Non-Fiction

Before and After Diana

Kate Middleton and her kind are now expected not only to have causes but to 'be someone.'

It was the year 197X. Britain was in a state of social turmoil.

The government was on its fourth Prime Minister of the decade; worse yet, it was Thatcher. Republicanism was running high. And the people were calling for the highest office of all to be scrapped. The fuddy-duddy queen and her stuffy family were costing the taxpayer a fortune, and they were only good for corgis. A presidency was modern and would be answerable to the average citizen.

But you won’t believe what happened next (except that the title gives context clues and also Diana is a well-known figure).

It would be an overstatement to say Diana’s marriage saved the monarchy, but it was a much-needed PR boost, and distracted from those rascally Republicans.

It is the year 2017, and we almost deserve it. If you head to Newbridge Silverware’s ‘Style Icons’ museum in Kildare, you’ll find dresses belonging to Diana. The centrepiece is not her wedding dress; it’s a prototype used to size the final version. There are no frills. You’d expect this to be a trivial interest to historians, if that.

The place can be packed somedays. Middle-aged women, and it’s all women, obviously have some connection to the woman who codified the modern idea of a real-world princess. Some of them have an attachment to the unhappy royal wedding they saw as teenagers.

Now Kate Middleton, baby Charlotte, and all the other princesses have to fill a Diana-shaped hole. They’re expected not only to have causes but to ‘be someone;’ that is, they have to have a brand based on a sliver of their personality. Even if they wanted to, how could they frame their public image to show all of themselves?

Being a princess nowadays is less like the Elizabethan conception of monarchy, and more like being a YouTuber. There isn’t universal enthusiasm for the monarchy, but the idea of it being scrapped in the next few years seems like a pipe dream. One way or another, these celebrity royals aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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