Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
In the wake of a recent startling speech about Kate Middleton, given by writer Hilary Mantel, in which she harshly described the Duchess of Cambridge as a “plastic princess designed to breed,” I began to think about the British monarchy, its meaning in the modern world, and just why Mantel’s lecture upset so many.
The Royal family certainly don’t rule the nation as they once did, and they are by no means in charge of a great empire as in glory days of old. Despite this lack of power and authority, they still hold the titles of prince and princess, king and queen, and arguably live in more luxury and adoration without the weight of leading a nation to battle, the possibility of their heads being chopped off, or any other unsightly consequences of being an unpopular or weak monarch (hung, drawn, and quartered anyone?!).
So what are the royals? What do they represent? I think they probably mean something a little different to all of us, but to me the notion of a royal is quite simply fantastical and escapist–and sometimes I like to daydream! The British people are entitled to their own gripes, from tax paying to political issues, with the royal family, but the rest of world gets to enjoy them without their costly burdens. I began wondering just why we are so in awe of Kate, so eager to see her maternity style, her parenting tactics, and so horribly offended by the label “plastic princess.” Will she breastfeed? we wonder. Have a nanny, and how many? Will she retreat from the public eye? How will she compare to Diana? The questions are endless and for some reason each is just as fascinating as the next.
I think the idea of even a modern-day fairy tale and a princess still having the same concerns, the same considerations as you and me, is comforting. She, too, will after all experience “mommy guilt,” and it will be just as anxiety-provoking for her as it is for us. She, too, may need that calming glass of wine, a good chat with her girlfriends, a few moments to herself locked away in the bathroom, just like the rest of us. She is, after all, human!
And so while she fulfills that little-girl fantasy inside of us, the possibility of becoming a princess, Kate Middleton is also entirely relatable as a new wife and as a mom-to-be, and this simply feels good to those of us watching. It is not a combination we often get to enjoy: princess meets real life. She is a vehicle for our dreams and our everyday woes. So when someone tries to strip her down, we protect her, because we are protecting our dreams and perhaps even more importantly, we are protecting another mom. I don’t see what can possibly be wrong about that!