Mar 5 2011 2:00pm

HEA or a Charles & Diana Repeat?

Wedding ringsThere’s  a phrase one of my characters uses in my latest book: consanguineous shagging. I’m pretty sure I coined it myself. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s fun to say.

Consanguineous: relating to or denoting people descended from the same ancestor. Shagging: Brit slang for sexual intercourse. In other words, cousin loving.

Consanguineous shagging, if it happens enough in one tribe or family, can lead to inbreeding. At least, if you’re in east Texas or West Virginia it’s inbreeding. If you’re in Buckingham Palace, it’s royal ancestry.

Speaking of which, do you plan to watch the wedding?

I was a teenager when Prince William’s parents married. I got up at some ungodly hour on July 29, 1981, to watch the whole thing live. None of us knew how tragically the story would end, of course, but I was never a fan of Prince Charles to begin with. I remember thinking, as Diana’s horse-drawn glass coach made its way to St. Paul’s cathedral, “Yeah, but how much of a fairy tale can it be if she has to marry him?”

Prince Charles and Princess DianaOddly enough, it will be much more romantic when a practical, modern limousine delivers Kate to Westminster Abbey. William, unlike his father, is a charming prince and genuinely in love with his fiancée. They’ve known each other for years and enjoy each other’s company.

The inexperienced, teenaged Diana became smitten with Charles once he set his sights on her, but romance was neither his motivation nor his goal. He’d decided it was time to get married, and he needed an eligible female. He’d already proposed to his second cousin, Amanda, but she’d turned him down. It’s safe to assume that if Diana had spurned him as well, he would’ve shrugged and moved on to the next name on his list.

She had to call him “sir” until they were engaged. During a television interview, someone asked if they were in love.

“Of course,” Diana replied promptly.

“Whatever ‘in love’ is,” said Charles after a long pause.

Gorgeous spectacle though it was, that wedding was not romantic.

At the time, much was made of the fact that Diana was quite beneath the prince of Wales. She was the daughter of an earl, a member of one of England’s most ancient aristocratic families, but she wasn’t the daughter or granddaughter of a king or queen. This was unusual for the bride of the heir to the throne. [1]

Charles and Diana’s marriage was also noteworthy because they were only distantly related. You’ll recall that he’d already proposed to his second cousin. There was nothing eyebrow-raising about that; Queen Victoria’s descendants have been marrying each other for two hundred years—which explains a lot, if you know anything about European royalty. Charles’ mum and dad sit rather close together on a family tree that doesn't have nearly enough branches. The queen and her husband are second cousins once removed by one line of descent, third cousins by another line of descent. Charles and Diana, in contrast, were eleventh cousins once removed.

Maybe that’s why William and Harry have chins. And shoulders.

Yes, this is mean.

Prince William and Kate MiddletonKate’s way more of a commoner than Diana, and that’s been fodder for a lot of gossip and commentary. I think Diana would’ve been tickled to hear that the future queen of England is a coal miner’s great-great granddaughter.

Today the Middletons are solidly middle class—i.e., economically productive and possessed of IQs above room temperature. (And remember, “middle class” in Britain has to do with birth and ancestry, not money. The Middletons are wealthy, and wouldn’t be considered middle class in the States.) 

Apparently, one of Kate’s uncles is something of an embarrassment. Then again, William’s great-great uncle was a Nazi sympathizer who spent his honeymoon in Germany in 1937;  his grandfather specializes in the kind of crass racial comments that get normal people permanently ostracized; one of his great-great-great-great-great uncles was suspected of impregnating his sister[2]; there’s too many alcoholics and drooling idiots to list them all . . . the British royal family is in no position to bitch about embarrassing relatives, is what I’m saying.

Some of William’s friends, who wouldn’t be out of place in Monty Python’s “Upper Class British Twit of the Year Award” skit, like to snigger about “doors to manual” when Kate’s around. They’re referring to her mother’s former career as an airline attendant.  

I like to think a lot of those Bertie Woosters won’t be getting invites to the wedding.

They’re getting married on my eleventh anniversary. I’ve been known to complain about various in-laws now and again, but I can’t imagine what Kate’s facing—that’s a ghastly crew she’s thrown in with. Fortunately, William seems the protective type, and Kate’s not a shy, sheltered, 19-year-old ingénue.  The wedding’s on a Friday—my best friend and I will be watching with multiple bottles of champagne.

Here’s to happily ever after.


Wedding rings image courtesy of davidcwong via Flickr; William and Kate official engagement photo copyright 2010 by Mario Testino.

[1] The late queen mother was also a commoner. The fact that Prince Albert, later George V, was free to marry her was considered a sign of modernization in 1923. But they married before Albert’s older brother abdicated, so at the time no one was expecting Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to become queen.

[2] Ernest, duke of Cumberland, later king of Hanover. He probably killed his valet as well.


Kinsey W. Holley can be found at her own website, is published with, is at Twitter @kinseyholley and blogs at

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
It's interesting, isn't it, how much flak Will and Kate have gotten for just now getting engaged? If they were anyone else, it wouldn't be a big deal at all. Personally, I think that shows a lot of maturity. They took the time to get to know each other and to allow Kate time to really consider whether she could handle life as a royal. If only Diana had understood what she was getting into so well.

Thanks for all the interesting tidbits, Kinsey! I had no idea Charles had proposed to his second cousin first or that Kate's great-great grandfather was a coal miner (makes me like her more, even though it's nothing really to do with her as a person--she's just so REAL).
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
He's redeemed himself with his environmental efforts, but I still think Charles is a turd.

"'Whatever ‘in love’ is,” said Charles after a long pause."

Susan Persons
3. Susan Persons
I love this article!!! Thanks soooooo much for the interesting made my morning! I've always been a little obsessed with the British royals....fascinating history!! Let's just hope that William and Kate can live up to their limitless potential....
Susan Persons
4. Lady Parr
Technically the Queen Mother was aristocracy, being the daughter of an Earl -- she had the title of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She descended from quite a few Kings of England, nobility, and her family is one of the oldest in the aristocracy in Scotland.
Edward VIII -- calling him a Nazi-sympathizer is kind of harsh don't you think?
They went in 1937. There were no gas chambers in 1937. The 'final solution' holocaust, largely via gas chambers came into effect in 1943. Prior to that time, exterminations in concentration camps were carried out in other murderous ways. The murders in the concentration camps were started in 1942. So, when Wallis and David visited Hitler in 1937, it was a year after the very successful Olympics, two years before the start of the war, and during the period that England was cow-towing to Hitler. People in Germany were desperate because they had lost so much and Hilter provided them with hope somehow. If you weren't alive in those times and in Germany I don't expect you to understand. I'm tired of hearing the Duke and Duchess's of Windsor names being dragged through the mud. Without the Duchess of Windsor there would have been no "royal wedding" in April.. it would have been just another prince of the UK and people wouldn't have cared as much. So you can thank The Duchess for that at least.
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