Christianity in 10 objects
This very traditional looking document was only made in 2011. It is the marriage licence that was created for Prince William and Catherine Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, giving them permission to get married in Westminster Abbey. This was the most recent royal wedding at the Abbey, but the first recorded royal wedding happened over 900 years ago. Usually marriage licences are plain documents, but this licence for the royal wedding has a beautiful illuminated floral border.
This document was created for William and Catherine’s special day, so why can we see Rowan Douglas in large letters? At the time, Dr Rowan Douglas Williams was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most important bishop in the Church of England, and he was asked to issue the licence by the Queen. As this was a royal wedding, and Prince William is the Queen’s grandson, the Queen had to give her permission. Can you spot the reference to Queen Elizabeth II?
Whether a royal wedding or not, marriage in a Christian church is a promise in the presence of God, to be with the one person you love for the rest of your lives. Many churches believe marriage is a sacrament, a particularly special sign of God’s love. Christianity teaches that a married couple should love and support each other in good times and bad. You might have heard some of the Christian wedding vows, including “for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health”. Written for the wedding day, the licence is an official document and it represents the very beginning of a Christian marriage.
Visit the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries to see Prince William and Catherine Middleton's marriage licence, and many more objects, in real life. High above the Abbey floor, come face to face with the Abbey’s greatest treasures covering over 1,000 years of faith and history. Along with worship, examine objects that teach us about the building of Westminster Abbey, its role in national memory and its relationship with royalty.
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At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.