Jonathan Salem Baskin

Royal Engagement

Today, a royal engagement was executed.

Though little Prince George and Princess Charlotte have captured the headlines recently, Prince Charles remains first in line to the British throne, in a succession scheme that dates back to his family’s ancestors in the early 18th century. He, like his son and twice-minted parent William, had one job in life that was even more important than becoming king one day: Produce an heir, preferably male, to continue the lineage. His journey was nowhere near as story-book as his son’s, as he seemed to defer to the well-established processes and rituals intended to scoot him along his procreative obligations. Charles relied on various well-bred courtiers and assorted status-seekers to continually introduce him to would-be brides of suitable stock. It’s how he met Lady Diana Frances Spencer, 13 years his junior, in 1977. Unimpressed then, they met again in 1980, and she made an offhand reference to how sad it was that IRA terrorists had blown up his uncle, Lord Mountbatten. Charles suddenly saw her mothering potential…and promptly proposed.

Then, the institutional process took over. While family and friends informally told Charles that he didn’t seem to have much affection for Diana, both the British and Canadian privy councils gave their approval, then the Queen approved their approvals via a formal Queen-in-Council decision (she supposedly avoided giving her son any direct advice on a motherly basis). Charles and Diana were married on this day in 1981, in a ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral before an intimate collection of 3,500 heads of state, celebrities, and assorted loyal subjects. William was born less than a year later, by which time the newlyweds were reportedly unhappy and distant. It would take another 12 years for the couple to divorce.

There’s no reason to believe that much of the institutional process has changed, though we happily mistake circumstance for pomp.

Here’s the link to Today in the Histories of Social Media, and this is the latest edition of Histories of Social Media