On Friday, nearly a billion people around the world focused on a wedding taking place in London’s Westminster Abbey: The marriage between Prince William, second in line to the British throne, and his bride, Kate Middleton.
For months people have focused on wedding details: Who will design the wedding dress? What jewels will she wear? What food will be served at the wedding breakfast?
But maybe we’re focusing on the wrong things. As my colleague Anne Morse noted this week in National Review Online, divorces among the royals have become so common that, shortly after the engagement was announced, British bookies began taking bets about when William and Kate’s divorce would take place.
“Can this marriage be saved?” Morse asked. For the answer, she asked several marriage experts about William and Kate’s chances, based on such factors as their family background, age, faith commitment, life choices, and royal expectations.
For instance, when William’s mother, Lady Diana Spencer, married Prince Charles, virginity was considered all-important in a royal bride. Not anymore. William and Kate lived together before the wedding. This is a bad idea, says Mike McManus, founder of Marriage Savers: He notes that “Couples who are sexually active before marriage are about two-thirds more likely to divorce than those who marry as virgins.”
The reason? Couples who abstain are more likely to develop a strong emotional and intellectual relationship; they don’t just get pushed into it because of physical intimacy. In addition, abstainers are practicing the self-restraint they will need after the wedding, when they are tempted by others.
More bad news: The history of divorce and adultery in the groom’s family. According to Jennifer Roback Morse, author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World, “No question about it: divorce is a condition that can be inherited.”
And the fact that both of William’s parents committed adultery “is also a big red flag” Roback Morse says.
Marriage expert Patrick Fagan at the Family Research Council says William and Kate “will need to inoculate themselves against this example, which leaves deep imprinting.” They will need to “grapple with the meaning of fidelity, the suffering and sacrifice involved in that, [and] the cost they are prepared to pay.”
But according to the marriage experts, William and Kate do have a few things going for them: They are marrying in their late twenties and have known each other for eight years. They also share a university education, and will have no financial worries.
But if they want to improve their chances for a lasting marriage even more, they should consider becoming active members of a church. As Roback Morse observes, “Regular religious practice, at least in U.S. data, is a protective factor against divorce.”
Well, they are getting married, of course, in Westminster Abbey, but by all accounts that not because of their personal faith, but because that’s where royal couples get married. It’s all part of the pageantry.
So, even though they’re not off to a particularly auspicious start, we ought to pray for the marital happiness of Prince William and his bride -– both for their sakes, and for the example they will set for the millions watching them tie the knot. In the end, that’s far more important than the design of the wedding gown.