By: Cornelia Powell – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
A few years after the grand and ritual-rich wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981—a time when the interplay of relationships, including the roles of men and women, were changing—spiritual teacher Gary Zukav released his groundbreaking book, The Seat of the Soul. He wrote about the end of the old marriage archetype (what he considered a “five-sensory” relationship focusing on the body and personality) and the emergence of “spiritual partnerships”—more consciously aware, “multisensory” ways of being in relationship.
Prince Charles was the last heir to the British throne to marry for dynastic duty first (and who was raised in that hands-off, secluded, in-training-for-the-crown severity); his sons were the first heirs to grow up with access to the openness of modern culture and with fewer restraints of the monarchy (thanks to insights of both parents.) This meant Prince William and Prince Harry could participate in a less-structured environment—but still be aware of their duty and place in the world—and be free to develop a loving, deep friendship with the woman they would marry.
Looking back, perhaps it was predestined for Charles and Diana’s spot-lit, world-stage relationship—fraught with jealousy, deception, and lack of mutual support—demonstrate an outdated model for marriage. Not finding the desired harmony in their own relationship, yet as destiny would have it, they produced two sons (one a would-be-king, one a prince of deep passion, both imbued with characteristics of each parent) who, as young men, apparently did.
We saw this deep connection during their weddings. I wrote the following about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding in The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, but it could also apply to the ceremony and lives of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a few years later:
Like the best of weddings, William and Kate’s botanically inspired celebration had a sense of reconciliation and healing within relationships, families, communities, even religions. This is what I see their life mission will be about. And this nuptial day, therefore, was a blessing, a redemption for both Diana and Charles. “It was Diana who wired William with some innate radar to look for a soulmate who had a strong family bond,” wrote journalist and author Tina Brown. “She never had it with her own family, nor did Prince Charles,” but their first son has it and embraced it and included all of his families—Spencers, Windsors and Middletons—at the heart of his wedding day. And his Kate matched every royal moment with equal poise and tenderness, inspiring Brown to share about the bride’s choices: “Everything about her actions, to and for William, is about creating a feeling of safe continuity: You know me. I am here.”
Seven years later, as I watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s sun-lit springtime wedding, it seemed that we all were witnessing not just a break in tradition, but something so transformative it was as though being baptized in pure light and redemptive love—being initiated into the most sacred depths of oneness. “It felt like another level of everything,” Oprah Winfrey, who had an up-close seat at the wedding ceremony, shared. “It felt like more than a wedding. It felt like a shift in culture. I left more hopeful,” she concluded.
Are these two royal couples representatives of a “new marriage”—a “spiritual partnership,” as Zukav imagined? Or perhaps it’s simply a return to the original purpose of marriage where the cultivation of a deeply connected, equal partnership is a natural way of relating for couples. William and Kate nor Harry and Meghan asked for their marriage to be a template, however, royalty is one of our most reflective archetypes so it’s just in the stars for them to take on a world stage life. Not right or wrong or perfect; not forever or even “happily ever after,” and certainly not a “traditional” marriage. (Is there really any such thing?)
Nonetheless, these two relationships act as a mirror, so we can see ourselves just a bit clearer in one of the most problematic areas of life for people. “It would be difficult to find a human relationship that embodies a greater complexity than marriage—with its blend of the civil, social, spiritual, and physical,” wrote cultural mythologist Jane L. Mickelson. Our culture is filled with the shadow side of marriage. “For every folk and fairy tale that concludes, ‘and they lived happily ever after,’” Mickelson continued, “there is another that speaks of the betrayal and bitterness, the hostility and disappointment of marriage.” William and Harry knew this all too painfully well because of their parents’ mismatched marriage as did their mother because of her parents’ damaged union. (I called these marriages representatives of the end of the illusion—“the end of the fairy-tale bride.”)
In the aftermath of Charles and Diana’s shattered marriage, a very public royal divorce, and—as though following some Jungian script—the death of the much-loved princess, Dr. Caroline Myss, mystic and best-selling author, considered the outdated “damsel and knight” fairy story could finally be laid to rest. Echoing Gary Zukav’s vision for marriage, Myss wrote that we now begin “to uncover a new archetype—one that reflects the emerging era of partnership.”
Was this to be a new mythology for marriage where couples serve the highest good for each other? “This is how spiritual partnerships work,” Zukav explained. “You begin to set aside the wants of your personality in order to accommodate the needs of your partner’s spiritual growth, and in doing that, you grow yourself.” In this relational reframing, women and men are not substituting romance for intimacy; not settling for the illusion of love instead of the real thing; not relying on the other for their own happiness and fulfillment; nor are they denying the best of themselves so they can have some false sense of security and comfort.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have royal titles, but it appears that their marriages—their love and relationships and deep commitment to their partners—are real and sincerely grounded, aligning with their modern, yet old soul sensibilities. Both Kate and Meghan have “brought a kind of grace under pressure to the royal family,” their husbands’ family, and I would suspect that sense of being comfortable-in-their-own-skin reinforces a closeness with their husbands.
It was Princess Diana’s tenacity and spirit that carved out a way for William to be king and have a marriage based on love and equality; and, in her demonstrative acts of unconditional love, gave Harry, younger at her death and maybe more vulnerable, the resilience to mend his broken heart and find a strong partner who matches his devotion and compassion. And Prince Charles played his part as he tenderly protected and guided his sons after Diana’s death; then, years later, boldly challenged the old monarchic code and, with William and Harry’s full-hearted support, married the woman he had long loved.
Perhaps we are drawn to these young Windsor couples because they remind us of the true nature of what “happily ever after” is to be—living a life you love, in service and in kindness to others. And perhaps our attraction to them is how their lives show us, in the words of beloved Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan, that, whether you are royal or just regular folk, “to discover the heart is the greatest initiation.” ~
[Excerpts from Cornelia’s The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, available at Amazon, as well as excerpts from her book in progress, tentatively titled, A Memory of Beauty: The Spiritual Mission of a Princess.]
Wedding Folklorist, Fashion Historian, Author & Guest Speaker
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