What is so hard about W-A-L-E-S? It’s not just the princes-of who give students problems. For years I incorporated a lot of Dylan Thomas’ writings into my first-year literature course, and over and over I corrected such sentences as “He and his wife roared from pup to pup in Whales” (bizarre in every way!) and “Holbrook makes the point that the village in Under Milk Wood bears no resemblance to modern whales.” (I get a sudden vision of Noah as the mayor of a town there in his non-modern whale.)
Well, back to this woman who married leviathan royalty. Here’s the rest:
“Before she married the Prince of Whales, she was a charming Englishwoman who had the passion to help and care for others….For the first time in 300 years, an Englishwoman was to marry an heir to the throne!”
The first sentence tempts us to expect a fairytale about a woman who fell in love with a whale and was turned into a mermaid (or something) to marry him. Such stories abound. But, as is suggested by the end of the first sentence, we’re talking about Diana here. Poor Charles resembles a whale in no discernible way but clearly fell for her charm.
The second sentence must have added nothing to the experience of the passage, because I elided it when recording this Horror—it did not, for instance, make a connection between “Englishwoman” and “commoner.” I’m sure my student meant the exclamation point to express enthusiasm or joy either that Charles and Diana were marrying or that Charles was marrying a non-titled young lady. But for me, the exclamation point echoes my own astonishment that every previous monarch or heir to the throne of England had married someone other than an Englishwoman. Now, foreign marriages were arranged from time to time, to establish or cement an alliance or tighten a multinational family tie; but I’m sure that over the course of 300 years some royal marriages were domestic. I can name names.
Well, in a country ruled by aquatic mammals, marriage of the head of state to a lady of the land (literally) would be a matter for exclamation.