Monday September 1st 2014

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‘Herr’ Comes the Bride

Julie Paporello ’12 and Brit Felsen-Parsons ’12

This past spring, the British royal wedding was all anyone was talking about. From the wedding gown to the cake, the guests to the reception, every little detail was obsessed over by millions around the globe, and their wedding ceremony was watched by over a billion people worldwide. Less well-known is the fact that in late August, Germany had its own ‘royal’ wedding. Prince Georg Friedrich Ferdinand of Prussia married Princess Sophie of Isenburg, though both are not official royalty, as the German monarchy ended more than 90 years ago. Germany, nonetheless, hailed the affair as its own royal wedding, even though global enthusiasm for the event was significantly less than that for Will and Kate’s nuptials.  To make up for America’s (and even Europe’s) lack of interest, here is a tribute to, and evaluation of, the German royal wedding.

Photo courtesy of http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/

            The wedding ceremony itself was held on August 27 in a church in Potsdam, just outside Berlin. Because of the couple’s different religious beliefs, the ceremony was ecumenical, but remained just as special. Decorated in blue and white with delphiniums, the ceremony complimented beautifully their personalities while keeping the event traditional.

This wedding has been hailed as the grandest wedding since Princess Marie Cecile of Prussia’s wedding in 1965; in accordance with the pomp and circumstance of the event, the newlyweds were driven by a horse-drawn carriage to the reception: a ‘royal’ ball in the Orangery Palace.

Most of the attention given to the wedding revolved around the fashion of the event. Princess Sophie’s dress was designed by Wolfgang Joop, a popular German fashion designer, while her diamond tiara was a family heirloom. The princess’ matching diamond earrings were her only other accessories. However, it wasn’t Sophie’s dress that sparked the most interest: it was the couple’s guests, many of whom arrived in outrageous outfits, including a bright red suit, a dress reminiscent of the Red Hatters, and even hats that outdid those of the British royal wedding!

Some of the most noteworthy fashion faux-pas at the wedding ceremony.

Photo courtesy of http://www.ibtimes.com/

            The wedding was broadcast live on German television, and brought about mixed reactions. Although it sparked a new interest in the German ‘royalty’ (not a very accurate term to describe the state of the now-defunct crown, since both the ‘prince’ and ‘princess’ are business graduates and have no political clout), this reminder of the aristocracy that was supposedly removed nearly a century ago (and the Nazi era that the aristocracy is associated with in popular memory) still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many Germans, as well as viewers around the world.  Some even asked, in light of the considerable cost of this wedding, paid from the coffers of the extremely wealthy families of the bride and groom, whether a plutocracy still exists in Germany.  Here lies the similarity between the two seemingly disparate royal weddings of 2011: in both cases, there are those who say that while both in Germany, where the monarchy has been abolished, and in Great Britain, where the monarchy is a figurehead, it is unjust that these ‘royal’ families still hold enormous wealth.

It seems that it is safe to say that the British royal wedding captivated American viewers more than its German parallel both because of the shared history of the United States and Great Britain and the fairytale nature of Will and Kate’s relationship. (It may also be because the German groom bears a resemblance to Batman’s The Penguin.)  However, in the cases of both Great Britain and Germany, it is clear that while the country is no longer ruled by a king, the wealth of the aristocracy remains a sensitive subject.  Only time will tell what further changes will be wrought upon the vestiges of royalty in Europe, and the extant class divide.