Julie Burchill On Virginity And Royal Weddings

21/04/2011 10:12 | Updated 22 May 2015

Several features will distinguish the wedding of Kate Middleton from that of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer, and all of them are pleasant. The groom won't look like the bride's dad. The groom's mistress won't be keeping an eye on proceedings from the cheap seats. But most of all, there has been no vile perving over the existence or not of the bride's virginity, as was the case with the groom's mother as recently as the 1980s.

It's hard to believe now that in the decade which saw Mrs Thatcher rule the roost over a quaking nation that a 20-year-old woman's sexual innocence - or ignorance - was treated as some sort of prize above rubies. Not only were there rumours that the royal gynaecologist had certified Diana as a virgin bride, but her uncle, Lord Fermoy, saw fit to pronounce 'Diana, I can assure you, has never had a lover' to a somewhat bemused press conference. Add to this that her embarrassing father announced at the time of her birth that she was 'a perfect physical specimen' and it's a wonder that the elders of her family didn't lead her up the aisle with a ring in her nose and a bow around her neck.

It shouldn't have mattered one jot; this was a woman who would turn out to have abounding gifts of compassion, sensitivity and great gams. Her virginity was the least interesting thing about her - less of an accomplishment than her Best-Kept Hamster Award from schooldays. But it DID matter quite a lot to the reactionary, unintelligent Prince Charles to marry a virgin (who would have nothing to compare his rubbish sexual performance with, perhaps?) rather than the woman he was in love with - Camilla Shand - who had been round the block a few times. The rest is history - and heartache. As we see to this day in many Muslim countries, the prizing of female virginity is a mark of ignorance and of a lack of respect for human rights and dignity which all too often leads to the death of women found lacking in it - even if they are rape victims. In Diana, it was the presence rather than absence of virginity which would spark a tragedy and a death. And it WAS all her false-hearted, tradition-observing bridegroom's fault.

Monarchy and marriage are similar. They pertain to be all about spiritual and high-flown emotions and ideals, but they are both very primitive. Monarchies like to think that they are anointed by the Lord, but in fact they owe their elevated positions solely to the fact that way back in the day, they had ancestors who fought dirtier and harder than anyone else.

Similarly marriage is spoken of as a holy covenant sanctified by the Lord, but really it has more to do with dogs marking their territory. Personally, I love getting married and have done it three times; you get sex on tap with someone you fancy, and someone to go home from parties with and make fun of everyone else. What's not to like? But white weddings, and being given away from one man to another, are so primitive they're pervy - no matter how much satin and lace you may dress it up in.

But...what the heck. They're young and unobjectionable and hopefully the groom has more of his mother than his father in him. If so, there will finally be a happy ending. If not, Diana will continue to be the bride at every royal funeral and the the mourner at every royal wedding, from here to eternity, unhappily ever after.


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