by Dr. Kenneth W. Regan, 3/15/11, published 4/27/11 and posted here 1/10/12

The British Embassy in the US planned a blog to mark Bill and Kate's Royal Wedding during April 2011. In February 2011 they invited Marshall Scholars from the Charles and Diana years to submit short pieces connecting the two Royal Weddings, comparing social conditions then and now, and telling their stories. Mine was posted by them on April 27, and remained on their website until late November. I am told it may reappear in an online version of the British National Archives. Permission to use real names was granted by those named, my thanks!

In 1981, romance to me was a feature of the big wide world, and had come personally to me no closer than "soulmates". I had already visited Oxford the summer before applying for my Marshall Scholarship, and had even met my doctoral advisor-to-be, Dominic J.A. Welsh of Merton College. There he whispered to me, "Complexity", in a way different from how I'd heard of this theory before, and this is still my vocation as tenured faculty in Computer Science at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). The spires beckoned "Simplicity": pen-on-paper and college residence and fewer vicissitudes of grad-courses and forms and apartments and TA-ing. The bells chimed unobstructed creative ideas, and tongues sang in accents, all to me romance.

As the year struck winter break, I heard Marshall first waitlist then offer. This put a charge into my Princeton senior thesis work in Mathematics, and set my sights and service across an ocean. Having soulmates-only freed my spirit while working at my Princeton club, Quadrangle, for I had one and several there. The one, Marianne Sanua of the class after mine, shared my passion for Broadway musicals, a tradition of seeing one per year we kept long even into my Oxford years. The several included Jennifer Georgia and her husband-to-be Maury Peiperl. I could name many more in my club, as we were small and close-knit without cliques. And part of what bound us was romance writ large, of the much-whispered gaunt Prince and a blushing commoner younger than we.

Dresses and tresses and designs and graces and protocol, custom, and old-borrowed-blue, Jenny knew them all, because she assisted a major advice column. And she planned a great party to ring in the day, July 29th, at her Maryland home. Graduation took me up to my parents' in Northern New Jersey, closing the door to my childhood but not to my friends. With their communion I made my own party, on my father's birthday, but him gone to work and my mother and siblings not up at 6:20am. I was on time but Diana not quite, and I thought she would burst her carriage with yards of foaming train. I phoned "Marianne, did you see that?", and a half-stifled yawn said who is this boy, crashing our henhouse from miles away? The twiddled names brought another call, with peals of astonishment crackling the line. The cake and the singing we shared, well I had an English muffin with jam. Of course, as a Marshall I was the one going to the after-event party.

When I arrived it was great as it promised. I had run Princeton's street hockey club, so I tried field hockey---and jamming the queer stick cracking a rib did not stop me shopping for music. Or trying out rowing as Britain's new couple brought vibes beyond Thatcher's austerity. There was one Catholics-not-welcome mat, but I simply stepped on it and it was gone the next week, so Christian fellowship in my college was mine and for many of all the churches all my years there. Pen-and-paper gave way to a math-typesetting system I championed, which produced 20 theses before mine finally weighed in at 400 pages.

Yet I never did know Charles and Diana's kind of romance during term-time at Oxford. My one local girlfriend had a job to the south by the time we embraced, and the music of her many Euro nations gave way to discord too soon after. Helped into a choir by her previous boyfriend, on performance night in the last June term week, I let the accents fade and prayed to hear an American voice. In seconds I heard one, and a strange whispered pickup line followed her onto the risers. But it brought Debbie back to me after the concert, and back to my kitchen, and into my heart though back to America for good the next weekend. With a year-plus to go I subsisted on letters and 50-pence pieces chunked into phones for some minutes of voice.

What happens to Romance now with e-mail and cell-phones and Skype? Are we too hector-connected to pause and let Britain be Britain removed from the world, to breathe and whisper and hear and let romance build? Must William and Kate splash our screens not our hearts? Did Charles and Diana themselves kill it? Raising a family as they drifted apart, Debbie and I were too busy to ask. But using this world now to re-connect with old friends, and sending this essay, I can affirm: Let us believe. Marianne did, and Jenny as her Matron of Honor, in their own wedding party, two years ago.