Op Ed

In Defense of Kate Middleton

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.

Kate followed by paparazzi
That looks so fun! God, I hate her so much.

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.

Kate and William
Come on! They're so nerdy and cute!

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!)

Photos: thefirstpost, frillr, whyfame

5 replies on “In Defense of Kate Middleton”

It’s odd knowing about Kate’s engagement. I don’t have much interest in this story, am an old ladee.

However their betrothal sends me whirling back in time to when I was a 15 year old girl and hearing about Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles’ romance. I was one of millions of girls who envied Shy Di, bought the whole pomp and circumstance glamorized fairy tale. What a fractured fairy tale. And I’m a wee bit spooked that Kate is wearing Diana’s ring, considering the ring wasn’t given in true good faith…

I am sure William will do his princely best to protect his bride and future Queen. He is limited by his birthright, his upbringing, and all that, but he does have a strong sense of duty, personal and professional, so let’s wait and see. I don’t follow mainstream sources of news but this story in the internet age can’t help but creep onto my radar.

And I was so enamored by Princess Diana that I copied her travelling outfit, the cute pink dress with matching bolero that was edged in lace. Mine was done in pale blue, so it would be an homage, not a knock off. It is far too small and too young for 45 year old me to wear, but I still have it in my closet after three decades.

My younger brother and I rose early to watch the day of royal wedding festivities. England was going through very rough economic and social times, but this wedding was a magical time.

I have many things that I want to say about this post, but I’m just going to say this. The distinctly underwhelmed reaction of the British public to these upcoming nuptials is actually giving me hope that finally, finally, the monarchy in Britain is being seen as a ridiculous, wasteful anachronism for which we have little use. I would wager that it’s not so much that people have a problem with Kate herself. They just don’t care about it, or her. I was raised in a working class, Protestant, Northern Irish family, and believe me, working class Northern Irish prods of my parent’s generation would have fought to the death for the right to bow and scrape before these clowns. These days? Even my crazy mother, a woman who loathed Diana because she “wasn’t a real Royal” can barely muster a comment about this. I’m old enough to remember street parties happening on the day of the Charles & Di wedding. I can’t say for certain, but I seriously doubt there will be that kind of celebration in April. Funnily enough, most of the folk I’ve seen getting excited about, or even paying much attention to this upcoming wedding are American. People over here are waking up to the fact that the royals are a ridiculous and expensive distraction that we could probably do without. I honestly think this is the beginning of the end for them. I think that by the time the current queen dies (probably around 2030 given that family’s history of longevity) there really won’t be much appetite for funding their nonsense anymore.

Exactly; it’s not like she’s never worked a day in her life. She just hasn’t really taken on a true career. And I think you’re right about William’s parents. Charles ruins everything! I think Kate and William are on the right track in trying to differentiate themselves from him. It’s clear William is really fond of his father but he seems not to like the excessive royal lifestyle. His mother certainly hated it.

I had no idea Kate didn’t have a regular job–I thought she’d been working for a boutique for some time, but I guess that was a few years ago and now she works for her parents’ company as a website designer (I googled it just a minute ago). I have no idea why people are so judgmental of her, but I imagine it might have to do with living up to Diana’s reputation (not to mention, with Charles as father-in-law,  some of the “commoners”‘ disdain for him will likely splash back on her).

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