Walking through Westminster Abbey in Central London is something like shouldering your way through a very crowded, very solemn assembly of famous people; their names whispered in stone, rising from floors to ricochet off cathedral ceilings. On our fourth day in England, Dale stood and cried at the foot of Handel’s grave while I sat in a stupor beside Austen, Bronte’, Dickens, and Shakespeare. Together, we gazed up at fallen soldiers and then bent over scientists and statesmen. Weaving our way through this host of monumental human beings inspired and trivialized us. Where do we fit in? Of what value are we to our fellow man?
Shakespeare wrote: “…some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” I think perhaps the truly “great” come to it through a fateful combination of all three. Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, for instance, was ‘born’ in line and ‘thrust’ into place at only eighteen. However, her ‘accomplished’ greatness came after she married -- and subsequently made a real partner of -- a man whose name became synonymous with hers: Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel or, as officially titled, Prince Consort Albert. Their reign and romance are considered a zenith in Great Britain history and their love affair makes becoming a queen seem a doable, if not an envious objective, if a man such as Albert can be your partner.
Victoria died nearly forty years after her beloved. She was England’s longest reining royal and the most commemorated, and among the most prolific: her posterity serve in monarchies from one corner of Europe to another: yet all she asked for was to be buried beside Albert, dressed in white, wearing her wedding veil instead of her crown.
Their story haunted me our whole thirteen months in England. I sensed Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in England’s most elegant places--tangible and imagined; exemplifying this sweet truth: that the essence of a virtuous romance can be felt everywhere and for eons to come; that its beauty and solidarity will affect all who come to know it, as well as all who descend from it; and that the world needs, even craves, mature, splendid marriages--for authentic lovers give the rest of us courage to live through, and up to, our promises.
Holding Dale’s hand as we exited the Abbey, I began to muse how he and I will never be important anybody-s in this life, not by these standards. No ornate crypts or elaborate epitaphs for us. And yet, if a woman can adore her husband with all of her heart, and inspire him in turn, to adore her with all of his (and visa-versa); if together they can nurture that devotion through grand and grievous days until they are lain down with age; is that not one of life’s greatest attainments?
Mona muses every Sunday at Mona's Gospel Musings and preaches romance in marriage at Mona's Musings with a Hint of Romance. She is the mother of four plus three and grandmother of two and the award-winning author or With Mine Own Hand: The Musical Account of Nephi. For a daily Hint of Romance, go to Mona's Musings on Facebook.
Photos of Victoria: Dreamstime