There’s a Life&Style magazine around here (July 16, 2012) with the weirdest cover – apparently the Queen “humiliated” Kate by making her curtsey to William’s cousins, Fergie’s daughters. Do Americans not understand the concept of royal hierarchy? They are born royalty; she married in (plus she’s a commoner, hello? not that there’s anything wrong with that!). There is an order of precedence and the Queen didn’t invent it. I don’t think the Queen would stoop to thwart anyone, no matter how uppity she might privately think they’re getting, and it seems to me (not that I pay a lot of attention) that Kate is minding herself just fine. It’s not like she’s all, “I have to curtsey to these bitches?” No, Kate gets it. Hence no need to be put in her place, and the Queen doesn’t do that anyway. Not her style, darling. Plus I definitely get the feeling that the Palace Minions are in charge of that kind of thing and that the Queen doesn’t even notice who curtseys to whom as long as everyone curtseys to her. (I actually think Kate’s got a lot of leeway as the Queen is so scarred by the hijinks of Diana and Fergie that Kate could armpit-fart the national anthem in her underwear – sorry, knickers – and the Queen would be all, Whatever. Fergie set that bar LOW, god love her.)
Have we not figured out by now that the Queen is, above all, proper? She is all about duty and doing the right thing. Her entire raison d’etre rests upon convention and tradition and she’s holding up her end amazingly well. We don’t think she enjoys visiting endless hospitals and openings of new parks and whatnot, do we? That’s her job. And she didn’t get to choose it, either. Have you noticed she doesn’t even smile that much anymore? She’s tired! But she soldiers on. She may be one of the last monarchs who is truly fulfilling her role. She’s not going all eat-pray-love because she “doesn’t know how to be a royal”. Because she understands it’s not all about her. She understands that all that incredible privilege and status comes with a price. And she is paying that price, every day, in the most gracious way possible. May she live for ever.
I’m not even going to talk about Diana because she is at this point, essentially a saint. So you cannot be critical of the People’s Princess.
Ah, I’m going to anyway. I loved Diana too, but mostly because she did all that goofy stuff when she was younger. She was a member of the aristocracy but I think that the level of privilege she enjoyed growing up gave her a bit of a bulletproof attitude towards life. I used to live in England and let me tell you, nobody curses like the upper class. They are bulletproof and can get away with anything because of the poshness. It’s the working class that are all worried about manners and being genteel. So they’re all rigid and tense about it and chew you out if you forget to shake hands at the end of a round of golf. The upper classes are different – their manners are real, ingrained yet totally unobtrusive and are geared towards making everyone feel comfortable, as opposed to taking mean joy in pointing out other people’s errors. And they use the f-word a lot. A LOT. So Diana grew up totally entitled, everything she did was awesome – but when she fell under scrutiny and was also held to a higher standard (set by her mother-in-law) she had a wee bit of trouble. It’s ok to be all careless and upper-class and entitled if the world isn’t watching and judging, but marry into the royal family? Big leagues. I think Kate will do better as she isn’t posh except in the moneyed sense and if she ran with the posh crowd you can be sure they kept her down. Remember all that nonsense about her mother telling the Queen, “Nice to meet you.” Oh, Jesus wept! “Nice to meet you!” The horror. Quelle faux pas, n’est pas? I mean, seriously? I had that from English people too, when I lived in Malaysia so I feel for Mrs. Middleton. To this day, I say “How do you do?” because I don’t know if it’s nice to meet you yet, do I? Needless to say, it’s not the posh people who drummed this into me but the striving crowd terrified to set a foot wrong. They corrected me endlessly even though I explained to them that I was Canadian and therefore exempt from all their stupid rules and if I wanted to be all English I would signal it to them with a genteelly crooked little finger when I had my tea.
The tragedy of Diana is that by the time she finally understood the demands of public life, and the role she could potentially play on the world stage, her life was cut short, and that she truly didn’t grow as a person until she left the royal family and found her vocation as a campaigner for human rights and against land mines. She found a way to turn her celebrity to good use and her warm-heartedness and ability to empathize with the unfortunate endeared her to the world, including me. I don’t care what she was doing with Dodi; she was a private citizen (sort of) at that point and entitled to date whatever dipshit took her fancy. I know the English are totally racist about this; the outrage when Al-Fayed puts up Diana and Dodi’s pictures together in the windows of Harrods during the month of the anniversary of their deaths, linking them eternally (or as long as he’s in charge of the window-dressing, anyway) is rather funny. Although it’s not pure racism; there’s a lot of snobbery there too. If he’d been a Middle Eastern prince or similar sultan-type person it would have been better but he was just the playboy son of (gasp) a merchant! “Just a jumped-up souk dealer!” (actual quote) Ouch. It’s so ironic in a country where people are jumping like a madman all the time to get ahead so they can pretend to be posh. Why do they want to be posh, anyway? So they can say the f-word, that’s why!
Whoa, tangent. Let’s get back to princesses and royalty.
