A recent Newsweek cover story about Catherine proclaimed: “The Duchess of Cambridge: How Britain Stopped Believing in the Royal Fairytale”. It included several polls taken by 3000 UK residents.
The good news about the poll results: Many folks respect Catherine & believe her to be an intelligent young woman.
The bad news about the poll results: Many folks are totally ambivalent about her & have no interest in being or knowing her.
First, it’s important to remember the polls included in the article were taken in the UK (and that surveys & statistics in general aren’t always skewed totally objectively). I think results might differ a bit if the US had been included. We Yanks tend to have a more overly romantic view of royalty in general, so I think young women in the US might be more inclined to say that they would want to be Catherine, even if for just a day. I think I would too, but purely for research purposes. I am fascinated with how things WORK & operate in that life. The logistics of it all is what intrigues me most.
My thoughts on the polls? I think this is the best outcome we could hope for (though I never trust people who have NO opinion on a subject). We’ve moved past the notion that the life of a royal bride is the “stuff of fairytales” as the Archbishop of Canterbury presiding over Diana & Charles’ wedding would have had us believe. We are no longer in a “Princess-envy” state of mind. We understand that this life of Catherine’s is not an easy one & as modern women (and men) ourselves, we recognize the sacrifices she has to make (lack of privacy, constant scrutiny of hemlines & baby bumps, limited freedom in mobility & self-expression) & we would want no part of that for ourselves. I think it shows a healthy relationship between the people & the monarchy. A more grown up, realistic relationship.
When I hear from people about why they “follow” the Duchess (in the news, on blogs & websites), it is not the fact that she married a Prince or enjoys great wealth & privilege that they reference. It is her overall demeanor, her (perceived, because in truth we really don’t KNOW) personality & temperament. She seems to be a bright, personable, humble & gracious young woman who has managed to navigate her way through an extraordinary set of life experiences. And in an era where those traits seem rare, especially in folks in the public eye, I think people appreciate & value them when they see them.
I disagree with Ms. Greer that Catherine is not allowed to decorate her own homes. She IS & HAS (a post about that is coming up!) & I also dismiss the notion that Catherine “has been put in charge of William”. I don’t even know what that means.
As for the notion that “spontaneity” is what will get her in trouble that might be the case…if she were not Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, born of Carole & Michael Middleton. She is not known for her “spontaneity” & that is why Catherine is so well suited to her “job” within “the firm”. She strikes me as someone who is, by nature, very cautious, disciplined & measured. Being controlled is part of her natural emotional makeup. People who knew her as a child & teenager have described her as, “respectful, responsible, conscientious, courteous and well mannered”. There are no stories of major teenage rebellion or sloppy college kegger antics. It’s just not who she is. So I reject the notion that she has had to conform her personality to fit the confines of her role.
As for the poll results about Catherine representing the modern women, here’s the thing: If we want true equality as women, that means we must respect ALL women & the choices they make for themselves. Does she speak to the modern Feminist? Well, she does to THIS one. There is no ONE way to be a modern woman. Living the life YOU choose for yourself is what matters. THAT is modern.
There is no handbook to follow for Catherine. She is the first woman in over 100 years to be married to the 2nd in line expected to inherit the throne. I doubt if Queen Mary left her an instruction manual. Catherine has to navigate this on her own. She is less than four years into a lifetime of this historic role. Catherine is the wife OF and a mother TO future Kings of England. No one else in the world can say that & as such, perhaps we are not qualified to tell her how to successfully tackle that responsibility. Catherine has taken to royal life with composure & self-assuredness, rarely putting a foot wrong, even in the glare of unprecedented media coverage. I think she deserves credit for that, not consternation.
If Catherine had not met William, who is to say she wouldn’t have met another perfectly lovely (and probably quite wealthy) chap, gotten married, lived in the country with frequent trips to the City, done some philanthropic work & had a few kids. Not much different from the life she IS living (except for all of the ways it IS different). The point is, I think it’s not necessarily true that Catherine has had to forfeit the life she may have wanted for the life she has. Yes, there are extreme circumstances to her royal life but one of the reasons I think she seems so, well, normal, is because she and William seem to understand that, first & foremost, it’s about THEM as a couple, deeply in love & building a family life together. They didn’t marry for duty; they married for love. And THAT is what will inform every decision they make, first & foremost; doing what is best for them as a FAMILY, with a healthy respect for duty to follow.
According to the polls, what people want most is to HEAR from Catherine, to know what she thinks about important issues. But that is in direct contradiction to the purpose of the Monarchy. They are not there to make political statements or voice their opinions on the news of the day. The monarchy represents history, continuity, service & duty. It is a symbol that helps to create unity, stability & pride. It’s about standing on balconies, not soapboxes.
Royalty needs to be able to appeal to ALL citizens & not alienate people with their personal POV. It is not practical to expect, at this early stage in her royal life, that Catherine would be speaking publicly about anything other than issues related to her selected patronages. We DO hear from Catherine when she speaks about hospice care, art therapy for children & addiction. Perhaps the 3000 people polled simply haven’t been listening.
(SIDEBAR: I sometimes secretly fear that if I knew Catherine’s stance on more controversial social issues I feel strongly about & her stance was diametrically opposed to mine, well…it WOULD change how I feel about her. But I am not voting her into political office or asking her to implement policies that will affect my life or my family’s life. My relationship with her is not that deep. I’m ok with that).
