Sad to say, I am old enough to recall the day Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer. In fact, I remember it well. It wasn’t a particularly sunny Wednesday but at least it wasn’t raining, and in a British Summer that’s a serious plus.
I had organized a picnic in the garden for friends and family, and to the accompaniment of my three-year old banging drums, speed-racing his tricycle and serving up water-logged cereal in teacups, we watched the ceremony on TV, tears in our eyes.
Most of us wanted to believe the fairy-tale. We wanted these two people to be madly, truly, deeply in love. As we witnessed them make their promises to each other -- she stumbling over her words and almost marrying the Duke of Edinburgh and he tenderly squeezing her hand in reassurance -- we thought about the promises to love and cherish that we had made, or hoped to make one day.
Somehow it was all the more glorious because history was in the making and there were horses and carriages, robes and rulers, trumpets and tiaras, cameras and fly-pasts, and kisses on the balcony. Quite the show.
During the first six months of 1981, I had been hard at work writing my first book. The subject was the astrology of relationships, synastry. It was rather a technical book made a little more lively by the inclusion of the royal couple as an in-depth case study. Much to my dismay, instead of being able to describe two people who were ideally suited, I found a couple who had more flaws than a third-rate diamond. Star-crossed indeed.
The one great hope as far as the astrology was concerned was the wedding horoscope.
So fitting was the chart for the ceremony it might have been chosen by an astrologer. Maybe it was. Prince Charles was known to have a great interest in and respect for Jungian psychology. One of his mentors, and also one of William’s godfathers, the writer and philosopher, Laurens van der Post, had been a great friend of Carl Jung and an admirer of his work, which included astrology.
So, it is not such a stretch to assume that someone in the inner circle knew enough about the subject to be able to pick the perfect date and time. On the other hand, it could simply have been one huge synchronicity.
Now, I don’t want to get too technical here and lose you all, but the primary reason the wedding horoscope is so impressive was that at the very moment of “I do!” Jupiter and Saturn were rising to the ascendant in Libra - a celestial event that only takes place every several hundred years or so. That moment in time reflected the importance of the union for the monarchy, the country and in the eyes of the world. The symbolism couldn’t have been more stunning.
To give you a bit more background, the cycle of Jupiter and Saturn is closely associated with affairs of state. Back in the day -- and we’re talking a millennia and more -- astrologers would select times when these two planets were aligned for coronations and events of constitutional significance. And, it was almost certainly the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Pisces that was the fabled Star-In-the-East.
In hindsight, of course, we know that the alignments of that day did not supply enough superglue to keep the couple together. In fact, the divorce, or rather the scandalous events of 1992 that led up to it, nearly brought down the entire monarchy. Nonetheless, the union between Charles and Diana did produce an heir and spare, and it is William and his Catherine who are currently rebooting the monarchy and ensuring its survival. So, in a way, the purpose of their union and the promise of the marriage horoscope were fulfilled.
Which brings me to the compare-and-contrast bit. While the astrology between Charles and Diana was awkward to say the least, William and Catherine’s charts are connected by angles of pure harmony. But here’s the rub, when it came to the moment they formalized their union, the alignments were far from auspicious, in fact they give rise to concern for the stability and durability of the marriage.
You don’t need to be an astrologer to figure out there will be trials and tears for the couple, as there would be for any modern couple, but while Charles and Diana self-destructed so to speak, events external to the marriage are likely to be the reason for the demise of William and Catherine’s marriage. Should there be a demise, of course...
So, here we are, thirty years on from that other royal wedding. The world has changed. The monarchy has changed. In 1981, the royal family was to a large extent intact on its Olympian plinth, just enough removed from the people to inspire respect and awe. It was the eighties, the era of Dallas, Dynasty, shoulder pads and big hair. We wanted spectacle and we got it. Somehow, the simple story of folk coming together to celebrate the age-old custom of marriage was lost.
Never for a moment did we think our beautiful bride was having doubts, enough to be reminded that she couldn’t back out because her face was on the tea-towels. Never for a moment did most of us consider that Diana had been chosen for Charles, vetted and given the royal stamp of approval, whether he wanted her or not. And he did not.
What was missing in 1981 was present in vast quantities on 29 April, 2011. No terrified young woman in a puffed up dress billowing down the aisle but an elegant silhouette making her way assuredly towards the altar. Here were two people clearly coming together in love, surrounded by the people they loved. The tree-lined aisle gave the impression of a country wedding, and throughout the ceremony and the day we never lost the sense that this was first and foremost a family event. Yet in this moment, almost more so than on 29 July, 1981, history was being made, tradition being served.
As if you couldn’t tell, I am a great romantic. Even though in 1981 I had my doubts about the sustainability of Diana and Charles’ marriage, such that I wrote, “On the one hand, Diana may bring a breath of fresh air into [the monarchy]. On the other hand, if her marriage becomes too restrictive she will break out.
As a future Queen of England the latter possibility is unthinkable let alone practicable, but then 20 years ago divorce for any member of the royal family was undream’d of...” , I wanted them to live happily ever after. Ultimately, the synastry between them carried more weight than the wedding chart, as I believe it will with William and Catherine, which in this case is deeply fortunate.
So, there you have it. A tale of two weddings. Back in 1981 I had no idea how my life would eventually intertwine with Diana’s, how those presentiments would turn out to be correct. Will history repeat itself? We’ll have to wait and see.
View gallery: William and Kate: Royal Wedding In Pictures