I’m writing this a few days before the Royal Wedding. On Friday the 29th of April, Prince William, second in line to the throne, will be united in holy matrimony with Miss Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, at least if everything goes according to plan.
Under normal circumstances we would be holding a service at the Peel Moat Nursing Home on the last Friday of the month. But we realised that on that particular Friday many of the elderly residents in that home will be glued to the TV set watching the royal couple. For many folk of that generation, the Royals are still a matter of intense interest.
I can’t say I feel the same way. I grew up a fervent anti-Royalist, angry at the thought that one family could possess such wealth and power. Why should the Queen have her string of palaces when people who seemed much more gifted and attractive than she, might have so little? The greatest hero in my history book was Oliver Cromwell. Perhaps I knew little about him, but at least I knew he was responsible for beheading Charles I. That was a good enough recommendation for me.
Disillusioned with the monarchy
Since then I’ve had many other reasons to become disillusioned with the monarchy. Our present monarch has presided over the dissolution of the country I knew and loved. She has given the royal assent to countless pieces of wicked legislation.
- Two hundred thousand babies are murdered each year in accord with legislation which she signed into law.
- Christians are prosecuted for refusing to recognise that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. She gave her assent to the legislation which made it possible.
- While she has been Head of State, her governments have surrendered national sovereignty to Europe; opened our borders to sworn enemies of our country; politicised the courts, the justice system, the police force, the schools; destroyed institutions that had taken a thousand years to grow; thrown out the concept of absolute morality; encouraged our young people to become the most sexually promiscuous in Europe.
Many are quick to defend her. They tell us that she has had no alternative but to approve each evil act in turn. We’re told again and again that she is a constitutional monarch who must submit to the authority of Parliament. Apparently that justifies her actions. What nonsense! Do we really think that when someone does something wicked, it is an acceptable defence to say, “I was only obeying orders”? Or to say, “I had to do it because of the position I hold”? She has always had the same option open to her as any other person holding high office. She can resign. And rather than permitting evil to be done in her name, she should have resigned.
That was the choice that faced King Baudoin of Belgium in 1990 when the government of that country brought in legislation to legalise abortion. He was told that as a constitutional monarch he was bound to give his assent. Rather than do that he abdicated.
Under the terms of the Belgian constitution the government took over his functions as Head of State, and signed the bill into law. Twenty-four hours later he was asked to resume the throne and he did so. A meaningless gesture? No. He had maintained his integrity. He had refused to give his consent to something which he knew to be evil. He could not prevent others from carrying through the legislation but he would have no part in it. He could say “my hands are free from the blood of these unborn children”. If only our Queen had had equal courage and conviction! Mightn’t such a stand at least have given the government of the day second thoughts?
But at least in her personal life she has maintained a blameless reputation? Yes, and I give thanks to God for that. But what of her family? Out of her four children, three have ended their marriages in shameful and sad circumstances. The Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne, is a confessed adulterer who has never expressed any repentance for his actions. His foolish marriage to an irresponsible and amoral young woman did much to destroy the capacity of the Royal Family to uphold public morality. His rejection of her and his return to a former mistress completed the job.
And of course, all this is compounded by the fact that in this country, royalty and religion are inseparably intertwined. The monarch is not only Head of State. He or she is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, our National Church, established by law. Assuming that Charles succeeds her, he will take on that role. Our national church – the public face of Christianity in the United Kingdom – will be headed up by a man who lives in defiance of the Bible’s view of marriage.
What of Prince William?
We are told that his future fiancée first caught his eye as she modelled a see through silk dress at a fashion show. Soon they were living together. Again, he has never made any pretence of holding to Christian or even traditional moral standards. What are his qualifications to become “Supreme Governor” of the Church of England in his turn?
It all highlights the absurdity of the idea that church and state should be united in the person of the monarch. No Biblically-minded Christian will accept the idea that we should have an official state church and that the monarch should be recognised as its head. Would Paul have acknowledged the Emperor Nero as head of the church in Rome?
So, no, I can’t say I shall be watching the Royal Wedding, dabbing my eyes with a handkerchief at the beauty and romance of it all. On an emotional level, I feel no affection or admiration for any of the people involved. The religious trappings of it all seem so much hypocrisy and play-acting. And behind it all, I am unhappy with the whole constitutional nonsense that elevates each monarch in turn into the “Defender of the Faith” – a Faith which they either do not believe or do not put into practice.
And yet…and yet… I cannot shake off the conviction that this wedding is important. And yes, I will be praying for the royal couple as they get married. And yes, I would encourage you to do so too. Why? Let me give you three reasons.
It’s a marriage!
Firstly, because it’s a marriage. And that in itself has to be a good thing. It is a good thing when a man and a woman publicly commit themselves to an exclusive, lifelong relationship as man and wife. I am glad for their sake that they are planning to do that. I am glad that they are setting an example to others in doing that. The fact that they have set a bad example in the past by living together without marriage, doesn’t take from the fact that this is the right thing to do now.
Whenever a man or a woman do get married, whether they realise it or not, they are carrying out a command of God – one of the first commands, a command given right back at creation. “A man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
And more than that, even if they are ungodly people, they are doing something that reflects God’s own character. The one flesh relationship of man and woman in marriage is a tiny reflection of the relationship between the persons of the Trinity. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). When “Wills and Kate” stand together before the altar of Westminster Abbey and speak vows of love and loyalty to each other, God’s glory will be shining through them – they will be reflecting the eternal commitment of Father and Son to each other through the Holy Spirit. The reflection may be very dim and distorted, but it will be there.
