High-profile royal weddings go way back

U. MINNESOTA (US) — As far back as the Wars of the Roses royals having been tying the knot in grandiose affairs intended to draw big audiences.

The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in London—watched by more than 2 billion people worldwide—is a rather modern take on a long tradition of high-profile nuptials, according to John Watkins, a professor at the University of Minnesota and expert on British history and culture.

This photo was taken on April 28 in St. James’s, London. (Credit: aurélien/Flick)
Crowds in London line the Mall to celebrate the wedding. (Credit: garryknight/Flick)

By the fourteenth century’s Wars of the Roses, says Watkins, when rival claimants to the throne tried to bolster their claims by high-profile marriages, lavish weddings advertised kingly power.

“They occasioned lavish feasting, masques, poetry and the all-important procession through the City of London,” Watkins says. “The citizens would stage elaborate displays and short skits celebrating the wedding.”

By modern standards, of course, a Tudor parade through London might look pretty low-budget. But it meant a lot to onlookers, Watkins says.

By the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, weddings to a foreign princess sealed important treaties and alliances, Watkins says. “They took months and often years to negotiate and arrange.”

Watkins notes that the glamour was always there.

“Of course the explosion of national wealth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries meant you could really go over the top.”

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