Sixty years of commitment

FR. RAYMOND DE SOUZA

Should there have been difficulties and in what marriage are there not? the Queen and the Duke worked through them and persevered. Marriage vows, after all, do not promise a problem-free life, but perseverance in the face of them.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

Sixty years ago today a young Princess Elizabeth, future Queen of Canada, married a minor Greek royal, Prince Philip Schleswig-HolsteinSonderburg-Glucksburg. That was going to be quite a mouthful for a future consort, a styling even more continentally baroque than Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha brought to his marriage to Queen Victoria. It was easily remedied; just as the royals transformed themselves into Windsors, the bridegroom arrived at the altar as Philip Mountbatten.

It would be only the first step in a lifetime in which Philip would walk deferentially behind his bride. Sixty years on, and he is still dutifully doing so, and unlike so many others in the royal family, Philip has been behind the Queen to support her, not to undermine her. Sixty years of marriage is no mean achievement but, for reasons ignoble, it has brought out something of a mean streak in various places. There have been some slanderous comments made on the occasion, and some otherwise respectable publications have abased themselves by running smutty articles, rehearsing old rumours about infidelity and other salacious bits about the “inside” story of the Queen’s marriage.

The “inside” story about the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh is known to them alone. The fact that they have chosen not to disclose their private matters is actually the way normal people behave, and certainly how responsible sovereigns do. It is only in a childish culture that those who refuse to show-and-tell are thought to be hiding something. Britain revealed its childish side 10 years ago when Diana died, to the Queen and the Duke’s bafflement. Yet time has shown their more reserved deportment to be the more enduring model. Surely the trauma wrought by the hapless Charles and the tawdry Diana should be evidence enough that exhibitionism is a fatal flaw in a monarchy.


“...against all the odds, of reflecting his own completely costly and self-giving commitment to his world; that the gift of marriage makes this capacity visible in our world; and that, in the lives of the couple with whom today we join in celebration, that bracing, renewing and hopeful vision of faithful generosity has been for 60 years set so clearly before our eyes. May it be so for many more years.”


Indeed, in their long marriage, the few occasional gaffes have been when the Duke was not sufficiently discreet, and offered his views on topics controversial. It is a remarkable accomplishment that in 60 years, a few exceptions aside, it is hard to remember anything either of them has said. That is as it should be in a constitutional monarchy, otherwise the office of sovereign may be reduced to the personalities of the incumbents. To prevent that from happening requires unfailing discipline and devotion to duty, both of which have marked the Queen’s marriage from the beginning.

Should there have been difficulties — and in what marriage are there not? — the Queen and the Duke worked through them and persevered. Marriage vows, after all, do not promise a problem-free life, but perseverance in the face of them. To keep one’s promises, with discretion and duty, is part of the witness the Queen understands she is obligated to give by her life. Prince Philip has helped the Queen to do that as her husband, and in his own right as the royal consort.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, no doubt delighted to participate in a simple religious service without controversy, put it magnificently yesterday at Westminster Abbey.

“So before we complain too loudly about a world of disposable relationships and short-term policies, a world of fracturing and insecure international bonds and the decline of trust, we should remember today that we have cause for thanksgiving,” Dr. Williams said. “Thanksgiving that God has made human beings capable, against all the odds, of reflecting his own completely costly and self-giving commitment to his world; that the gift of marriage makes this capacity visible in our world; and that, in the lives of the couple with whom today we join in celebration, that bracing, renewing and hopeful vision of faithful generosity has been for 60 years set so clearly before our eyes. May it be so for many more years.”

I wish I spoke so well when celebrating the anniversaries of married couples. I do remind them that such anniversaries are properly considered feast days for the whole family, like dedication or foundation days. For the Queen and Prince Philip, their anniversary is a feast day for all her subjects. Indeed, may it be so for many more years.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Sixty years of commitment." National Post, (Canada) November 20, 2007.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.

THE AUTHOR

Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 2007 National Post



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