Emma Cowing: The curtsey that will launch 1,000 frocks
IF IT weren’t so thoroughly blue-stockinged and British, it would sound like an indecent proposal. Would you accept £35,000 worth of free clothes if it meant you had to curtsey to your husband’s young cousin every time you saw her?
In any other family of course, the notion would be ludicrous. But this is not any other family, this is the Royal Family, where ludicrous is the norm and bizarre gambols down the gilt-edged corridors of everyday life.
Two separate pieces of royal news this week have confirmed what many of us have suspected about the royals for a long time: they are completely mad. According to an updated set of protocols, the Duchess of Cambridge has been informed that although she will one day be Queen, she must, apparently, in the meantime “show reverence” to “blood princesses” Beatrice and Eugenie.
Aside from sounding like a bad piece of Harry Potter fan fiction, one wonders if it rather sticks in Kate’s craw that she must curtsey to a 22-year-old Newcastle University student and a 23-year-old Goldsmiths graduate (degree: “The History of Ideas”) with distinctly dodgy taste in headwear. However, Kate only has to do it when her husband’s not around (because he outranks both Beatrice and Eugenie, do keep up), so that’s alright then – nothing makes a girl feel more at home with the rellies than not having to curtsey to your husband’s stroppy little cousin because you’ve got your bloke with you.
Kate is not the only one to suffer as a result of these protocols, drawn up, apparently, by the Queen and known in royal circles as the Order of Precedence of the Royal Family to be Observed at Court. The Countess of Wessex, who when her two brothers-in-law divorced, became the third-highest ranking woman in the Royal Family, has seen a further demotion (a 2005 update decreed she must curtsey to the Duchess of Cornwall), and must now curtsey to Kate, who despite being a “commoner” – gasp! – is apparently less common than Sophie.
It all sounds exhausting, not to mention murder on the knee joints. But what makes it even more extraordinary is that the royals take all this nonsense deadly seriously, and not just in public either. According to one report this week, they’re all busy curtseying and bowing to each other behind closed doors as well. How on Earth do they ever get round to the presents on Christmas morning?
The only rebel in the fold, apparently, is the Princesss Royal, who is said to have always refused to curtsey to either Diana or Camilla. And why not? In what other sphere of life would it be remotely normal to have to curtsey to your big brother’s wife? In fact, Princess Anne has always seemed the least fussed by all the royal protocol, something perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that she refused royal titles for her children.
Poor Kate of course, can do nothing at this stage except smile sweetly and accept her fate. Oh, and accept a new wardrobe. Because if anything were to sweeten the pill of having to pay reverence to two over-indulged young women whose position of privilege stems from nothing more than a happy accident of birth, it would be the fact that your father-in-law is prepared to subsidise your love of clothes.
According to royal accounts due to be published this week, Prince Charles has shelled out £35,000 this year alone to cover the cost of clothes for Duchess of Cambridge and her husband to wear on official occasions. For those of us who swallowed the line that she was a High Street shopper with a thrifty line in recycling outfits, it is a disappointing discovery.
Kate is one of the most photographed women in the world so it is understandable she might need more than a few jersey dresses from Hobbs to look the part. But if the Royal Family want to stay in touch with the rest of us – and in a Diamond Jubilee year you would have thought that would be particularly important – they need to realise that revelations like these demonstrate how far removed, and how unlike the rest of us they really are. Kate – once seen as a role model to ordinary women because of her seemingly down-to-earth, unaristrocratic approach, now appears to have gone native, even if the family she has married into continue to treat her like a “commoner”.
Still. At least she’ll have the comfort of knowing she will have something nice to wear when she has to curtsey to Eugenie.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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