By the time you read this, Prince William and Catherine Middleton will be husband and wife and with a bit of luck, all that hoopla surrounding the Royal Wedding will be over. But something tells me all those insidious, even invidious, comparisons between William’s late mother, Diana, and his new wife will continue to plague the royal couple for a long time to come.
Ever since William and Catherine (as we must learn to call her now; Kate is, apparently, far too common) announced their engagement, the Diana vs Kate industry has gone into overdrive. It doesn’t matter that the only thing the two women have in common is their love for William. For some reason, the media have decided that Kate must be seen through the prism of Diana, living in the shadow of the mother-in-law she never met. (And it didn’t exactly help that William gave his mother’s old engagement ring – an enormous sapphire surrounded by diamonds – to Kate when he proposed to her, thereby reviving memories of his mother’s disastrous marriage to Prince Charles.)But look at it dispassionately, if you will. Princess Diana was an aristocrat, the youngest daughter of an Earl, styled Lady Diana from birth. Catherine Middleton is from solid middle-class stock, the daughter of two self-made professionals who made their millions from selling party paraphernalia on the Internet. Diana was the product of a broken home, her mother having famously eloped with a lover, leaving behind her children, whom she later lost in a bitter custody battle. Catherine grew up in a loving, secure, two-parent home, with none of the bitterness and bile that comes with broken marriages.
Even as far as appearances go, the women could not be more unlike one another. Diana was an English rose, all peaches and cream complexion, bottle-blonde hair cut short, and that famous fringe framing her lovely blue eyes as she batted her lashes oh-so coyly. Catherine is just as pretty but set in a completely different mould: a no-nonsense sensible type, with a forthright smile and long brunette hair that hangs down glossily past her shoulders.
And yet, the media are full of pictures of Diana and Kate which purportedly show just how alike they are. See, both of them are wearing strapless red gowns! Look both of them are in a blue suit! Wow, both of them are wearing little black dresses! Don’t they seem eerily alike? Er, no, they don’t. They look about as alike one another as any two women wearing a dress of the same colour would – no more, no less. In fact, if any comparisons are to be made with Catherine, they should be with Camilla, the current wife of the Prince of Wales and William’s stepmother.
For starters, both women are from non-aristocratic stock; and from close, tightly knit-together families. Both have solid middle to upper-class moneyed backgrounds; and neither has ever held down a proper job. Both fell in love with their respective Princes fairly early on, and have remained devoted to them through thick and thin. While Camilla was pilloried as the third person in a crowded marriage, Catherine has been dubbed Waitey-Katie by a cruel tabloid press committed to making fun of her because Prince William took such a long time to propose. And both have taken the criticism, the mockery and the taunts head-on, smiling resolutely for the cameras while saying nothing at all (thereby adhering to the time-tested royal motto: never complain; never explain).
In fact, it is in their relationship with the media – or rather the lack of it – that Camilla and Catherine are most alike. Unlike Princess Diana, who was close friends with some tabloid hacks and routinely used them to plant stories about herself in the press, neither Camilla nor Catherine has ever chosen to engage with the media. The only interview that Catherine has given is the one she gave jointly with William to mark their engagement. And Camilla never talks to the media, period.And most importantly of all, both of them are the first loves of their Princes. Charles fell madly in love with Camilla, the dashing debutante, almost from the time he met her. But in a repeat of that age-old story, she was ready to settle down and he wasn’t; so, she married Andrew Parker-Bowles instead. William and Catherine too fell in love early on, while still at St Andrew’s University. But in this modern age, they could afford to live together until such time as they decided to get married.
In fact, that’s the key difference in their love stories. William married his Catherine, who waited for him patiently, despite all those horrid Waitey-Katie barbs levelled at her. Charles, on the other hand, missed out on marrying his Camilla until the second time round. If he had had the sense to marry her to begin with – the same good sense that William has shown with Catherine – he would have spared a lot of people a lot of misery. And there would be no Princess Diana spectre hanging above the glossy brunette curls of Catherine Middleton today.
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