As is often the case when analyzing the magic of monarchy, Walter Bagehot's words are the truest: "A princely marriage is the brilliant edition of a universal fact, and as such rivets mankind." The wedding on Friday of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton was brilliant and riveting both, its vast appeal a measure of the extent to which, while the effective powers of monarchy have been diminished, its symbolic qualities and values not only endure, but flourish.
The ceremony was more than the union of a young couple. It stood for the renewal of the ancient institution of monarchy. Fitting then that the wedding took place in Westminster Abbey, a building whose origins go back to a king before the Norman Conquest, and in close proximity to Westminster Hall - thus together forming almost a shrine of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, a Canadian inheritance.
A million gathered to watch in person, and it's estimated as many as two billion watched the broadcast, not only in Britain, or Canada, or the other realms, but around the world, including in that most monarchical of republics, the United States. Of course, William is a prince of Canada, not the U.S., so the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be welcomed here this summer, in what will be their first official joint engagement outside Britain, and what is the most extensive official visit they will undertake this year.
The emblematic appeal of this wedding was found in the hymns, the pageantry, the presence of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Prince Harry, but particularly in the ease and natural warmth of the Duke, every bit his mother's son, and the Duchess. As Kate Middleton has shown, monarchy is no longer dependent on an aristocratic milieu or foreign dynasties - it is not quite Cinderella, but a new version of the monarchy's enduring connection with the people.
It may not matter in the way that the exchange or prime interest rates matter, or the federal election outcome matters, or Japan's nuclear crisis matters. But the monarchy remains central. Moreover, love matters, and so too does the fact of the persistence of something great and noble of the past in our harried world.