Princess Charlotte: The Girl Who Won’t Be Queen

princess charlotteThere are a lot worse things in this world than being George Windsor’s little sister.  As jobs go, being the spare to the heir to the British throne is a pretty good gig.  Just ask Prince Harry.  You don’t have to do all that much and there are plenty of perks —  like palaces and polo.  Although, as a princess, you’re not actually going to be allowed to play polo — you’re just supposed to look good watching it.  Which brings us to the down side of the princess business.

Let’s be honest: being a baby is easy.  Everybody thinks you’re cute.  Nobody cares what you wear.  And you can, if necessary, throw up in public.  Besides, you’re portable and more experienced minds can simply keep you away from embarrassing situations.  Unfortunately, for Princess Charlotte, this isn’t going to last.  As she grows up, she is going to have to face one of the most ruthless bullies in the history of the world — the international media.

Every move she makes, every breath she takes, they’ll be watching her.  And, if history is any indication, there’s always going to be some bitchy somebody out there eager to call her down.  Every hair out of place, every too short/too long dress, every zit, every clumsy pause, every millimetre less than immaculate will be front page news.  And when that isn’t enough to satisfy the headline hunters, even immaculate will be scrutinized.  (Remember her mother was criticized for wearing the same outfit, twice.)  Plus, Princess Charlotte, like her mother before her, is going to be stalked to the limits of the telephoto lens and far beyond the limits of the law.  And when that awkward bikini photography goes viral (and it will) she will have no recourse but to shut up and take it.  At least you and I can sue.

But there’s more.  Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana is Princess Di’s granddaughter, and from now until the end of forever the media is never going to let anybody forget it.  Those are some awfully big Louboutins you’ve got to fill Your Royal Highness.

Personally, I’m glad Prince George has a sister.  Sisters are cool.  And as the years go on, these two are going to need each other.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee

Today, February 6th, 2012, is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.  For sixty years, Her Majesty has been the Queen — and that’s the gist of it, really.  She is not a queen, one of many queens, although there are still many queens in the world.  She is The Queen – universally recognized.  This is partially to do with the enduring power of the British monarchy – nearly 2,000 years old – but mostly it’s to do with the Queen herself.

In 1952, when Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the throne, Britain was still an imperial power.  Winston Churchill, who had served Queen Victoria, was the Prime Minister of Britain and Harry S Truman, a haberdasher from Missouri, was President.  He was the last President who did not have a university degree.  Joseph Stalin, a peasant from Georgia, was the ruthless master of the Soviet Union, and Chairman Mao, a librarian from Hunan, ruled China.  Vladimir Putin, Sarkozy, Merkel and David Cameron weren’t born yet; nor were Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama.

People wrote letters to each other.  Telephones were attached to the wall, and long distance calls were an event.  People still sent telegrams.  In 90% of the British Commonwealth (as it was called) television was an intriguing rumour.  Most people didn’t fly, and great distances were covered in boats and trains.

In 1952, the majority of Queen Elizabeth’s British subjects earned (in American dollars) less than $250.00 per month.  However, beef was 85 cents per lb, chicken, 56 cents and apples (when you could get them; Britain still had wartime rationing) were only 19 cents per lb.  Fresh fruits and vegetables were outrageously expensive out of season, and there was no such thing as fast food.

In 1952, walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction; Sir Edmund Hillary hadn’t even walked on Mount Everest yet.  Although transistors had been invented by Bell Laboratories in 1947, it would take Sony, a Japanese company that didn’t exist yet, three more years to commercially market the Transistor Radio.

In 1952, Queen Elizabeth was Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” and nobody thought that sounded strange.

In 1952, automobiles didn’t have seatbelts.  Cyclists didn’t wear helmets, and consumer products didn’t come with warning labels.  There were repair shops for household items.  Doctors made house calls, and lawyers didn’t advertise.

In 1952, the world was halfway through the 20th century.  The good old days were vanishing and our contemporary society was just being born.

It is a testament to Her Majesty that, despite the upheavals of a world that now seems to be spinning faster than most of us can understand, she has maintained an unassailable dignity. For sixty years, she has represented the best of what we are supposed to be.  Quietly and continually, she has done what was expected of her, not perhaps what she herself wanted to do.  She has spent a lifetime dedicated to her task — without comment or complaint or the flares of ego so common these days.

Few, if any, institutions have survived intact from 1952.  They’ve all been swept away by history.  Yet, Queen Elizabeth II remains The Queen.