GREAT BRITAIN: Dearly Beloved

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A million watched; millions listened to the warm young voices, the sonorous old voices. Billions of words about it were printed, and closely read. In Accra, where the equatorial sun beats down on the white church steeples (relics of a vanished Danish empire), parties were held in celebration. Paris noted it, and Panama. In heedless Manhattan thousands got out of bed at 6 a.m. to hang over radios. Shanghai and Hankow had never seen so many weddings; Chinese brides deemed it lucky to be married on the day that Elizabeth, heiress to Britain's throne, became the wife of Philip Mountbatten.

Something Steady. This wedding, on a dark day of a troubled, distracted and most uncertain time, carried over six continents and seven seas a brightness so simple it was hard to understand. Its appeal was too nearly universal to be explained by such words as "glamor," "publicity," "sentimentality," or even by harsher and more present words, such as "power" or "wealth." Of the millions who spoke and wrote of it, perhaps a London linotyper and an archbishop came closest to saying what it meant.

On the morning of the wedding, the linotyper, on his way home from work, paused amid the happy, shabby throngs. He answered a question, musingly: "I'm a good trade unionist and a Labor Party man, but the royal family means something. My father saw Victoria once, as close as you and me are now. Those two are getting married—they carry it on. I suppose it's having something steady in your life. And God knows there isn't much that's steady these days."

That was one essential side of it—the contrast between the stability of the Throne and the confusion teeming around it. The other side was expressed in a quiet talk of great beauty and simplicity (see RELIGION). The old Archbishop of York stood before the couple and said: "Notwithstanding the splendor and national significance of this occasion, this service in all essentials is exactly the same as it would be for any cottager who might be married this afternoon in some small country church in a remote village in the dales."

The contrast cherished by the linotyper was made warm and living by the similarity expounded by the archbishop. At a coronation the people triumphantly proclaim their acceptance of authority, which is just the opposite of subservience to power. The great social victory of order, out of which freedom issues, had, in turn, its source in marriage, whether in Westminster Abbey or in a country church. Thus, what would otherwise have been merely a flash of gems, a blare of horns and a hash of gossip took on a meaning for Briton and alien by a fascinating interplay of dignity and earthiness, of humor, pomp and prayer.

A Royal Pratfall. As the kings (5) and queens (6), ruling and retired, began to arrive, the royal family's eight-year austerity unbent. At a dance at Buckingham Palace, plump Princess Juliana of The Netherlands was dancing a conga with Elizabeth's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. She slipped, and stayed down, while Harry of Gloucester tried to tug her up amid a moment of embarrassed silence.

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