Of the lakes of ink that have been devoted to the recent royal wedding some of the most thoughtful pieces have been in regard to what this seemingly most modern of relationships will mean for the future of the British monarchy and what it might mean for British society. It is fair to say that times have changed, it is not so very long ago that a member of the royal family marrying an American divorcee prompted a constitutional crisis. Happily such obstacles have not stood in the way of this particular union although the early reporting of the relationship showed the less impressive elements of the British press.
Even the most ardent of republicans seemed to be interested in what took place in Windsor last weekend. It was a royal wedding that differed from those that had gone before. Whilst it was undeniably British with the soldiers wearing distinctive uniforms, reams of flag waving supporters and seasonal flower arrangements picked from the Royal Parks, there were elements that were less expected. A Gospel Choir and a charismatic bishop promising to “get y’all married” to name but a couple. So will the marriage of Meghan and Harry fundamentally change the UK? Probably not. Is this a useful opportunity for Britain to reflect on what it means to be British? Undeniably. One sunny day in May will not change a nation, nor will it heal all the problems that the UK (like any nation) faces but it gives us a pause for reflection.
A couple of years ago, schools in the UK and British schools overseas were obliged to ensure that through the curriculum Fundamental British Values (FBV) were being taught. The concept of FBV is one that schools have spent much time considering. As a history teacher I am well aware that the UK has, at times, been involved in activities that now seem deeply troubling. It has been in the vanguard of the defence of liberty and championing of freedom. How history, tradition and thought is distilled into a few convenient value statements will I suspect be a source of debate for years to come.
If our school is to understand what FBV might be then we could do worse than look at some of the examples we saw last Saturday. There was an emphasis that the newlyweds are keen to be inclusive, they support the concept of service, speak out for those less fortunate and give of their time to help others. They have both championed educational causes, mental health organisations and have called for opportunities for all. Whilst Harry comes from one of the most privileged families in the world and Meghan is a successful actor they have both faced their fair share of challenges. They are resilient. They have an international outlook and like most things that are paraded as being British, they are in fact a coming together of culture, influences and traditions. It remains to be seen if with the increasing demands of public life they will change. The young people in this school are proud to share some of these admirable qualities. FBV in fact might not be a challenge to teach or indeed to define.