From One Newlywed to Another: Some Advice for Kate Middleton
After eight long years of waiting, Kate Middleton and Prince William announced their engagement yesterday. Shocking almost no one on several continents with the news, the two had built up to the admission for weeks, and are planning to wed some time in the late spring or early summer of 2011 in a ceremony that is reputed to already be "bigger than Charles and Diana's."
Prince William, 28, asked Middleton, also 28, to marry him while the two were on vacation in Kenya last month, the statement said. The two met nearly a decade ago while students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The relationship garnered some controversy because Middleton does not come from royalty and royals are generally expected to wed other aristocrats.
The Queen said she is “absolutely delighted” for the couple, Buckingham Palace said today.
Does anyone in America care? Yes, absolutely. I do, and not simply because I had enough of a royal dream to name myself the American Princess, but because after suffering through the ordeal of a wedding and the first few months of married life - a trial that has nothing to do with my husband - I feel obligated to follow this story with intense scrutiny, pausing at intervals to give Kate Middleton some advice through the television screen. Because let's be honest here: the focus on a royal wedding is 20% genuine curiosity at a spectacle and 80% schadenfreude, and when you're at your wits end, trying to explain to your family why you haven't managed to get yourself knocked up in just under 12 weeks and three ovulatory cycles, you'll seek out just about anyone whose suffering is bound to be worse than yours, if only because it'll be OK Magazine asking the questions and not your family.
When Kate gets hitched, she won't immediately become a princess - at least not until Charles takes the throne and her husband officially succeeds his father as the Prince of Wales. Depending on whether the royal family bestows a new title on William, she'll either be a Duchess of something fancy-sounding (royal watchers think they'll probably be the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), or she'll be Princess William of Wales, which is sort of a second class princess title. Either way, her life will be thrust into the limelight immediately and the fabulous questions that dog all newlyweds will become tabloid headline.
First, there will be tons of speculation over the wedding. Kate is getting fat! Now she's getting skinny! Now she's getting fat again. Now she's getting skinny. Now she's fat. Now she's skinny. Is she eating? Is she not eating? And, because these are royals to whom generally accepted cultural norms do not apply and who are assumed to not fully understand birth control, every time she gets fat, she will also be speculated to be pregnant, because - and this is a rule as a bride - you are absolutely not allowed to retain water, ever. Luckily, now that she's about to become a royal, her clothes will be specially made to avoid any possible "Bitch Stole My Look!" moments, otherwise, there'd also be speculation she's using body doubles, she might be a hooker and - and this is a popular one - she is cheating on William.
Then, after the wedding, she should be warned that she will not be allowed to have any private time at all with her new husband. In fact, private time is absolutely against the contract, as is personal space, personal identity and, for that matter, a personal desire to not get pregnant within moments of getting married. If the spirit does not descend and help her conceive before the reception is even underway, she will be viewed as frigid, infertile and, above all, cheating on William.
Not being Catholic and all, she might be given a bit of leeway, if she's lucky - perhaps a whole year and a half. In my case, I've been married three months and am viewed as being so far behind the curve that my in-laws have actually given up and assumed I'm one of 'those feminists.' Poor Kate will not have the luxury of hiding behind her political beliefs to delay conception. Of course, as soon as she IS pregnant, there will be many questions as to who fathered the child and whether she is, in fact, cheating on William.
Once she pops out a child, she should expect an entire 18 months vacation until she is expected to get pregnant again. She should spend this time looking as maternal as possible, perhaps with the addition of long skirts, unwashed hair and lots of coffee because, in this difficult time of early motherhood, if she is not looking haggard, run down and altogether consumed with the new royal offspring, she will be presumed to be, of course, cheating on William.
So, let's recap what the next year to two of Kate Middleton's life looks like in headlines:
- Trouble in paradise? The fiances refuse to hold hands in public!
- A dress fit for a princess!
- Trouble in paradise? Kate and Wills sleep in separate houses two nights before wedding!
- A royal wedding!
- Trouble in paradise? Kate not pregnant after wedding night!
- A royal honeymoon!
- Trouble in paradise? Kate not pregnant after honeymoon!
- A royal Christmas!
- Trouble in paradise? Kate not pregnant six months on!
- A royal pregnancy!
- Trouble in paradise? Pregnant Kate spotted thinking ... perhaps of another man?
- A royal baby!
- Trouble in paradise? New mom Kate spotted looking like she showered!
My advice to her is this: first and foremost, be yourself. If so many of the last generation of royal wives seems to say anything, it's that it's very easy to get lost in this brand new identity, and a new married name is only the beginning. Even though I knew my fiance's family for years before I married into it, the pressure to attend everything, to please everyone, to always say yes is daunting, and we're just common folk (though my husband is from Scotland and looks pretty smashing in a kilt). That new name can easily seem to be an entirely new person, but make no mistake, it's not a new beginning. You are who you always were and no brand new NHS card with a crown on it is going to change that.
Second, hold your head up high. No matter what pressure is put on you, decisions on when and how to raise your family are yours and yours alone. I know that for me, it's easier since there's no chance our parents are passing down much more than a set of old cookbooks and moderate mood disorders, whereas you're tasked with producing an heir to one of the last actual thrones, but look at it this way, if you're not ready, you're not ready. When you are, it'll be a national event and everyone will forget all those times they speculated that you weren't interested in wearing the fancy lingerie.
If there was one thing the world admired about Princess Diana, it was her amazing ability to make people feel like they mattered to her, and she accomplished this by being frank and open - at least later in her life - about her own identity, her own desires and her own self-image. People already like you, Kate, because you seem normal. They'll continue to like you no matter what, so just be yourself. It's not a short order the first few months after your wedding, but I think you'll handle it well.
And if not, I suggest adopting a fat cat. But that's just me.