Love is in the air. Following the season of jingle bells, we have the promise of royal wedding bells in 2018. With a fairytale engagement to bring some much-needed glittering magic to our mad world, haven’t we all fallen in love with Prince Harry and his off-the-peg Meg?
It was enough to bring a tear to Queen D’s starry eye despite the streak of cynicism which runs like a seam of the blackest coal through her very heart and soul.
Of course with every coupling the air is filled with the cooing of doves and infused with dreamy beliefs of eternal love and uninterrupted bliss, of hopes for a union blessed with the pitter patter of perfect little feet and perpetual peace with the in-laws.
We need to dream, we need to believe. But let’s face it. Divorce statistics are dire. Marriage is a lottery – if all the numbers come up, it’s life-changing. If it’s a two-ball bouncer, bank the tenner in the runaway fund, girls.
There are times when I have sat in a pew stifling the desire to snort as some prince and princess promise to love until death. It’s enough to spark a desire to open a betting shop and make millions. But I admit to blubbing with amazed joy at anniversary celebrations where the stooped couple still gaze at each other like loved-up teenagers. There is little doubt that if it works, marriage is marvellous.
We can do our best to get the ducks in a row when we choose our beloved. We can start by determining common ground, like sharing a passion for latex gloves and Morris dancing. Once we’ve taken the plunge, finding the same things funny often drags a marriage back from the brink. A friend produces a meal of rude food sculptures every time she and her husband fall out. It’s hard to keep up anger going when there’s a plate of shagging vegetables on the table.
If we seek ducks in a row, Harry and Meg have a row of golden geese lined up. Despite being born with a mouthful of silver cutlery, we love impish Harry and longed for him to find Mrs Naughty but Nice. Meg ticks all the boxes. Not too young, not too old. Not too pushy, not too wishy-washy. Not too chaste, not too tainted. Not too dark and with a healthy selection of barking relatives.
If Harry is looking for a marital path to follow, he can skip deftly round his dear Papa and dear old horse, and place his feet firmly in the footsteps of his grandparents. During their seventy years and counting, they have mastered the art of wearing impenetrable masks. But now and again there’s a crack and how grateful we are for glimpses of the mysterious glues which bind them together! How much we treasure those glances where their eyes meet and hold, and then hold a bit longer. We see their lips moving in whispered asides, their secret smiles, their barely suppressed giggles, their shared solemnity and rock solid sense of duty.
At their golden anniversary twenty years ago, the Queen called Philip “quite simply, my strength and stay all these years.”
Alpha male Philip, who has kicked over the traces numerous times, said in his anniversary speech, “The main lesson we have learned is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage. It might not be so important when things are going well but it’s absolutely vital when things get difficult. You can take it from me that the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”
Between the lines, there are volumes.
I don’t imagine Lilibet carves carrot penises when Phil gets cross, but we know they laugh together, a lot. Phil calls her “sausage” or “cabbage” in private. Shortly after promising his Queen to be her “liege man of life and limb” at her Coronation, he leant towards her and said, “Where did you get that hat?”
What an example for Harry and Meg, and the rest of us. There we have it, seventy years in all its glory, and all its ordinariness. A marriage of tolerance and humour, with its foundations in a love that has morphed from the crackling all-consuming fire of its early life to the glowing heat and warmth of now.
As we clear away the crackers and remove our paper crowns, Queen D shall raise a glass in homage to toast The Queen, and marriage. May we all live happily ever after!