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Call her Catherine

columns Updated: May 21, 2011 16:58 IST
Karan Thapar

“Did you notice how quickly they’ve stopped calling her Kate?” Pertie sounded as if he had made an eureka discovery. “It’s now Catherine and the BBC’s gone one step further. They’ve taken to Miss Middleton.”

“Ah,” I responded, spotting an opportunity to dazzle him with my knowledge of Britain’s arcane terms of address. “And once she’s married she’ll become Princess William of Wales.”

“Princess William,” he shot back, chortling at what seemed like an obvious mistake.

“Yes,” I said, softly but smugly, as I launched into a triumphant explanation. “Princess William denotes that she’s only a princess by marriage as opposed to a princess by birth. That will be the key difference between her and Princess Anne, her husband, William’s, aunt.”

“But everyone called Diana Princess Diana. No one ever said Princess Charles.” Pertie was not going to give up quite so easily.

“But in terms of correct nomenclature they were wrong.” However that didn’t feel like a sufficient answer. And Pertie looked unconvinced. So I added a bit more. “Also Princess Charles sounds clumsy and awkward. Finally, Diana was also the Princess of Wales. Kate Middleton has to wait a while before she gets that title.”

Pertie snorted. I could swear I saw his nostrils flare. He clearly doesn’t like it when someone else knows more than he does. “So what other little gem of silly knowledge can you offer?”

It was a challenge I rose to magnificently. Without realising it, the dear boy had offered me the opening I wanted.

“Well, for a start, the young couple will soon be given a new grand title by the Queen. It happened to both Princes Andrew and Edward. And my guess is it will be a dukedom but it could be an earldom.”

“And what will that make Kate Middleton?”

“Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of wherever, or Her Royal Highness, the Countess of wherever.”

“And when will that happen?” He sounded very doubtful of my tip.

“Perhaps on the day of their marriage. That’s what the Queen did with her two younger sons.”

Pertie tried to look unimpressed but I could tell his curiosity was aroused. “And what about her status as a commoner? The TV channels couldn’t stop mentioning it when they announced her engagement. Now, of course, she’s become a royal."

“Not so fast,” I interrupted. “She needs to get married first. But of one thing I’m sure, the press is bound to call her Princess Kate. That sounds both royal and friendly.”

This time, however, Pertie deftly turned the tables. “From Waitey-Katie, because she had to wait eight years before William would pop the question, to Queen Catherine, when he ascends the throne. Quite an achievement.” But then a look of curious concern flashed across his face and he suddenly added “I wonder if she’s got a few qualms about that.”

“Why should she have?” I was perplexed by this question. It seemed absurd to suggest that Kate Middleton might not want to become Queen Catherine, as one day she will.

“You’ve clearly forgotten your history. Three of Henry the Eighth’s wives were called Catherine. The first was divorced, the second beheaded and the third ended up a widow. That’s not the most comforting legacy to step into.”

The views expressed by the author are personal