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William and Kate 300

Lavish royal weddings, like the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, may have their roots in the fourteenth century's Wars of the Roses, says U of M English professor John Watkins. Image courtesy Creative Commons.

High-profile royal weddings date back to the Wars of the Roses, U of M expert says

April 5, 2011

Not a day seems to go by without new details on the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at the end of April. Have royal weddings always been such high-profile social affairs? A University of Minnesota expert on British history and culture who can provide insight is:

John Watkins, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts

Watkins says that by the fourteenth century’s Wars of the Roses, when rival claimants to the throne tried to bolster their claims by high-profile marriages, lavish weddings advertised kingly power.

“They occasioned lavish feasting, masques, poetry and the all-important procession through the City of London,” Watkins says. “The citizens would stage elaborate displays and short skits celebrating the wedding.” By modern standards, of course, a Tudor parade through London might look pretty low-budget. But it meant a lot to onlookers, Watkins says.

By the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, weddings to a foreign princess sealed important treaties and alliances, Watkins says. “They took months and often years to negotiate and arrange.”

Watkins says the glamour was always there. “Of course the explosion of national wealth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries meant you could really go over the top.”

Watkins’ teaching and research interests include historiography; sovereignty and queenship; medieval and early modern diplomacy; pre-modern political culture; and classical and medieval origins of the Renaissance.

To interview Watkins, contact Jeff Falk at (612) 626-1720 or; or Tessa Eagan at (612) 625-3781 or

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