The Duchess of Cambridge, or as a certain online gossip website likes to refer to her, K-Middy, has emerged from hospital to the general indifference of all. A sense of calm indifference pervades the media. Tabloids, TV and radio stations and magazines alike have pledged to leave the royal couple to enjoy this very special and private time in peace.
Don't be silly. The press has pretty much lost it. In what appears to be a desperate attempt to recapture the happy, vaguely patriotic spirit of the summer, the British media is gamely ignoring newsworthy, serious (read boring) stories, as well as a looming sense of its own demise in order to lead with easy, jingoistic articles about 'the news the nation has been anticipating for a year and a half' and Prince Charles' moist-eyed 'delight' about becoming a grandfather.
Meanwhile, Duchess Kate herself has just emerged from a three-day stint in hospital, and all the nation can do to help is start twitter accounts like @HRHbaby whose illuminating utterances include '*feels movement* *hears clicking noises*' and '*holds hand to nose adorably*', and place 1000-1 bets that Will and Kate will go the way of the Beckhams and name their son after a neighbourhood of New York.
It could be worse. Princesses of Wales have, over the course of their 700-year existence, been far more often divorced, banished or killed in controversial circumstances than they have had peaceful, undramatic, contented existences. It's actually about as far from a guaranteed recipe for happily-ever-after as you can get.
Kate herself is doing very well at playing the role of the nation's favourite mannequin princess fantasy, all nude court shoes, below-the-knee dresses and being nice to children. She is a social conservative's wet dream (of a role model. Obviously that's what I mean), and an excuse for every mother in the country to turn to their Rihanna-listening, Doc Marten-wearing, Heat-reading daughter and say 'Why can't you be more like her? She's marrying a prince. Don't you want to marry a prince?'
To which their daughters, in an ideal world, would turn to mum and say 'No mum, in this modern, egalitarian world of ours I would ideally like to choose a stimulating profession suited to my interests which will allow me to become financially independent and exercise choice over my life.' Or, more likely: 'Shut up Made in Chelsea is on and I want to know if Cheska has a boyfriend yet'. (Apparently she currently does. There is, after all, justice in the world).
I have absolutely no doubt that Kate herself is an intelligent independent woman who has freely made this choice to marry the heir to the British throne and spend the rest of her life attending functions, being photographed and getting pregnant. In a way, she is perhaps making the ultimate romantic gesture, giving up her dreams of anonymity, autonomy and being able to leave the house in trainers and no makeup, solely to be with the man she loves.
It's a serious sacrifice. To the press, the royals are easy fodder. If you're lucky (Diana, Kate herself), you get to be the princess. If you're not (Camilla, Beatrice/Eugenie, Fergie, Princess Anne) things can get ugly quickly. The royal family is a strange parallel universe, perpetually stuck fifty years behind our own, and inevitably, it's the women for whom things are most antiquated.
It's no accident that in the aftermath of the royal wedding last year images were circulated comparing Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie to the ugly sisters of Cinderella legend, and lovely lovely Kate to Cinderella herself. In the strange, backward, reductive world of the British royals, you are either a beautiful, gracious princess figure, all sweetness and light, or you are overweight, irresponsible, selfish and ugly. You can't be both. And you can go from being one to the other in the heartbeat of a relationship destroyed, a baby born or lost, or a few pounds gained.
For a tabloid media built on the marginalisation and stereotyping of women in the public eye, this is the easiest week since Britney started attacking SUVs, or Harry Styles and Caroline Flack got a bit too cosy. Kate was already the perfect princess. In becoming pregnant, she has completed the picture. Now not only is she conventionally attractive, dutiful, smiley and silent, she is also fertile. And I know that if I was her right now, emerging from a week spent throwing up in a hospital bed, I'd be feeling pretty scared about it.
I was in a seminar on women in medieval courts when someone announced the big news. We were mid-way through a discussion on royal procreative duties and the necessity of childbearing to fulfil the role of a princess. How little has changed.
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