Thursday, 28 April 2011

He's a Keeper!

I have to admit that I am not a keen follower of Royal Weddings, but news of a slight change to the marriage vows in the service got me interested.

Apparently, Kate is not going to promise to obey William (no surprise there) but instead she is going to promise 'keep him'.

Is this a new liturgical expression that has found its way into the Church of England's biggest wedding of the year?  And what does it mean?  Is Kate promising to 'keep him' in the style to which he has become accustomed?  I think that highly unlikely - as heir to the throne, surely it will be him 'keeping her' in the manner to which he is accustomed!

The word, of course, is not new - it appears in the 1662 Prayer Book where it is the groom who promises to "love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her".

Does that mean that they will be both be making the same promises to each other?  For goodness sake, I hope so!  The alternative, in the traditional language of the Prayer Book would have been for her to "obey him, and serve him, love, honour and keep him" which is a bit of a non-starter if you want an equal marriage.

Equal promises are the foundation of modern marriage vows, which see marriage as a partnership of equals, rather than a hierarchy of obedience.

But there are those for whom this concept is sacrilege!  Women must 'obey' their men at all costs or else the whole fabric of the universe will be torn - God will be upset - and society is doomed to marital anarchy!  (There have been more than a few such comments on the newspaper blogs already - see the comments on the Daily Mail article if you don't believe me)

At the end of the day, I am delighted that Kate is going to promise to 'keep' William, and I hope that he is going to promise to 'keep' her.  After all, that is a part of marriage which is all too often overlooked as people give up when the going gets tough, or when the temptation comes to trade your old spouse in for a newer model.

I looked for a definition for "He's a keeper" on the internet, just in case some people wouldn't get the play on words.

I could only find one for "She's a keeper!"  which went as follows...

"It means that he should keep her, and never lose her. She is a jewel."

I hope you are listening William!


  1. Congratulations to William and Kate - they did make the same vows to each other!

  2. I was surprised by how fitting using the 1928 Marriage service was in this particular context, including the first stated purpose of marriage being about procreation. As someone in direct line to the throne the duty to get on with producing the 'heir and the spare' does have special significance. I'm hoping there's not now going to be a fashion for couples planning C; of E. weddings to request 'the old service like the Royal Wedding'.

  3. Hi Nancy - I think you are right that there will probably be a rush of couples asking for BCP or 1928 - although I think it will probably be short lived.
    It is a bit of a shame as so much thought went into a more modern theology of marriage in Common Worship.

  4. I wondered what "keep" meant here as well! I assume it means "keep" rather than "let go", or it could mean "emotionally support", as in keep someone in your heart( rather than "financially support".) It might mean she will keep him in order and under control of course? :)

  5. @Suem 'Keep him under control...'?

    Perhpas William should have promised to obey her? (Only joking!)