In Kate Middleton the royal family has made a good hire
Nov 18th 2010
OTHER than asking prime ministers to form governments every five years or so and entertaining the public, the British monarchy has one main job: self-perpetuation. Choosing the mother of a future monarch is therefore crucial. Having made such a hash of it last time—the Diana drama did more for republicanism than any episode since George IV had his popular wife tried for adultery in 1820—it was imperative that, in the case of Prince William, the second in line to the throne, it should get it right.
The monarchy needs a combination of stability and glamour. It is a tricky balance to maintain. For most of the 20th century, it had plenty of the first and not much of the second. After Diana turned up, it was the other way round. Now things have settled down again. The public has accepted Camilla, Prince Charles’s former mistress, as his consort. His sons provide a certain amount of tabloid copy by doing princely things in the armed forces and nightclubs, but the public is bored. The royals need a woman with Diana’s glamour but without her instability. Kate Middleton, whose engagement to William was announced on November 16th, might well fit the bill.
Miss Middleton is very pretty and the newspapers like her. Her appeal is more modern than Diana’s. In an age mildly embarrassed by the royal males’ enthusiasm for wearing tweed and killing wildlife, her middle-class origins are a plus. That her forebears include Northumbrian miners and her mother was formerly an air stewardess, that her parents made their own money, and that she met the prince at university rather than a stately home, can only do her good.
Unlike Diana, who was disadvantaged not just by warring aristocratic parents and a tiresome stepmother, but also by a faintly ludicrous stepgrandmother who wrote 664 romantic novels and always wore pink, Miss Middleton comes from a stable background. Her parents met working for British Airways; she was brought up in a two-parent, three-child family. Since people from stable families are more likely to produce them, she has a better chance of making a go of her marriage than Diana had.
But as anybody who has ever recruited staff knows, the key question is whether she really wants the job. Unlike Diana, who was thrust into it at 20 and evidently had no idea what it entailed, Miss Middleton clearly does. She is 28, and is said to have had her eye on William since she was a schoolgirl. She has been dating him for years; they split up briefly in 2007, allegedly because he was reluctant to commit. Now she’s got the job, she seems likely to stick with it.