Dr. Natalia Nowakowska is a Tutor & Lecturer in Early Modern History at Somerville College, University of Oxford.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Royal Weddings: Puppets and Songs

Royal wedding memorabilia, Munich
Photo by Georgenell
For those who enjoyed the pageantry of the British royal wedding last week, those ceremonies put me in mind of some celebrated Renaissance matrimonial festivities. Supposedly the most lavish wedding of the 15C took place in 1475 in Landshut, Bavaria, when George of Bavaria married Princess Jadwiga of Poland. On that occasion, the crowned heads of Europe and their representatives were in attendance, 40,000 chickens were eaten at the wedding banquet, and there was allegedly a free bar in all the taverns of the town, underwritten by the duke. The event made such an impression on the locals that it is still re-enacted every 4-5 years in Landshut, in a major pageant with a cast of thousands (Landshut wedding). In Munich’s main Marienplatz, meanwhile, you can see the famous Rathaus Glockenspiel, an early 20C mechanical clock in which, 2-3 times a day, over thirty little coloured figures re-enact the marriage ceremonies and jousts of another celebrated Bavarian wedding, that of Duke Wilhelm V and Renata, in 1568. Let’s see if Kate/Catherine and William’s big day inspires similar cultural feats.

And for those of a more republican persuasion, a different thought – I was slightly surprised by the choice of William Blake’s Jerusalem as the final hymn of the wedding ceremony. Blake’s poem was printed in 1810/11, as the preface to his epic work Milton, but set to music by John Parry in 1916. On the face of it, Jerusalem provides a rousing vision of a better England, and as such has become a general patriotic favourite. Nonetheless, I always thought this was also a specifically socialist or radical anthem, providing the slogan for the Labour Party’s celebrated 1945 election campaign, regularly sung at Labour party conferences, and penned of course by Blake - poet, artist, mystic and keen admirer of the French Revolution, who was known to go about London wearing the revolutionary red cap. So, perhaps a moment of accidental subversion in Westminster Abbey?

No comments:

Post a Comment