Royal Wedding - A commoner marries a future king

The new Duchess of Cambridge isn't the first commoner bride to have the role of Queen Consort in her future. Photo: catherine tiara.png

Portrait of William and Catherine by Mario Testino

Portrait of William and Catherine by Mario Testino

FORT WORTH, Tx. April 29, 2011 ­­­­­­­­– This date will go down in history as the wedding day of HRH Prince Willam and Miss Catherine Middleton. People will talk about it the way they talk about the marriage of the Prince’s parents, HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, in 1981.

It doesn’t seem like thirty years have gone by since people lined the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the bride, Diana, through the carriage window on her way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

Or, when they shouted to the newly married royal couple on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, “Kiss her Charlie!”

The next year, HRH Prince William Arthur Phillip Louis was born. Since then, royal watchers have been anticipating this day. For almost thirty years, they’ve been wondering who the lucky girl will be, what she’ll be like, and in this case, what kind of pedigree she’ll have.

Pedigree? Yes, not just anybody can be the Queen Consort to a British Monarch.  Prince William had to not only find a wife; he had to find someone suitable to be his Queen, as well.

The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana (Photo: Associated Press)

The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana (Photo: Associated Press)

Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born to working class parents, and grew up in Chapel Row at Bucklebury, Berkshire, England. Her parents built a successful mail order company that sells party supplies and decorations, called Party Pieces, that enabled them to send their eldest daughter to the University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland, where she met Prince William.

There has been much talk about her lack of royal, or at least, noble lineage, including the fact that Kate is descended from coal miners on the maternal side of her family. There are those who believe commoners shouldn’t be a consort to a monarch.

Catherine needn’t worry, as she’s in good company.

Prince William’s great-grandmother, the Queen Mum, was a commoner. She was born the Honourable Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon on August 4, 1900. Her union with The Duke of York was acceptable, because he wasn’t expected to become King. But, when duty called, the great lady stepped right into the shoes, as if she had been groomed to be a Queen from birth.

According to the official website of The British Monarchy, Queen Elizabeth also became the first British-born Queen consort since Tudor times.

The very first commoner to marry a British monarch was Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Sir John Grey of Groby, who married King Edward IV in 1464. Woodville was also the first Englishwoman to be crowned Queen, which happened on Ascension Day at Westminster Abbey on May 26, 1465.

She already had two sons from her marriage, but bore the King ten more children. This was the start of the House of York. Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project explains their meeting this way:

Rancour so deep pursued the memory of John Lord Gray, that his harmless infants, Thomas and Richard, were deprived of their inheritance of Bradgate.  Elizabeth herself remained in mourning and destitute at Grafton the two first years of Edward IV’s reign. 

Hearing that the young king was hunting in the neighbourhood of her mother’s dower castle at Grafton, Elizabeth waited for him beneath a noble tree known in the traditions of Northamptonshire, as “the queen’s oak,” holding a fatherless boy in either hand. When Edward, who must have been well acquainted with her previously at the English court, paused to listen to her, she threw herself at his feet, and pleaded for the restoration of her children’s lands.

King Edward IV. (photo: Wikimedia)

Her downcast looks and mournful beauty not only gained her suit, but the heart of the conqueror.  He was unwilling to make her his queen, but she left him to settle the question; knowing that he had betrayed others, her affections still clave to the memory of the husband of her youth.  Her indifference increased the love of the young king.  The struggle ended in his offering her marriage, which took place May 1, 1464. 

The marriage gave great offence to the mother of Edward IV. This lady, who, before the fall of her husband, Richard Duke of York, at Wakefield, had assumed the state of a queen, had to give place to the daughter of a knight.  It was on Michaelmas day, 1464, that Edward IV finally declared to Elizabeth to be his wedded wife, at Reading palace.

The marriage of King Henry IV and Elizabeth Woodville fueled The Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars between 1455 and 1485.

The ten children born for the King included two sons, Edward V and Richard. Unfortunately, upon their father’s death, their Uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had the little princes locked in the Tower of London, and they were never seen alive again.

Once the princes were out of the way, Richard declared himself Richard III, and reigned until his death in 1485.

The Queen had many siblings who married into some of the most notable families in England. Her sisters married the sons of Earls in Kent, Essex, and Pembroke. These ties also strengthened King Edward’s position, and worried opposition that the Woodville family was acquiring too much power.

King Henry VIII. Photo: Wikimedia

The Queen lived the last five years of her life at Bermondsey Abbey. Wikipedia says,

Queen Elizabeth engaged in acts of Christian piety, which were in keeping with what was expected of a medieval queen consort. Her acts included making pilgrimages, obtaining a papal indulgence for those who knelt and said the Angelus three times per day, and founding the chapel of St. Erasmus in Westminster Abbey.[9]

The Queen Consort died at the Bermondsey Abbey in 1492, and was placed next to her husband in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Her legacy didn’t die with her young princes.

Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, defeated the Queen’s brother-in-law in the Battle of Bosworth Field, and became King, making him the last king of England to win his throne on the battlefield.

Tudor became Henry VII and married Woodville’s daughter, Elizabeth of York.

Their first son Arthur, the Prince of Wales, died young of an unknown illness.

Their second son became King Henry VIII.

And the rest is history.



Read more about the royal wedding from other Communities writers:

The Royal Wedding–The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Travel the World by Jacquie Kubin

Royal Wedding: The Windsors, Kate, William And Water Into Wine in No 2 Religion, Yes 2 Faith by Frank Raj


For Claire Hickey, writing is a newly realized passion. Read more of Claire’s work at Feed The Mind, Nourish The Soul in the Communities at The Washington Times, her blog Sustenance For The Mind, and the writing group she belongs to at Greater Fort Worth Writers Group.


-cl- 4/29/11

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Claire Hickey

Claire has held a Texas Cosmetology License, Certification in Surgical Technology and has decorated cakes professionally. She believes that life is a banquet to be experienced and wants to learn and do as much as possible while she’s here. This Stay @ Home Mom has always loved to write and thanks to the Communities @ The Washington Times has got her chance. Her curiosity and writing lead her to create her column based on “garbage in garbage out” theory to provide interesting and thought provoking pieces that enrich her readers. A proud member and Treasurer for the Greater Fort Worth Writer’s Group she is currently working on her first novel.  


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