Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton, the woman of the hour, will marry Great Britain's Prince William tomorrow in a spectacular wedding that has that portion of the world that cares about these things in a perfect tizzy.

Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton

Kate was born at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, Berkshire, England, on Jan. 9, 1982. Her father, Michael, was a pilot and her mother, Carole, was a flight attendant when they met.

The Middletons went on to make a fortune with their own mail-order party-goods company, and that allowed them to send Kate and her two siblings to the kind of schools that have made it possible to imagine Catherine, as she is now officially called, handling the role of the future Queen of England.

Kate and William met at one of those schools, University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

The romance between Prince William and Kate, a commoner, is a charming story of two college students whose friendship grew over a decade into love.

But their marriage may say more about lessons learned inside Buckingham Palace than about any real freedom members of the royal family have gained in choosing whom to marry.

In 1772, King George III, disgusted with what he deemed the inappropriate marriages two of his brothers had made to commoners, insisted that Parliament pass the Royal Marriages Act, a complicated tangle of regulations that boil down to the fact that the reigning monarch must approve royals' prospective mates.

It was the ultimate meddling in children's lives, and it was the law.

It still is. Queen Elizabeth gave her consent to William and Catherine's marriage on Feb. 9.

The Royal Marriages Act has caused no end of heartache and drama over the centuries, in recent history with the abdication of King Edward VIII to marry the divorced American Wallis Warfield Simpson, Princess Margaret's reluctant breakup with her dashing Capt. Peter Townsend, and Prince Charles's marriage to Princess Diana rather than to his longtime love and present wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

But tomorrow is about two people who really seem to love each other pledging to remain together forever — with a whole lot of fancy trimmings.

Enjoy the show!

Childbed fever

"There is not a corner in Britain where this formidable disease has not made many mourners,”  John Mackintosh, an Edinburgh, Scotland "man-midwife" wrote of puerperal or "childbed" fever in the 1820s.

This bacterial disease of the upper genital tract typically began within the first three days after childbirth with abdominal pain, fever and respiratory difficulty, and very often ended with the new mother's death.

Medical writers had been remarking on childbed fever at least since Hippocrates, but in the early modern era, it began to attract attention for a number of reasons. For one, it began to appear in epidemics, with very high mortality rates. For another, accounts of outbreaks were written about and published. And at least some of the new, scientific man-midwives themselves were spreading the disease by going straight from autopsies to the birth chambers of homes and especially of hospitals, without cleaning up at all in between.

There were terrible epidemics of puerperal fever in the German city of Leipzig  in 1652 and 1665, at the Hôtel Dieu in Paris, France, in 1745 and 1746, and at the British Lying-In Hospital in London, England, in 1760. It is possible that these were the first ever epidemics of childbed fever.