And what vows they will be speaking! I read to you last Sunday evening the words of the Anglican marriage service. They are awesome!
“Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?”
“Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”
“I, William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor, take you, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth”.
“I, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton take thee, William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth”.
Even in the modern updated versions, the words retain something of their power. Here is a 2001 version:
“I take thee, to my wedded wife – or husband – To have and to hold from this day forward; for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.. To love and to cherish, till death us do part.”
Surely I can pray that God’s Spirit will drive home the meaning and the bigness of those vows to the royal couple even as they say them? May they be conscious that they are making these vows in the name of God and that he will hold them to account for the way they keep them. May they recall the failures of the last generation of the royal family to keep their vows – and may they find themselves praying for grace to keep their own.
And may millions of people who hear those vows recited, be touched by them. Some may be convicted of their own failure and inability to keep their vows. Some may be reminded just what a wonderful and awesome thing it is to be married. Some may be renewed in their determination to keep their own marriage vows.
It is optional today whether the bride uses the word “obey”. I hope Kate does. And I hope she does so, not just out of tradition but because she’s thought about it and she knows it’s important. I hope she has the courage to defy the outrage of the feminist lobby. And I hope that others take note of her example.
They’re going to influence others
Secondly, because William and Kate are going to have great influence. Not because of their constitutional position but because of their celebrity status. The fact that William is Princess Diana’s son gives him an iconic status in the minds of people who idolised her. He’s inherited Diana’s good looks and by all accounts, her personal charm. His chosen bride is equally good-looking and charming in her encounters with the public. She comes over as intelligent and discreet. As a couple they’ve done much to restore the popularity of the royal family.
For better or for worse, they are celebrities. And that means that they will influence others by the example they set and by any opinions they dare to voice. William’s royal grandmother can be dismissed as the relic of a past age. She has little influence on the views of people today. William’s father is seen (fairly or otherwise) as an eccentric, out of touch with the modern world. Again, his opinions are largely ignored. But Kate and Wills will be fashion setters and opinion formers. What a huge responsibility rests upon them for evil or good!
It’s been reported that Kate has been confirmed in the Church of England in a private ceremony in recent weeks. She was “baptised” as a baby, but never proceeded to confirmation. But now (according to an official spokesman), “Miss Middleton, who was already baptised, decided to be confirmed as part of her marriage preparations.” Many folk have dismissed her decision as simply a cynical willingness to go along with traditional forms. But “sources close to Miss Middleton” have said that it’s not so – it’s part of a “personal journey into the faith”.
I want to believe that that’s so. The Bible says nothing about confirmation, but how glad I would be if we did see Kate journeying towards faith in Christ, and publicly confessing him. What a testimony that could be to a nation determined to throw off the thought of God! We know that there are gospel-loving Christians who do have regular contact with members of the royal family. Let’s pray that they’ll be given opportunities to witness to the man who may be our future king, and his wife to be. Let’s pray that they are given grace to take those opportunities.
I believe in royalty!
And thirdly, because I do believe in royalty. The republican pose of my childhood faded away long ago. Anyone who believes the Bible is going to recognise that kingship is the normal, God-given form of government. Yahweh is King – king over all the universe, king over the earth, king over his people. And he appointed kings to rule over his chosen nation, all through Old Testament times. And he has promised that his Son, Jesus shall reign as the ultimate king forever. How can any Christian read Psalm 72 and not be a royalist?
“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your people with justice!… May his name be blessed for ever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed…” (1 & 17).
Monarchy does not mean tyranny or dictatorship. When God instituted kingship in Israel, he made it clear that the king was subject to laws like anyone else (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). And yet a king must have real authority. He must be a shepherd for the nation, leading them in war, governing them in peace. And he must be willing to suffer for them. The true king will lay down his life to defend his people. As C S Lewis put it, “this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land… to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in the land…” (The Horse and His Boy ch 15).
When I was a child, I resented the idea of monarchy because I thought the monarch was too important, too powerful. Now my criticism of our monarchy is the exact opposite. I want a monarch who is genuinely powerful – a king who will truly govern us, who will uphold justice and defend the rights of his people. It’s many years since we’ve had that. And maybe it’s only a dream to imagine that we could ever have that again here in the UK. It would mean reversing every constitutional development of the last hundred years. But why shouldn’t Christians dream? Providing of course that they turn their dreams into prayers.
And in the meantime, I want our monarchy – even in its present debased form – to be a reminder, a pointer to the real king, the ultimate King. When the old folk at Peel Moat watch that wedding service on the TV screen, they’ll glimpse solemnity, grandeur, majesty, beauty. And all of that is a faint pointer to the glory of the real King, the King who will reign forever, King Jesus.
If you are a Christian, and if you watch that service, watch it with open eyes. For you it should be a foreshadowing of the great wedding day – the day when King Jesus takes to himself his royal bride – the bride he redeemed, the pride he is adorning, the bride he will love for ever. Prince William has chosen to marry a “commoner” and make her his Princess. The Son of God, the King of glory, has chosen a far less worthy bride, steeped in sin and degradation. And yet on that day, she will shine with the beauty he has bestowed on her:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The sceptre of your kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad… All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. In many-coloured robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king…” (Psalm 45: 6-7, 13-15).
God bless William and Kate
God save the Queen!
Come quickly Lord Jesus!