Monday, March 21, 2005

Royal Glamour Girls

Until I find a topic other that Charles and Camilla's wedding I've decided to wade into the fray with my thoughts on monarchy. Although I collect all of the books, made my pilgrimage to Althorp, and scour used book stores for the thrill of the hunt, I don't believe in monarchy. A system where one must give total deference to someone, who via an accident of birth expects it but has done nothing to deserve it, makes no sense to me.

Indeed, a few years ago I was at Woodbine racetrack waiting for the race to begin. Conveniently, the Queen and Prince Philip were in attendance on this day screwing lightbulbs left and right. I'm assuming that the race had not began yet but everyone around me rose to their feet and clapped as they went by. Everyone but me, the infirm, and the people who were too busy looking at their programs. Now I'm not sure if everyone was trying to get a better look at them or had bet on their carriage; but there were no cheers when they crossed the finish line. As they were a sure thing and the only one on the course, those that didn't bet were probably kicking themselves.

I paraphrase a quote from Princess Anne regarding Diana, "obviously she fullfilled a role that I wasn't able to". As a member of the royal family, Diana injected a much needed jolt of glamour that the royals didn't and wouldn't have otherwise - they were becoming long in the tooth even way back then. In her day, the youthful Queen heralded a new Elizabethan age. In the late 1950's and mid 1960's Princess Margaret was the glamour girl. But then in the 1970's Princess Anne came of age and disappointed us by not being beautiful. Enter Diana.

Now that Diana is dead and Sarah is off promoting Weight Watchers, our eyes turned to Sophie to rescue those of us who look at royalty from a superficial level. Unfortunately Sophie doesn't want to do that. She is neither the Diana fashion plate or the Fergie fashion disaster. Since she's a minor royal she probably can't afford the clothes necessary to make an impact; it's easy for her to play it safe. Luckily she doesn't carry out enough engagements for us to even notice. Left without our fix, we have to look to other european royals for glamour. Other royal houses understand this need, hiding any jealously they may harbor, in the interest of flying the flag for their country.

I recently read some thoughts on monarchy, one possible viewpoint, out of all of the more sobering serious thoughts:

'Monarchy is at most a tourist attraction and historic relic that provides some public theater and amusement and should be allowed to conitnue.'

Isn't it our projections that make it theatre? Aren't we making our own jokes and laughing at them? Unless we have relatives/friends there, is there any other reason to go to England? Or Monaco? France has Versailles, but it also has other attractions, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, plus being very romantic and cosmopolitan. Like any public figure, there's the private person and the public person. There must be a division otherwise our fickle opinions would drive them crazy. We call them dysfunctional, label the Queen a bad mother, but are they really? We can only imagine.

For want of anything better to do, we could debate the pros and cons on a quasi-serious level without ever resolving anything, pretend we're above it all and we've never look at the gossip magazines, claim we didn't know the weddings were on that day, and that we don't have some sort of souvenir for the next garage sale. But why not admit it and start a support group for those in denial? There's nothing to be ashamed of, really, there isn't.

I've never debated because I don't particularly care and my viewpoints wouldn't count in the scheme of things. But without the monarchy, what would journalists fill their columns with? what would the souvenir vendors do? What would the royals do without the mass adoration? How about the Republicans? Don't we need to think of them too?

So, back to the glamour girls. We have so many to choose from why not collect them all?

Princess Mary of Denmark
Princess Maxima of the Netherlands
Princess Mette-Marit of Norway
Princess Letizia of Spain
Princess Mathilde of Belgium
Princesses Victoria and Madeleine of Sweden
Princesses Caroline & Stephanie of Monaco

Princess Mary is so popular that on a recent visit to Australia (her home territory) she completely overshadowed Prince Charles' tour. Or should I say, her clothes overshadowed Charles. Not to worry about him, he must be used to it by now. After all, how can a 'vintage Oscar de la Renta skirt' compare to the future King of England? Even Camilla wedding dress gets more column space. Maybe the royals should compare schedules so there's no conflicts or injury to tender royal egos. Luckily the Danes were leaving Australia just as Princess Victoria of Sweden arrived.

The other European royals are not immune and once the glossy sheen wears off, Mary will be torn down for the cost of her clothes. When Mette-Marit married she brought with her the baggage of an out of wedlock son from a previous relationship. The public went 'tsk tsk' and demanded that she apologize for her 'desolute past'. Once done she could walk into the cathedral with her head held high. Letizia had been married previously, but that was a civil ceremony so it didn't count. Charles and Camilla won't escape penance either; after their Guildhall ceremony they will have a church blessing, part of which involves a prayer to confess their sins. Won't that make us all feel better? Maxima, and Mathilde, seem to be safely keeping themselves under the radar, except when appearing in Hello, having babies and making the occasional overseas visit. Since the Swedish royals were suing the tabloids, Caroline & Stephanie kept us occupied until Charles proposed. While Charles and Camilla are on honeymoon, and Prince Harry is behaving himself, if we're really bored we can discuss whether Prince Albert of Monaco is gay.

Quick! without going to the Prince of Wales' official website, can you name the topic of a recent speech he's made? I remember something vague about protecting albatross before they become endangered but that's about it. His opinion carried so much weight that three days after his speech his hosts still had him try on a cloak made of albatross feathers. Without Diana, wouldn't the British royals have sank like a rock? Would you watch them drown? If they look glamourous I know I would.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

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