Living a fairytale
Few mothers taking a new baby home would want a crowd of photographers snapping them from every angle at the hospital door, but Kate Middleton, future Queen of England, is likely to handle the bizarre situation like a consummate professional. Since marrying Prince William in 2011, Kate has learned how to be a princess for the era of 24-hour news: always beautifully dressed, smiling for the cameras, she has withstood scrutiny and done nothing controversial.
The birth of her second child, expected imminently, will attract a media circus like the one that greeted the arrival of her firstborn, Prince George, in 2013, reflecting global interest in the young royal couple and their family. It is a peculiar kind of stardom. Her image is ubiquitous on the front pages, fans cheer her at every stage-managed appearance, and the clothes she wears sell out in a flash, yet Kate has revealed very little of substance about herself.
“She’s popular for the same reason the Queen is. They’re both people who say almost nothing but on to whom others are able to project the things that they like,” said Catherine Mayer, who wrote about Kate in the US magazine Time when it selected her as a runner-up for the title of ‘Person of the Year’ in 2011.
But there is a flipside to a fame built on beauty, glamour and the old-fashioned fairytale fantasy of marrying a prince. “It’s an amazingly intrusive kind of coverage that only women undergo and it means that at some point it will also turn because inevitably she will get older,” said Mayer.
An early sign of that came in February when the Daily Mail published a close-up image of the back of Kate’s head on its front page. “Oh Kate, are you really showing gray roots at 33?” it asked.
Whatever the headlines, Kate is hugely popular. A ComRes poll conducted on April, 8-9 found that 78 percent of respondents liked her, cutting across gender, age, class and geographical lines that divide Britons on other subjects.
While Kate is following in the revered Diana’s footsteps in terms of her glamour and fashion sense, she has turned out to be a very different kind of princess, as described in a lengthy essay by Booker Prize-winning author Hilary Mantel. “Diana was capable of transforming herself from a galumphing schoolgirl to an ice queen, from wraith to Amazon. Kate seems capable of going from perfect bride to perfect mother, with no messy deviation,” Mantel wrote in the London Review of Books.
William and Kate dated for years before marrying and appear happy together, unlike Charles and Diana, who did not know each other as well when they married and were soon unhappy. But that could start posing a challenge for the couple. “Public interest in William and Kate is not going to go away and it’s a beast that to some extent has to be fed if it’s not to run the risk of provoking negative reaction,” said Broadcaster Steve Hewlett, who made a documentary for the BBC about the royal family and the press.