Well, I know that since I am a self-admitted fan of the British monarchy, everyone is dying to know my opinion of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton. Obviously, for fun I like to memorize family trees and the genealogy of the British royal family, so I would be interested when there is a new addition to that family tree. However, for clarification, I want to just say I am a fascinated by the history and institution of the British monarchy. I am a sucker for the tradition of it. That isn’t to say that I have been a big fan of all members of the British monarchy. There are more than a few kings, queens, princes and princesses that were entirely deplorable. I don’t fault those that overthrew Charles I and for that matter, I don’t see anything entirely redeemable in Charles II’s character to have made him worth restoring to the throne. Some of those George’s were intolerable, particularly the lecherous George IV. Nonetheless, I am a sufficient admirer of the monarchy to have once elicited the comment from David that I shouldn’t be allowed in Daughters of the American Revolution, because everyone knows that I am a Tory at heart.
It is a well-known fact that I love the Queen and have a soft spot for Prince Charles. Like most women of my generation, at some point in time I probably had a childhood crush on Prince William, even though he is four years my junior. So in my opinion, I think the engagement is great news and gives people something to be happy about at an otherwise bleak news time. I do not personally know the character of Prince William or Kate Middleton. However, I am in love with all of the adjectives that have been used to describe Kate Middleton in the press. She is described as being a charming, sporty, steady, and sensible girl. These are all adjectives that I would like to be described with, but unfortunately, most people in America do not use those words as adjectives to describe people, nor are those qualities that I probably possess. I don’t know these people at all, but I like people who can be described with those adjectives. The only criticism of Kate is that she has been given a hard time because since graduating from college she doesn’t have a particular career trajectory, but I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. She has been subject to much more scrutiny than the average middle-class college graduate, and under the same set of circumstances, I would probably work for my parents’ party supply company as well. I am unequivocally pro women having the choice to work, but I also think that it is ridiculous that anyone is defined as a person in terms of their employment. Many people have done great things for the world outside of the scope of their job. Anyway, I am sure that she will have every opportunity in the future to be as charitable as she wants to be and in all likelihood, she will make a far greater contribution to the world that way than she ever would have working as a fashion buyer. She already has made the contribution of being well-dressed and having that country, British aristocrat look down, which in my opinion, is the best fashion statement going (says my thoroughly Anglophile soul, even in the face of Francophone fashion pretentiousness).
Basically, it is refreshing to see a royal couple in the UK that actually does love each other. Heck, it is refreshing to see another couple that took even longer than David and I to get married. I know that I am not one for princess fairy-tales, but I happen to appreciate this, more realistic version of the story.
My favorite commentary on the royal engagement has been offered in the New York Times by a couple of different voices. Like I said, I certainly don’t think less of Kate Middleton because she isn’t an accomplished barrister or engaged in some other prestigious career pursuit, but I thought the comparison of her to one of Jane Austen’s most famous heroines was interesting. The second, from the same debate, looks at the weird place that this couple has in the royal family with all of their bizarre coupling.
I know that this royal engagement is another opportunity for the anti-royalist set of the British public to bemoan the expense of the British monarchy, but what they don’t realize is that without their bizarre, fascinating, traditional institution, Americans like me would be a hell of a lot less interested in their country. I mean, part of the fascination with British culture from an American’s point of view is their aristocratic institutions. That’s why most Americans go to the UK. I mean, if I just wanted to sit around and look at a bunch of plump, bald men with bad teeth wearing football jerseys tote around their kids and scantily clad wives, then I could just see the British people who frequent Disney World, thank you. There would be no need for me to want to go to the UK. I don’t know why so many people equate modernity with sameness and that to them it means doing away with traditions that may seem bizarre (or that may not make financial sense), but make places interesting.
Fortunately, there are still enough traditionalists hanging around the UK to at least ensure the existence of the monarchy for the duration. Who knows, maybe William and Kate can earn a few more fans. I think the real question today, is what effect this engagement is going to have on Britain’s Gross National Happiness? I personally love that industrialized countries are now thinking of taking that measurement more seriously as an indicator of human well-being. So, this post gives me another opportunity to cheer along the work of Amartya Sen.