Married to Royalty

Last Updated: Apr 15, 2011, 18:08 PM IST

Shomini Sen

While the entire world is gearing up for the wedding of the year, cynics and conservatives have raised eyebrows about the nuptial. The second in line to the throne, Prince William is getting married to commoner Kate Middleton, which according to conservatives can pose questions about titles in the future.

Middleton’s story can be considered as straight out of a fairytale romance where a commoner meets the Prince in college, falls in love, gets married into the royal family and becomes the Queen.

Why can’t a royal get married to a commoner? According to The Royal Marriages Act of 1772, it was made illegal for all persons born into the British royal family to marry without the permission of the Sovereign, and any marriage contracted without the Sovereign’s consent was considered illegal and invalid.

As a result, several prominent British princes, who had gone through marriage ceremonies, and who cohabited with their partners as if married were never approved by the royal family. Their relationship was never given the official status and their partners and children (the latter considered illegitimate) held no titles, and had no succession rights.

This differs from morganatic marriages, which are considered legally valid. A morganatic marriage is a marriage between people of unequal social rank, which prevents the passage of the husband`s titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage.

But William would not be the first in his family to marry a commoner. In the past, his grand uncle Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville in the 15th century. Years later, Prince Albert married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of a minor Scottish aristocrat, in 1923 at Westminster Abbey.

Being the second son, Albert did not face much flak for marrying someone much lower than his social status. But elder brother, Edward abdicated to be with Wallis Simpson, a divorcee and so Prince Albert became King George VI, his wife became Queen Elizabeth, and their daughter Elizabeth became heir to the throne.

Other countries have also witnessed similar weddings, where a commoner has gotten married into Royalty. From Prince Albert of Monaco, who married former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock to Jordan’s favourite Queen Rania Al Yassin, who met the King of Jordan while working at Citibank. In all the recent cases, royal titles were conferred to the commoners after marriage and their children were considered as successors of royal titles.

So what title will Kate be conferred after she marries Prince William? Some people have already started comparing her to her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana and many feel the two have similar mannerisms. While Lady Diana was popularly called the People’s princess, would Kate follow suit? Only time will tell.