” was illegally denied her.

Never mind the couple became the undoubted kind and queen of international café society – now they did rivet mankind, not in the way Bagehot had predicted.

Move along to the next generation and the wedding of HRH Princess Margaret to Anthony Armstrong Jones a London photographer.

Now Margaret was like Uncle David — she rocked the boat.

Princesss Margaret and Peter Townsend

She too fell in love but with one of her father’s (King George VI) equerries, a highly decorated air ace of World War II — Group Captain Peter Townsend.

But he was married and had a couple of children.

Nevertheless, they had a love affair which soon became public and all hell broke loose.  Margaret was told she could marry the strikingly handsome air ace but she’d forgo her royal title and lose her income from the civil list. Her sister, the Queen, stayed out of it – those Windsors are a rum lot.

Margaret opted out; she was desperately unhappy then Armstrong Jones walked into her life. They had an affair, fell in love, he proposed and Margaret on the rebound from Townsend accepted. They had a spectacular wedding, he was created Earl of Snowden and for a while they lived happily—alas not forever after.

While they were together mankind and the world’s media became riveted by the couple’s unseemly public behaviour and the royal marriage went pear shaped.

Now, this episode was the forerunner of another “unsuitable” marriage involving this time the Queen’s first cousin, Prince Michael of Kent. He had fallen for a post war Sydney immigrant from Czechoslovakia, Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz who, horror of horrors, was a Roman Catholic and a divorcee to boot whose first marriage was to an Englishman in an Anglican ceremony.

Now, Marie Christine wasn’t one to melt into the background. She had her first marriage annulled and decided on a Roman Catholic wedding in Vienna. Really? The then Pope would have none of that as their children, if any, would need to be brought up in the Anglican faith so they could be in the Line of Succession. Michael, by the way, was struck off the List because he’s married a Catholic.

Now, if anyone in that dyslectic and strange family is entitled to be called royal it’s Michael, whose blood is untainted—unlike the Queen’s and her children’s who have the Queen Mother’s Scottish non-royal ancestry to contend with.

But, Marie Christine upset the royal apple cart when it was revealed her father was a member of Hitler’s Nazi party. Wrong kind of riveting again.

Closer to home we come to Prince Charles, Lady Diana Spencer, Prince Andrew, Sarah Ferguson, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.

Three out of four of the Queen’s children are divorced. Charles had a going affair with his mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, now his duchess and Australia’s next Queen; Andrew contended with Fergie’s public displays with unsuitable blokes until he could no longer cope and Anne, well she and Mark just called it a day, no fuss, no regrets and both have remarried presumably happily.

Back to the big event which is so consuming David Flint’s life.

May Wills and Cate really live happily ever after. The bride’s parents are together still and Wills has the looks grace and charm of his divine mother whose blood lines may well overtake those of the Windsors.

How absolutely riveting.  
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