By Shannon Clarke
Feature photo courtesy of AP
Well, they’ve landed. I’d normally worry that “they” was too vague but Prince William and Kate Middleton have been the proverbial “they” since announcing their engagement last November. Just when the wedding hoopla died down and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were returning to the periphery of most of the world, their first international trip as a couple has dropped them in Canada for nine fun-filled days.
I didn’t watch the wedding or buy a commemorative stamp, coin or plate. I didn’t jump on the fascinator bandwagon (see: funky little hats) nor did I care that their Canadian tour wasn’t bringing them to Toronto. My interest in the royal family has always been minimal at best, most likely because I was in the first grade when Princess Diana died and it was the first time I remember hearing of her.
This apathy is what Buckingham Palace is hoping to circumvent. Wills and Kate have been dubbed the “modern” monarchs by the media. They are young, spontaneous, adventurous, charming and attractive – the perfect pair to turn the iGeneration into avid royal watchers. Judging by the hundreds of thousands who lined the streets at Rideau Hall and Parliament Hill for the first days of their tour in Canada, it looks like it’s working (consider the measly crowd that turned up at Varsity Stadium when Prince Charles and Camilla visited Toronto in 2009).
“Modern Monarchs” – An oxymoron?
Young and charming though they may be, “modern” they are not, and through no fault of their own. The monarchy is not an institution that adapts well to change, and its idea of modern is extremely limited. That they dated for nearly a decade, lived together for years, and seem to actually love each other has been heralded as refreshing and new. They’re about three months away from becoming a tabloid portmanteau.
But watching seems to be all Kate fans will get to do. One of the most photographed and talked about women in the world, she hasn’t addressed Canadians during her tour.
Prince William has delivered two speeches in Ottawa, speaking on behalf of the monarchy and his wife: Catherine and I have been looking forward to this, Catherine is also very excited to be here, Catherine first heard of Canada from her grandfather – and so on and so forth.
Their relationship has been scrutinized for years and the question has always been whether or not Kate Middleton was fit for a prince. Not in so many words of course: good match, “perfect for him”, does the Queen approve? Would Princess Diana approve if she were alive today? When you date and then marry the future King of England, “common” goes out the window. Their relationship has been marketed as a fairytale come true: ordinary girl goes off to college and falls in love with a Prince – every little girl’s dream.
And yes, I mean marketed. Anyone with anything to gain from interest in big day, from media outlets to souvenir shops, milked the royal wedding buzz for everything it was worth.
The Canadian Media and the Royals
As I watched the Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa from my living room, the commentary on Catherine, as it has for the last several months, has been about how naturally she’s slipped into her “role”. As duchess, schmoozer of the people, supportive wife, royal, celebrity, the Duchess of Cambridge is being graded by everyone. CBC correspondents praised her as she reassured a nervous William after his speech.
In the weeks leading up to and following the nuptials, journalists like the Globe and Mail’s Christie Blatchford and Katrina Onstad have been critical of the media hype surrounding the pair and Middleton in particular. Onstad questioned the future of a university-educated woman whose main occupation is now full-time second half. Not that being a royal won’t keep her busy. Following her husband around the world representing our Head of State is no easy feat. And then there’s all the smiling and waving and handshaking to be done.
Here’s hoping, when the honeymoon ends and the first-official whatnots are over with, the Duchess of Cambridge will inspire more conversation than her fashion sense, likeness to Princess Diana and how great she looks next to her prince. No doubt she’ll take up some charitable cause and maybe then she’ll be addressing crowds herself.
And hopefully all of this will start before the royal womb-watch begins.