Catherine has found herself living a public life, not because she was running for elected office or wanted a career in front of the cameras, but because she fell in love with a boy, who happened to be 2nd in line to the throne. To expect her to be anything more than a loving partner to William is, in fact, expecting too much…in the real world. But they don’t live in the real world. The expectations that people place on Catherine simply because she is married to William are unfair…but when it comes to royal duty, FAIR doesn’t come into play.
In looking for a mate, William had to know that, while he was free to “marry for love”, there WERE certain qualities & attributes that his future Mrs. would HAVE to possess in order for her to even consider taking on a life with him. Just ask Prince Harry & Chelsy Davy about that! An unwillingness to live her life under constant scrutiny was the undoing of them. This is something most of us can’t relate to. The requirements to be OUR significant others are pretty simply & universal: someone who loves & respects us. But the realities of William’s life require that whomever he ended up with to be able to speak publically when required, interact comfortably with all types of people from all walks of life, dress impeccably & behave appropriately at all times….and endure constant scrutiny & public criticism WITHOUT being able to defend oneself. THAT takes a special person.
Did William fall in love with Catherine in part because he knew that she would be able to handle the demands of their life? It is likely that he did. Knowing that the woman he loved would not crumble under the pressure, I’m sure, made her even more appealing to him.
I think it is interesting that Harry, perhaps the most uninhibited of the royals, topped the “Most Popular” poll. I think this speaks to the desire for people to want their royals to be “like us”, down to earth & accessible. But at what cost? If they become TOO much like us, do they lose some of the allure that makes them so luminous? If they become TOO relatable, do they lose their distinct appeal? Do we NEED them, WANT them to have a certain air of mystery? Or does seeing Catherine shopping for groceries at the local market & buying yoga pants at The Gap represent an ordinariness that makes the young royals even MORE appealing to their future subjects?
When it comes to the British Monarchy the irony is that, as much as things change, they stay the same. The more “normal” & relatable the young royals appear to be, the more popular the monarchy is overall (Newsweek polls notwithstanding). It’s sort of an ironic twist: This breath of fresh royal air (and the birth of a royal baby or two) is creating a stronger royalist nation. And THAT ensures the continuation of the monarchy, thereby reinforcing Britain’s class system…which is sort of the exact opposite of the appeal of having “they are just like us” royals. Hmmm.
Another factor when considering the poll results:
I try to never compare Catherine to Princess Diana because they are two different women with their own unique charms, gifts & strengths but I think a comparison is warranted here:
The way people feel about Catherine (and the monarchy in general) is directly related to how they felt about Diana, even if on a subconscious level.
In many ways, Catherine has been able to pick up the mantle in areas where Diana struggled: relationships with her own family, the royal family, her husband, the press, self-confidence/worth/esteem, critics & privacy...in areas where Diana strained, Catherine soars.
And one could argue that in the areas where Catherine appears ambivalent or even determined to stay neutral, Diana succeeded. We get the sense that Catherine would prefer NOT to be known for her clothes (whereas Diana used her wardrobe as a tool of communication) & that she is content to support the monarchy is it today. Does this make her the “dutiful wife” as the article proclaims? I don’t think so. I think it makes her FIRST & FOREMOST a woman who is happy in her marriage, loved by her family & dedicated to her child/ren…with an understanding that she needs (and in her case, wants) get “get along with her in-laws” and all that comes with it.
We often hear talk of the royals wanting to “prevent mistakes of the past” in terms of how Catherine’s introduction into royal life has been managed. The same could be true for Catherine in terms of how she sees HER role as a senior royal lady. She seems happy to tow the royal party line rather than rock the royal boat (or yacht, as the case may be).
Catherine has been able to fill in the blanks that round out the parts of Diana that were broken, in effect making Diana (or at least our memories of her) whole. And by doing that, the emotional hysteria about the Princess as Helpless Victim, has been wiped away by the image of a mature, stable and confident Duchess. And perhaps that has dimmed some of the adulation. Diana NEEED us, her adoring public, to validate her & make her feel whole & worthy, to give her life meaning & focus & carry her through. Catherine, however, doesn’t need us. Not one bit…which might be why many polled respect her…but aren’t that drawn to her. They know she’ll be ok. She’s fine with or without us.
In Catherine, we have the all the wonderful qualities that she naturally brings to everything she does...and we also have the sense that she will be ok, that she is confident & loved & secure. And so we breathe a sigh of relief; it makes the TALE less “Fairy” and more “Function”. We can relate to Catherine (the confident-college-educated-once-middle-class-girl) more than we could to Diana (the-sheltered-titled-child-bride). And so palace life as a gilded cage & the life lived within it has lost some of its overly sentimentalized luster…but the Monarchy is stronger than ever…because of the legacy of BOTH women.
Diana was what the monarchy needed in HER time in order for it to remain relevant: emotional, honest, modern & transformative. Perhaps Catherine is what it needs in HER time to ensure the same: humble, practical, discreet & stable.
Folks may not want to BE Catherine, but they RESPECT her. And that may speak to how they feel about the Monarchy in general: they don’t NEED it, but they are HAPPY it is there.
This section is an editorial by guest blogger Lulu from "Lulu, Catherine, William & all things Royal"
Hello! My name is Lulu & I've been a royal watcher for over 35 years. I am an American & live in the San Francisco Bay Area. My background is varied. I've worked in education, advertising, politics & now work doing what I love most: writing. Earlier in my life I was a professional model but I've always thought the most beautiful part of me is my brain & my heart! I am not a royal "reporter". I am a regular gal who posts my thoughts & personal POV on the royals. I love the history & tradition & fashion fun of royal watching & look forward to sharing in the fun with you! Hugs & Giggles! xo