HRH The Duchess of Cambridge is a very popular member of the British Royal Family. She is young and beautiful with a friendly and warm personality and married to a dashing handsome prince who is destined one day to be king. These are what make up fairy tales and Hollywood movies. Another aspect of this fairy tale is that she does not come from either royalty or the titled nobility herself. Long gone are the days when royals married royals. This has not done any damage as some have feared. I have met some individuals who have supported the class system to the point where they thought that when a royal married a commoner that it lessened their royal status. I do not agree with this view at all.
Through the centuries it has been ironic that commoners and every ordinary person has had the freedom to select the mate of their choice. Royalty, on the other hand, has not always had that luxury. Marrying into your station in life is still practiced throughout the world. There are always whispers and gossip if someone is seen to be marrying someone who is not part of their social group and status. This human proclivity is readily apparent in royal circles and has been for ages. Even in the days of the Heptarchy, members of the royal families of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex married into one another’s houses. Even after the Norman Conquest of England this trend continued.
Looking at a genealogy chart of the royal family through history it mirrors much of the political climate at the time. From the Norman Conquest until the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) we can see many French princesses and those of the French nobility marry into the English royal family. This mirrors the many conflicts between England and France that royal alliances were hoped to resolve. From the reign of Edward III to the times of the Tudors we see a lot of marriages of the royal family into the English nobility. The Tudor dynasty was a hodgepodge of marriages with foreign countries and the English nobility..and even with commoners. The Stuarts married into Danish, French, Dutch and Portuguese royal houses.
With the arrival of the German House of Hanover onto the British throne in 1714 we begin to see the tradition of marrying into other German royal and noble families. This tradition lasted up until World War I (1914-1918) when the German and Russian royal houses were swept off their thrones. It was at that time when George V permitted his children to marry members of the British aristocracy. We all know the trouble Edward VIII had in selecting a wife that was not from either royal or noble stock, he gave up the throne for his marriage to Wallis Simpson. His sister Mary, The Princess Royal, married the future Earl of Harewood. George VI, married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Prince Henry, The Duke of Gloucester, married Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott, the daughter of John Montagu Douglas Scott, 7th Duke of Buccleuch. The youngest surviving son, Prince George, Duke of Kent, married into royalty. In 1934 the Duke of Kent married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark.
Princess Marina’s cousin, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark married the future Queen Elizabeth II in 1947. In recent years we have seen members of the royal family marrying people from untitled families. The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, married Antony Armstrong-Jones, whom Her Majesty ennobled granting him the title 1st Earl of Snowdon. Of the queen’s children only the first marriage of the Prince of Wales, to Lady Diana Spencer, was a marriage to a member of the nobility. All the other children of the queen married untitled commoners. In the future it may still be possible for a member of the British royal family to marry another royal or even a member of the nobility and if this happens it will happen just like anyone else meets their spouse, through friends or activities. I am all in favor of royals marrying the person they love and the person of their choice. The only drawback for me personally is I enjoy reading old genealogy charts and seeing how many ways the royals are connected. In the future these royal and noble families will be less connected by marriage.
With such hard-working and warm friendly people such as The Duchess of Cambridge, The Duchess of Cornwall and the Countess of Wessex as members of the royal family they demonstrate that being royal is not about birth, it is about conduct and service and being an honourable representative of your country. Being married into the royal family is not just a part-time job, it is a full-time lifestyle. These ladies have demonstrated that dignity and class are attributes that we can all emulate and one does not have to be high-born to display those qualities. In the future as Prince Harry and other members of the royal family select the spouse of their choice, let’s hope that they all demonstrate that common touch.
Thank you for the article. I think though that the supply of eligible princes and princesses has dried up somewhat, since WW2. Today’s British Royals are far more likely to meet future spouses at University, in sports and in other interests than they are in the rare occasions they get together with foreign royalty.