When Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer got married — the wedding of the century, remember? — I was working at a small-town newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was always on the lookout to find something interesting to write about. There it was: Charles and Shy Di, crowns, nuptials, Westminster Abbey!
I ended up talking to several people in town to get their advice for the newlyweds. Our next-door neighbors, who’d been married for a half-century, told them to respect each other. A local hairdresser suggested Di get a new haircut and cut her bangs a little shorter. A friend who’d just gotten divorced predicted the royal lovebirds had just taken the first horrific step toward a messy divorce.
I caught hell for that last interview (so negative on such a lovely occasion! Why interview somebody so cynical who clearly didn’t appreciate the beauty of true love?). But then, I was always catching hell about something — and let’s face facts: my friend was dead right. The romance and wedding of the century morphed into the coming apart, separation and divorce trainwreck of the millennium.
Looking back, I’d still interview the same people and quote them on the same things and get screamed at for my troubles. After all, who can tell about any marriage’s prospects? What does anybody know? You go to the altar, you toss the dice. I’m not cynical about it; I’m simply a realist.
What I am deeply cynical about, though, is the prospect of marrying into royalty. Don’t do it. Marry a prince of a guy, but avoid the born prince. Look at Lady Di. Look at Princess Grace, who gave up her acting career to marry a monarch of the country Somerset Maugham famously called “a sunny place for shady people.” And look, equally heartbreakingly, at this New York Times story about Japan’s troubled royal family.
There, as usual, boy met girl. Girl was independent, Harvard-educated and accomplished commoner. Boy was (warning signs!) a crown prince. In 1993, she finally agreed to marry him.
Unfortunately, a Harvard education, fluency in a few languages and a successful career are worthless when you can’t get it together to bear a male heir and you live in a society that treats women and female heirs to the throne like, shall we say, dirt. Since she gave birth to the couple’s only child, a daughter, Princess Masako evidently suffered a nervous breakdown and has been a virtual recluse ever since. No pregnancies, no masculine children, and — to make matters worse — Masako’s sister-in-law has been pumping out sons like freedom fries at a McDonald’s.
This latest article highlights the furor around the royal couple’s 7-year-old daughter, Aiko. Recently, she’s stopped going to school, reportedly suffering from anxiety and a stomach disorder. Naturally, her mother gets blamed for this and at least one palace critic has suggested such “an unhealthy family” shouldn’t be ascending to the Japanese throne anyway.
Meanwhile, the press is hounding the palace and all you can think of is what must be going on within — the sadness, the deep depression, the anxiety, the despair. All you can do is read between the lines of a story that has only a few pitiful lines to parse. You can only wonder about such a promising, vibrant young woman and how her life has come to this. You can only imagine what life must be like for her daughter.
So, listen. As far as I’m concerned, my kids can bring home anybody they want, even a Republican, and I plan to love that person. But anybody referred to as “your highness” or “your majesty” can just keep walking or strutting or whatever you do when you’re royal. My politics might be blue, but when it comes to blood, my favored color is red.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
See one of my favorite posts about how you think you really want to visit your adult son’s first apartment, but maybe you don’t
Oh, please, not a Republican.
Regrettably, I must say that the biggest problem with royal marriages is the press. (Sorry, nothing personal, Lotus Blossom.) While the rest of us nobodies can muddle about until we get the marriage terrain mapped out and maybe fight a duel or two with the odd mother-in-law without any notoriety, royals must deal with both the glare of traditions, protocol and unyielding scrutiny from the press. No wonder the Japanese prince is a basket case and the rest of his happy home is unraveling.
I like what you wrote: You go to the altar, you toss the dice.
Now I understand why wedding chapels abound in Las Vegas.
I wonder if the Japanese have heard yet that it’s the father’s contribution to conception, not the mother’s, that determines the sex of the child? No, it’s so much easier just to blame the woman for producing the “wrong” kind of heir. Very sad.
How very American — and republican (with a small r) — of you.
But I expect your kids are, on the whole, safe from the temptations of royalty. So not much danger to your red blood.
She shoulda married a golfer.
Joyce made me laugh. Sad tale all around, though. The whole royalty thing, I think, has run it’s course.
When my daughter was five years old, she would take apples into the back yard and practice taking bites from them. She would swoon to the ground with her eyes closed. Then she would wait there for her prince to show up and kiss her back to life. It’s kind of heartbreaking when you think what jerks REAL princes can be. Thank God no one ever showed up.
I agree that royal blood certainly does not guarantee marital bliss, but then marital bliss is pretty hard to find. Must be even more of an effort when one partner is born with a silver spoon.
On the people my kids bring home …. two kids are married, and I’m happy with their choices, but what I find hard is to act super friendly when I’m sure the person is the biggest mistake my daughter will ever make, which actually has happened about three times with my middle child. So, far no Republicans, but one Pakistani, one former hippy who got free rent and bought a Prius with the savings, one pathological lier … and those are only the men she introduced to me …
“My politics might be blue, but when it comes to blood, my favored color is red.” Great line, Ruth.
Also, I think that your post applies to anyone who “thinks” they’re royalty.
Royalty is certainly no guarantee to a life of happiness, and so sad that people have to find out the hard way…And the press loves a good, juicy, lurid story, now don’t they?
Great post, Ruth! Makes me appreciate the “normal” guys I’ve dated a whole lot more.
Ha! What Meredith said..But will you be able to ferret out the faux princes and princesses from the real ones???
Just what every girl needs, a guy who feels he can give himself airs. No thanks!
Hey! I have royal blood or so says my grandmother. She claims we’re descended from the ninth Geraldine of Ireland. The other 8 were beheaded by Queen Elizabeth. I know several other people whose grandmothers have also told them they’re Geraldinian descendants:)
I think Meredith’s right on being wary of anyone who “thinks” they’re royalty.