In 1533, King Henry VIII of the United Kingdom was excommunicated by the Pope. This development led to the creation of the Church of England with the King of the United Kingdom as head of the Church. The Church of England considered itself separate from the Roman Catholic Church. Ironically, one member of the Royal Family of England did marry in Catholic Rites in 2006 – this was a first time since the Reformation initiated by Luther that a member of the British Royal Family has been able to marry in Catholic Rites.
The British Loyal family member in question is Lord Nicholas Windsor (who happens to have the Prince of Wales as his godfather) who chose to wed a member of the Croatian aristocracy Donna Paola Doimi de Frankopan in the Vatican itself. To make the wedding more of a milestone, the Queen of England gave her permission for the wedding to push through. Because Lord Nicholas converted to the Catholic faith in 2001, he is no longer part of the line of succession to the British throne.
One reason for the Lord Nicholas’ conversion is the conversion of his own mother who is the Duchess of Kent to the Catholic faith. Still, permission from the Sovereign of England was necessary for the wedding to be smooth sailing. The wedding is now considered legal even by the laws of England.
Lord Nicholas is now known as a pious member of the Catholic faith. He was one of the multitude of devout Catholics who was able to pay their respects to the late Pope John Paul II upon his demise. Along with his wife Paola, Lord Nicholas has been observed to regularly attend Mass at Brompton Oratory and Westminster Cathedral.
One reason that it has taken hundreds of years before a Catholic member of the British Loyal family has been able to visit the Vatican for marriage rites is the distance between England and the Vatican City in Rome, Italy. The mode of transport in previous years is not the same as the mode of transport in recent years. Also, Catholics were not as tolerated by the Church of England as they are now. Having a member of the Royal Family of England marry in Catholic rites would have been unthinkable as recently as 100 years ago. This is just a sign of how times have changed and how religious tolerance has spread even in the United Kingdom.
The separation of the Church of England from the authority of the Papal See was a historic life-changing event not just for Henry VIII but for the citizens of England as well. This marriage between Lord Nicholas Windsor and aristocrat Paola of Croatia should also set a life-changing precedent for other members of the Royal Family of England who might want to convert from the Anglican faith to Catholicism. Who knows, maybe another member of the line of succession of the UK will choose to marry within Vatican City too in the near future.