So, something that I wasn’t exactly concerned by or interested in over the last 8 or so years of good Prince Wills and Kate Middleton’s acquaintance has happened. They’re getting married. As a matter of fact, after vaguely being made aware by the background noise of the TV during my A-Levels that Wills had met a normal girl and they were going out, I never thought about it again. Last night, we had to wait a whole extra 10 mins for the concluding episode of Lip Service because ‘the’ interview was being aired. Although the entire affair was played out in what can only be described as cringeworthy discomfort, it certainly went some way to warming me to them both; indeed, this was the first time I’d heard either of them speak.
I’m not a royalist. I’m not NOT a royalist. To me, the Royal family is one of those institutions that just – is, like that Heinz soup advert (“it has to be...”), like Tetley tea, like The Radio Times. I don’t drink tea, or read The Radio Times, but I still have difficulty imagining a world without them; I’ve known them all my life. Not that I don’t thoroughly enjoy and throw myself into a bit of controversy and challenge at times – I have VERY strong feelings about the University funding cuts at the moment, and I do remember having some vaguely treasonous feelings about the Royal tax scandal some years back. Do I even use a capital in ‘Royal’? I don’t use a capital writing god, because I don’t believe in god – what should I do considering my fundamental apathy towards ’Royal’?!. Anyway, whatever it says about me (and most of the people I know), my experience of and interest in Royalty has been pretty much limited to dramas and documentaries charting the births, deaths, rises and falls of the top dogs from c.1200 – 1900. I know they have a lot of money, I know they swan about various castles and palaces in the UK, I know that they also swan about doing various bits of charitable work – well, that’s more Charlie’s bag – Lizzie tends to favour opening things and standing about whilst the ‘perfect’ screen shot of the little commoner handing her a posy of flowers is arranged.
I did watch Ch 4’s docu-drama ‘The Queen’, but only because Helen Mirren was in it, and because I’d pretty much exhausted the entirety of 4OD’s ‘History’ section and was scraping the bottom of the docu-barrel one rainy Tuesday afternoon. Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed it, and not just because HRH Mirren was in it. It provided a balanced, non-committal portrayal of Lizzie, spanning the entire course of her ‘rule’ (if it can be called that in this day and age) from young woman till near on the present day. It navigated the mine field of the Diana debacle and Lizzie’s public and private reaction with a tremendous amount of sensitivity. Though there was, of course, a large amount of conjecture involved in the various depictions of the Queen’s feelings, failings and emotional vivacity, the drama managed somehow to satisfy both viewpoints expressed in the wake of the death of the century (Lizzie the Di-hater and possible murder-setter-upper and Lizzie the helpless mother in the constant and difficult glare of the media). Whatever actually went on, one thing is certain: The affair tarnished the reputation and a lot of people’s illusion of the Royal family irreparably.
This, naturally, is why young Wills’ choice of wife is SO important. He is the eldest son of the consummate people’s princess, the ultimate idol, whose death no doubt provoked the most zealous public reaction since that of the French when Marie Antoinette told them to eat cake. Kate, then, has huge shoes to fill. Wills knows this – he’s given her his Mum’s engagement ring! “My way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today”, he professed. You’d better have made the right decision, Wills, or else the survivors of the pro/anti royalism bloodbath the announcement appears to have sparked will be baying after your blood!
So, what of the blushing bride-to-be? Kate, hailing from West Berkshire (tally ho!) is, for the moment, the darling of the press, championed as ‘normal’ and a ‘commoner’. How lovely for her. Most of us who have done any kind of research into her background would beg to disagree. Kate’s parents, owners of an internet children’s party paraphernalia empire that turns over millions every year, appear to be self-made, and good on them. Kate and her two siblings, however, have been entitled by the toil of their parents to attend the prestigious Marlborough College for their secondary education, and Kate was recently bought a flat of her own. In Chelsea. Kate may well technically be a commoner (she isn’t a European Princess, though she kind of looks like one), but a lot of us really wish the media wouldn’t insist on shoving a non-existent Cinderella story down our throats. By the same token, just because Kate is a rich kid doesn’t mean she might not be a thoroughly nice girl. Quite a few of my Uni friends fall into precisely the same category into which some would put Kate, and I currently have £15.67 to my name. They are amazing friends.
Kate Middleton seemed lovely in last night’s interview despite her ‘it could only be public school – she’s no commoner’ accent. Wearing a beautiful blue dress, her silky perfect nutbrown hair falling perfectly round her annoyingly perfect face, her evident discomfort at the whole situation was perfectly sweet. Every girl in the kingdom wants to hate her, but I very much doubt many could having seen her onscreen last night. Her evident slightly ‘rabbit in headlights’ sense of the enormity of the whole affair and sheer terror of saying anything wrong were more appealing by far than any of her physical charms (she’s a little on the skinny side, bless her). We could clearly hear her heartbeat throughout! Frequent interjections of ‘you know’ and a number of ‘um’s characterise Kate’s ‘style’ when she did speak, though one got the distinct impression that she was only doing so at all because she had to say something and had been fiercely briefed beforehand to make it short and sweet. Also, jolly well done to her for maintaining composure when, asked about the proposal itself, Wills hilariously confessed “we had a little private time...I’d been planning it for a while, but as every guy out there will know, it takes a certain amount of motivation to get yourself going...I had done a little bit of planning to, you know, show my romantic side”. I’d have been on the FLOOR laughing at that phrasing, and would probably have blurted out some entirely inappropriate comment about the fact that the Eurotrash interview was next week, not now, causing the camera to be stopped and myself to be firmly chastised by the entire PR team of St James’ Palace. Bless her though, her every answer was suitably humble, measured in content and, dare I say it, a bit wishy-washy – but isn’t wishy-washy what the public wants? I’m tempted to make some controversial quip about tories here, but shan’t.
Wills himself was genial, refreshingly straight-talking (one can imagine he’s a hoot in private if this is all he’s allowed on camera) and looked at and studied Kate enough so as to effectively consolidate the real public sense that no matter what she is, he does hold her in the regard Diana never enjoyed from Charles, whose comment on the engagement was “They’ve been practicing long enough”. When one considers the historical necessity for intact maidenhood in Royal brides, this is as entertaining as Will’s cute blunder with his phrasing earlier. Randy old goat! Ewww! All in all, whatever stick either of them get from whatever quarter, Kate and Wills are just a young couple who certainly give a good impression of feeling something for each other (Wills professes himself “very happy”, in stark contrast to his father’s muttered “whatever love is” whilst being photographed for his engagement). They will have to live their marriage in the merciless and insatiable light of the media as they have had to live their courtship, and as Wills has had to live his entire life. He got a small taste of what it might mean not to have to be constantly on guard against the media barrage at University, where the couple met, and where so many other marital success stories are born. The transition has already started for Kate, and she is doing as well as can be expected of any normal girl, given the circumstances. So, those on the different sides Killing each other (my facebook has been going insane with heated discussion), just Wate, because Will and Kate might just work, not only for themselves, but also for the Royal family as a whole in repairing the reputation so badly blemished by the shambles that was Charles’ marriage with the people of this country.