Sometimes I think Americans don’t understand the whole deal with royalty. It just doesn’t go with the whole America-Freedom thing. Take their interpretations vis-a-vis the Disney princesses. The latest one is Merida in Brave (love that movie! love Pixar!). She’s a princess, and it’s her duty to marry well in order to avoid war. The whole movie is about her fight for the freedom to choose a life for herself – an American ideal – and the arguments used to try to make her fall into line are not compelling. I can’t remember what they were, but the one that matters, the trump card, is the concept of duty, and it’s never implemented! If I were her mom, I’d be pointing out that, as a princess, she’s free to run around, she has her own horse, she gets so much free time to practice archery that she’s a crack shot, and does she think that this is just her right because she’s awesome and has killer hair? I would point out to her that she could be working in the fields, or milking cows, just to survive like everyone else, but she’s not doing that. Instead, she gets all this privilege, but in return for this she’s expected to marry well. That’s it! Of course the prospective bridegrooms would make anyone jump on a horse and head for the hills, but that’s beside the point. How many princesses in history have made happy love matches? Not too many. Think of all the gruesome examples of “royalty” that as a princess, you could be joined to for eternity. Off the top of my head, Charles II of Spain (extensively disabled in just about every way, the gnarly Hapsburg jaw being the least of it), for an example. At least he was impotent! Why do we think Elizabeth I refused to marry? Because she had a pretty good idea of all the horror shows out there with crowns on! No, thank you! The point is, your subjects are toiling away providing you with riches and they don’t ask much, just some stability so they can keep on toiling in peace, and if your end of the bargain is to marry some chinless wonder, then you shut up and do it (except for Liz I who is in a category of her own). That’s the catch! I realize that this stipulation is no longer applicable – obviously – but there are other duties associated with being royalty and the point is you have to suck it up. Plus, if your life is too ridiculously sweet, and depends on the sweat of others, and if you’re clearly indifferent to the suffering of those others whom you’re meant to look after, then the people storm the Bastille. Nobody’s storming the Bastille whilst Elizabeth II is on the throne.
Can I talk more about Disney princesses? Take Ariel. She’s a real star. My kids love her but she endangers her entire community with her selfishness! She has to marry some guy she’s only just clapped eyes on (and is it just me or is Eric a bit of a doofus? Classic royal.) and she’s willing to become a completely different species in order to do it. This is not like she’s Jewish but she has to convert to Catholicism because Eric’s mom has threatened to kill herself if her son doesn’t get married in the Catholic Church. (Imagine going the other way: swapping legs for a tail. At least with legs you can still swim in water; with a tail you can only drag your dumb didn’t-read-the-fine-print ass around on land. So I guess it wasn’t totally stupid.) Anyway! It’s a major change and the price is her voice, so she can’t even explain herself. I notice that there’s no Mom there and there rarely is in a Disney princess story, Brave excepted. Because Mom would be like, “Explain yourself young lady! Don’t wave your hands at me! TALK TO ME!” That’s because the dads don’t really pay attention so the girls get up to shenanigans and nearly cause apocalypse and Dad notices right at the end just when everything is about to go to shit with a giant fat creepy lady octopus making gumbo with the ocean. So let’s review: King Triton first mismanages his daughter by being oblivious and then making a big display with explosions and everything (bit of overkill) instead of being fully present in his daughter’s life. So then, because she’s never been yelled at before and can’t believe Daddy raised his voice to her (such a Millennial!) she runs away and finds a sympathetic if creepy older woman who inveigles Gullible Girl into taking this ridiculously irrevocable step. Ariel just met her! She doesn’t check out references or anything. So lazy, again, Millennial. If her mom was around, this wouldn’t have happened! It’s weird that she’s got all these older sisters (Gen Xers!) and they have no clue either? What? She’s not close enough to even one of them to ask for a little advice? An older sister might have had something to say. “You’re going to get rid of your tail and get legs? It’s not like a tattoo, you know! If things don’t work out, then what? Will you wear a scuba tank the rest of your life?” Needless to say, at the end of all the mayhem she caused and other people had to fix, Ariel is rewarded for being such a selfish wagamama and Daddy gets her a new sparkly dress to boot. This is why I’m really strict with my daughters.
The rest of them…Belle’s fairly on the ball, but she’s not a princess until she marries the Beast at the end so she doesn’t count. Good example of a commoner marrying into a royal family, though! No family to speak of, however, it’s just him. Which I bet anyone who’s married into a royal family has wished for at some point or another. Just kidding! Pocahontas is a good princess – she’s concerned about her people and she helps with the work too, picking corn and squash and not just going kayaking and cliff-jumping and then doing some shrooms and talking to the trees. Mulan too, sacrifices herself for her father although it’s important to note that she’s sort of feeling like there’s nothing else for her, like when your life goes to shit so you join the military, it’s just convenient that it dovetails with the duty/sacrifice thing. Best of both worlds! The older Disney princesses, though. Who got hit with the squeaky stick? Snow White! Plus she’s sooooo dumb. Shallow end of the gene pool, I’d say. Oh those inbred royals. Sleeping Beauty – she grows up in a tiny cabin with three fairies (not the interior-designing kind) and never figures it out? Hello! Cinderella – ever heard of a lawyer? There are no family friends who are like, This is odd. Did you see the way she was dressed? And why was she doing all the fetching? She’s not a princess until she marries, like Belle, but unlike Belle, she’s none too bright. Cinderella falls in love with the first guy she dances with – it could have been anyone! If it’s not a mouse, she’ll marry it if it will get her out from under Mean Stepmother’s thumb. And you know she will be all forgiving of her dysfunctional stepfamily when she marries the Prince. She is such a sap! I prefer the original fairy tale where the mean stepsisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the slipper and to no avail as they’re ratted out by magic birds. Who then peck their eyes out. Yeah!
The best thing about this Life&Style cover is this: the big picture is of Kate looking awesome as usual, and there’s a little picture of Beatrice and Eugenie wearing somewhat matching outfits in two shades of purple, with funny hats, looking….remarkably like the mean stepsisters in Cinderella! Coincidence?