O frabjous day! Prince William has proposed to Kate Middleton and Anglophiles everywhere are a-glee. That includes me too, from a very American point of view. While I don’t follow the British Royal Fam as closely as some, my Inner Child is about to call a tea party with the teddy bears. My love of fairytales, princesses with long hair and short, and handsome princes disguised as frogs, bears, beasts and other forbidding exteriors is indulged with these two lovelies’ happy news. And it looks like we will be treated to the spring or summer 2011 wedding and all the controversy that goes with it.
By all accounts, the bride-to-be is a lovely person, and, while the fairy tale icon of being technically a commoner, she comes from a wealthy family who made their money on their own from a business of planning children’s parties. There’s something about being in the business of making people happy that seems to fit with being the future queen.
In my fairy tale mind, I have rosy images of this wedding being the happy resolution of the sadness of the life of Diana Spencer and her beautiful sons, hoping that the princes get to enjoy full, joyful and productive lives in the service of their family and country.
Modern fairy tales of course are fraught with annoyances like over-eager news reporters, skulking around to catch the Royals in awkward or at least interesting situations. My favorite human interest story about Kate Middleton is that she thought William looked “sexy” in his Navy uniform. This was perceived as a “slip.” While I can see that such a personal remark could conceivably be considered too human to come from a figurehead, I thought it was a lovely little personal insight. After all, if Kate thought William looked like a toad, people might call her a gold-digger and hope at least she fell for his wit. Instead, of course, nearly everyone thinks of them as being a beautiful couple, her model looks, his fresh-faced sincerity. We think he looks yummy in the uniform, too. It should be her purview to take that concept of yummy to the next step if she intends to marry him.
While it’s a “slip” for Kate to say “sexy” about William, of course the press is free to take all kinds of sensationalist potshots at the happy couple, risking lawsuits of harassment as one publication found. But generally, the press doesn’t get dinged for their nickname for her “Katie Waitie.”
OK, the girl has stuck around. She apparently thinks the prince is worth it. When you take into consideration the invasion of privacy, the pressure, the schedule, the requirement for being “on stage” your whole life, marrying a prince is a big decision. It’s not something you should enter into lightly. Perhaps more than a typical marriage, a Royal Wedding is not just marrying the guy but marrying his whole family. If the immediate family is the Royal Family, the extended family is all of the UK. Anyone with in-law trouble or maybe even just with in-laws can understand the need to approach with caution here.
A previous Queen of England, Elizabeth I, knew all about this. If Elizabeth had been dull-witted, the question of marriage would likely have been easy at the time and she would have fallen into relative obscurity, either producing an heir or not, and of course changing the course of history. But no, Elizabeth was a smart cookie, the kind that makes ambitious men quake in their boots, the kind that scared so many people about giving women the vote and any other privilege granted to males in western society. From the moment she became queen, the power brokers around her were pressuring her to marry some guy or another for purely political reasons, usually for reasons of personal gain. In Elizabeth’s day, the word ambition was actually a very negative word, not like the proactive, go-getter quality we think of today. It included the concept of scheming and back-stabbing, the “sell your grandmother to get ahead” slimeball characteristic we ascribe to villains. She was surrounded by these people who were looking out for her own good, so they professed. She was, in a word, alone.
She had the advantage of observing the mistakes of others. Most of all, her strongest personality characteristic was her ability to postpone announcing a decision or revealing her feelings.
For someone like me, whose personality seeks closure of issues in order to move on and the sooner the better, this would have taken the utmost strength of character. And yet, like the Strength card in tarot, the strength it took Elizabeth was not in being the arm-wrestling champion of the junior high two years in a row (fodder for another entry in the future) or otherwise pounding her subjects into the ground to do her will. It was the strength to remain detached and maintain a gentle and noble exterior. She adopted her persona of the Virgin Queen finally, declaring she was wedded to England and could not in good conscience distract herself from her duty to her people by fulfilling some personal desire for domestic bliss in a conventional marriage. She picked the noblest possible reason for retaining control over her own life as the reason. And by doing so she became one of the greatest monarchs in history.
I suspect Elizabeth had several reasons besides the official one. I would just love to talk to her.
Instead of making fun of Kate’s wait, I think we should applaud it. She shows the strength to endure, not force a situation. As a wife, an in-law, a public figure and a leader, her maturity, resolve and spirit are clearly visible through this one act of gentle persistence. It gives me hope for success in the future, no matter what the role of the British monarchy becomes. I suspect there will be ample opportunity for her to display her strength of character in the years to come.
Best wishes to the happy couple! And to all of you.
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