Royal couple will do some common good by evoking value of marriage
IN HER fascinating book recounting the love-hate relationship between Irish people and the British monarchy, journalist Mary Kenny – of this parish – tells hilarious stories about the length to which some people have gone down the years to conceal their interest in the British royal family.
‘Crown and Shamrock’ tells the stories of Dublin families who purchased television sets for the sole purpose of watching a royal wedding – as word got around, neighbours would discreetly ask if they too could watch the spectacle.
There are also tales of wellto-do ladies who prevailed upon their hairdressers to give them the latest ‘do’ being sported by Queen Elizabeth or Princess Margaret while keeping mum about the original inspiration for the style.
Those interested in a bit of royal voyeurism don’t have to be as discreet as in previous generations.
The hugely successful visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth verbalised a love that dared not to speak its name before that moment for many Irish people.
Even if a Donegal hotel was forced to cancel a Meghan and Harry-themed afternoon tea after apparently receiving intimidating phone calls from people describing themselves as republicans, many Irish people will take more than a passing interest in the pomp and ceremony surrounding Windsor Castle tomorrow.
Of course, some will say it’s only to see the style or have an appreciation of the news value, but many Irish people are indeed fascinated by the royals and nowadays, it’s OK to be out, loud and proud.
They won’t be alone – hundreds of millions of people are expected to watch the ceremony. It’s not my cup of tea, but I have no desire to spoil the genuine excitement and enjoyment shared by so many.
What I do understand, and share the delight in, is the love that prompts such a wedding – and by all accounts the young couple are very much in love. And amidst the mixture of glamour and frivolity that will mark the big day, Meghan and Harry (pictured) are sending a powerful message to the world that marriage still matters and they want to seal their love before God.
Meghan even took the unnecessary step of being baptised into the Church of England to ensure that it could be a meaningful religious ceremony. The fact they believe that standing together exchanging vows matters is a vital message since marriage still remains society’s greatest bulwark against poverty, educational disadvantage and social exclusion.
That’s why both Church and State should have a vested interest in promoting marriage and making it more appealing for the many couples who now choose to live together rather than get married.
Strong families based on strong marriages create strong societies where people look after one another and those in need of a little more help get it from families rather than falling between two stools.
It’s become unfashionable to say that marriage matters. The fact that families come in all shapes and sizes has meant many people now think promoting marriage as a good for society runs the risk of excluding others – not without reason.
Let’s face it, for a long period of our modern history Ireland wasn’t a very nice place to be if you didn’t fit a particular societal mode. But this shouldn’t stop us drawing on the evidence that marriage is good for society.
And we should be concerned there is an increasing gap between social classes on the issue of marriage. Latest evidence from the Central Statistics Office reveals a person’s chance of marrying is hugely affected by the social class they are born into.
Upper professional workers are more than twice as likely as unskilled workers to be married. The huge discrepancy shows there are formidable social impediments to marrying if you are from a socially disadvantaged group. These impediments need to be fully explored and, where possible, removed.
The figures show that 65.7pc of upper professional workers aged 18-49 are likely to be married, compared with just 31.8pc of unskilled or elementary workers.
Justice Anthony Kennedy of the US Supreme Court has described marriage as the gold standard for raising healthy, happy, well-adjusted children in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities life puts before them.
PEOPLE like Meghan and Harry know that and study after study proves it to be the case. This is not about disparaging people who aren’t married, nor holding it up as a utopian ideal, but about helping couples to see that, in a world of constant flux, committing to try to be together, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, is a powerful message.
Neither Meghan nor Harry have had the best experience of marriage growing up – their parents divorced when they were children – but in committing to one another tomorrow with solemn vows before the eyes of the world, they are saying marriage still matters.
In the words of Justice Kennedy, they are powerfully affirming they believe “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family”. Inaworld often jaded by cynicism about fleeting encounters or marriages that don’t work, Meghan and Harry’s optimism is something worth celebrating.
Michael Kelly is Editor of ‘The Irish Catholic’ newspaper.