Yeah, I know, she doesn’t really need defending. She’s a wealthy, beautiful, stylish British woman who is about to become a princess. But! It seems as though since her engagement to her boyfriend of seven years, who just happens to be Prince William, everyone’s favorite hobby has become picking her apart.
Now, she had her share of scrutiny in the years before the engagement, as the ruthless British press hounded her and bestowed her with the not-affectionate nickname “Waity Katie.” The conventional wisdom was that she was to be scorned and pitied for waiting around so long for Prince William to propose to her.
Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could name a few friends of mine who have been together that long (or longer) without getting married. Very rarely do relationships persist because one partner is pathetically waiting around for the other to pop the question. There are a lot of complicated dynamics going on: insecurity about the relationship, life-stage obstacles, baggage from divorced parents, opposition to the institution of marriage itself, and so on. Knowing what we do about William’s life, I’m willing to guess that there was more going on there than just Kate latching on to him.
After all, it’s not like Kate was wallowing in squalor until now. Her family, while not royal by any means, are wealthy entrepreneurs (I believe they own a party supply company?) and she and her sister seem to be mid-level socialites. It is true that her professional career hasn’t set the world on fire, to which I have two responses. First off, when she eventually becomes queen she will be the first ever to have graduated college. I know, big deal right? Well, it is a big deal. It is an important landmark on its own, but it also illustrates that every queen before her was able to have a life of power and significance without a college degree. So does the fact that Kate hasn’t been working in a cubicle all these years going to have any bearing on what kind of queen she will be?
Second of all, who’s to say what each of us would do if we had the kind of life she does? I grew up comfortably middle class, and later, probably edged up into upper-middle. Still, the fact that I would work for a living was a foregone conclusion. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have had an upbringing in which I didn’t need to work. Would I? Would you? I just think her level of privilege is hard to fathom. It’s easy to scorn her for not keeping a serious, full-time job, but it’s much harder to say for certain that that’s what we all would do if we didn’t have to.
And she does seem surprisingly normal and down-to-earth despite her privileged background. She caused a commotion when, during the press conference for the engagement, she wore an attainably-priced (if not outright “affordable”) dress. She famously did her own hair and makeup for her and William’s official engagement photos. She’s already been compared to Michelle Obama, who notably wore J.Crew to her husband’s inauguration.
But the attempts by Kate and William to live as normal or simple a life as possible seems to be roundly mocked as well. When word came out last week that the happy couple doesn’t intend to employ any full-time servants, much less the triple-digit army that his father Prince Charles keeps, rather than find it refreshing, most people seemed to react with sarcasm. They seem to be damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. (Simply googling “William Kate servants” yields over 2.2 million hits.)
I don’t know, they just seem kind of delightfully boring to me. Kate reminds me of a perfect girl I went to high school with that I should have hated in theory but couldn’t because she was cool and nice. (How dare she!) I understand being annoyed by, or jealous of, her life. She is quite honestly the poster girl for privilege. Every advantage you could have in
life, she has it. I am struck when I look at the few photos of her out there on the internet of how pretty and perfectly put together she is.
And I do realize there are larger issues here; the attention and money lavished on the upcoming wedding, not to mention the rest of their lives, is a perennial problem of the British monarchy system. But that is so much bigger than Kate, and it’s unfair to make her the symbol of this issue, especially because she wasn’t “born royal.” I am ready to give her the benefit of the doubt. Once the wedding is over and her official life as Princess Kate (or whatever her actual title is) begins, I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of work she does.
Of course, she could prove me wrong! But only time will tell. Until then, let this post serve as my official plea to Kate for an invitation to the wedding. (Hiiii Kate!)