22 November 2010

Some Royal Marriage Statistics

As Sesame Street might say, this post is brought to you by the number 7.

It’s a pretty unpleasant response to the announcement of a couple’s engagement to call them shallow, and predict that their marriage will last seven years. Given that the couple are Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the Bishop of Willesden (NW London), Peter Broadbent, should have expected a rough ride from the press for his remarks on Facebook. His opinions are not much worth considering, but I find the choice of seven years amusing. To us pedestrian techies seven is just one of the ten digits. But for those of a mystical turn of mind and who like to see some deeper spiritual or esoteric significance in numbers, 7 is a big deal, certainly fighting above its weight between 1 and 9. It must often be on the Bishop’s mind as he spreads the Christian message – sins, virtues, loaves, pillars etc, all coming in sevens. He might also be a Marilyn Monroe fan – she was, of course, the temptress in The Seven Year Itch.

By the way, it seems likely that Adelard of Bath (a town in SW England, the Roman Aquae Sulis), often regarded as the first English scientist, was the translator into Latin of a treatise on Arabic arithmetic by al-Khwarizmi (hence algorithm) and so brought the Arabic numerals to England, c1125AD.

Now for some stats. Since 1945 prominent members of the royal family have married for the first time on six occasions:
  • 20 Nov 1947 Princess Elizabeth m Philip Mountbatten
  • 6 May 1960 Princess Margaret m Antony Armstrong-Jones (divorced 11 July 78 )
  • 14 Nov 1973 Princess Anne m Mark Phillips (divorced 23 April 92)
  • 29 July 1981 Prince Charles m Diana Spencer (divorced 28 Aug 96)
  • 23 July 1986 Prince Andrew m Sarah Ferguson (divorced 30 May 96)
  • 19 June 1999 Prince Edward m Sophie Rhys-Jones
The four marriages which ended in divorce did so after 18.2, 18.4, 15.1 and 9.9 years respectively, not much support for a forecast of 7 years. But the Bishop might quote the only significant royal divorce prior to Princess Margaret’s. Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria, married Prince Ernest Louis of Hesse in 1894 and divorced him in 1901. Better still, on 9 April 1894 and 21 December 1901, so not just 7, but 7.7 years after! However, Victoria then remarried to her Russian first cousin, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, in 1905. Most of that marriage was spent in exile in France, but it lasted until her death in 1936, over 30 years later.

PS The Bishop has now admitted to “a major error of Judgement” and has apologised, just once so far!

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