Couple of the moment Prince William and Kate Middleton have been lauded as the ‘new, modern face’ of the royal family, making it appeal to young people like me, and looking fabulous doing it to boot. But here’s why I won’t be looking to them for life lessons any time soon
“The fresh, young, modern and new face of the Royal family, Will and Kate, are taking lessons learned from past mistakes and finally bringing the ‘Firm’ bang up to date for a new generation at last. And how lovely do they look doing it?”
As far as I can tell, this pretty much sums up most of the news coverage of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s upcoming nuptials (save a few dissenting voices from The Independent and The Guardian). The couple is of my generation; has had a respectably long relationship, is good looking, well-dressed, erudite, polite, scandal-free; Wills does a ‘normal’ job, Kate’s from a ‘normal’ family, and for many, together they represent the beautiful affirmation that the girl meets prince love story really can work in today’s modern ‘real life’. A love story for our times, a couple we can all admire and look up to, and with their wedding less than a week away, the media coverage is exploring all aspects of this new face of the monarchy. So why does every mention of the pair make my teeth hurt?
The couple appear very well-matched, and Kate clearly knows how to carry off a look, but why are we suddenly allowed, or even supposed, to care about this prolonged public display of affection? This is celebrity hero-worship on a whole other level, a kind of manic fascination with everything ‘Royal Wedding’ (capitalised, of course). Village tours of Kate’s home town, her deep blue jersey Issa dress selling out hours after the release of November’s engagement photos, more revolting memorabilia than you can shake a stick at; this level of interest is clearly mad, and as far as I can see, no different from endless bus tours parading around Hollywood to get a peek through the iron gates of the rich and famous, or the Daily Mail’s mindless, constant babble over the non-news that whoever from The Only Way is Whatever is wearing a see-through dress. THAT level of gossip and celebrity idolisation is widely dismissed as vacuous rubbish. But no, because the couple is, through a series of accidents of birth, royal, this is suddenly highbrow, and acceptable. Endless stories on the ‘mystery’ of the dress designer, the usually more grounded Bryony Gordon declaring her ‘love’ for Kate in The Telegraph, determined rummaging around for photographs of Miss Middleton’s school days; such hysteria is at worst maddening and at best mildly entertaining if you’re bored of a lunch break – but don’t ask me to care about it, or participate. Please.
But asked to, I am. As a young woman in my twenties, it seems that the media thinks I should probably be looking to Kate as a role model, and, at the very least, delighting in her nuptials. Suddenly, the headlines say, the royal family is relevant to my generation, with magazines telling me how to copy Kate’s style, and, the polls say, young people my age more likely than older people, along with the other 2 billion people thought to be planning on watching the service, queuing up to fawn over an outdated religious ceremony which has been billed as the event of the decade, the pinnacle of Kate and Will’s respective lives so far. But since when did the values of an entirely patriarchal, completely outdated society based on faith, that only takes women seriously if they’ve got a ring on their finger, come back into fashion? I mean, sure, I suppose I’d like to get married if the right situation and man came along; I like a great dress, dinky buffet food and a knees-up among friends as much as the next person. But it’s hardly the apex of my life plan, and I resent being made to feel like really, it probably should be. In those photos, Kate’s grin was matched only by the glint of the diamonds in her weighty ring, and the message to women clear: happiness is a rock, and if it’s from a prince, all the better. Kate’s wearing of Diana’s ring may have been natural for William, who was only handing over his beloved mum’s past possession. But for everyone else, the ring and the megawatt smile were A Sign that this marriage will truly be it, the real deal, a new model of how to do things properly. Have the past forty plus years of common sense feminism ‒ hell, of real life ‒ meant nothing?
It doesn’t even annoy me that Kate isn’t known for working, and is rapidly superseding her ‘boring’ persona with that of universally lauded clotheshorse: here’s Kate in a white coat, here’s Kate in a blue coat, a navy jacket; here’s Kate clutching an umbrella with ineffable poise in entirely routine rain…I’m quite sure Kate isn’t boring; choosing not to air your dirty laundry in public and managing not to get photographed falling legless out of a club isn’t boring, for God’s sake, it’s just common sense. As is working in your parents’ successful company if the opportunity presents itself. But Kate isn’t really known for, well, anything. I’m not saying she would only be worth something if she had used her stellar education to forge a high-flying, money-making career, far from it. But with the press stumbling over itself to follow her around, she could have done anything, championed any cause; associated herself, even if only implicitly, with any interest that took her fancy. But she…hasn’t. This in itself if no real reason to judge her. There’s more to life than money, more to life than work, and perhaps many of her more ardent interests and activities have been publicly stifled by her closeness to prickly royal protocol. But her (lack of) personality, so scandal-free and royal family pleasing, seems to point to a near-decade of simply waiting to become Will’s wife. Good for her if that floats your boat, but excuse me while I fail to faint with adoring emulation.
Prince William states how ‘fortunate’ he is to have his Katherine, presenting them as a unified, streamlined buffer against the pressures and commitments of royal life. While my heart bleeds for the undeniable, and almost touching, romance amid the cringe worthy pomp and ceremony that simpers after the royals’ every move, Kate’s portrayal as the leaden anchor to William’s drifting, overloaded but highly gilded ship is hardly a position to which I aspire – it’s more terrifying than exciting – and since it’s not my lot, nor is it, allowing myself to tear my eyes away from the headlights of the media coverage juggernaut a second, remotely interesting. And I’m not the only one to say so; a YouGov poll found that two thirds of British women would not want to marry Prince William if he’d asked them, while only 35% of Brits said they’d be watching the ceremony on TV – exactly the same percentage said they would be ‘doing their best to ignore it’. But the pair is in love; and for that, there is no accounting.
So while I’m extremely unlikely to be popping in to a wedding street party on the day, neither will I be gracing any ‘Don’t give a fuck’ or ‘Republican parties’ with my presence. I wish the couple no ill will, good luck to them. They do look lovely together – Kate is undeniably stunning, if you like that sort of thing – they’ve clearly had a long and successful relationship, a pretty hefty feat in itself, and seem perfectly happy to step into the dreary routine of duty and constantly compromised privacy that their new positions will demand. I even expect that I’ll have the television on throughout the coverage, if only to gawp in growing disbelief at the sheer spectacle of the whole lovey-dovey circus. But read about them 24/7, care about who’s making how many wedding dresses, dribble over every new shot of Kate looking polished, toothy and unflappable, hold them up as new representatives of a hitherto outdated institution, as the torch carriers for young, stylish, British people of my generation? Pull the other one (it’s got wedding bells on).