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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Blog about a Blog

Very few of my family and friends have known up to this point about my guilty pleasure: following a blog written by Charlotte Crawley about the Duchess of Cambridge. My husband and I were wakeful anyway during the night when thousands of miles away it was the day of the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, so we tuned in and watched the wedding. My fancy was caught by this beautiful young couple who so obviously were in love, unlike the bogus fairy tale we had seen unfold between Prince William’s parents.

A few days later I found Charlotte’s blog and have been reading it a few times a week ever since. Sometimes I comment; mostly I just read and enjoy what people have to say. The tone of the blog has changed over time. First it was unqualified fans of the new Duchess of Cambridge; all was praise and sweetness and adoration. Then some more critical readers came on board, and I found the comments section much more interesting, sometimes annoying, even infuriating when they are really illogical. Always they are stimulating, and sometimes I have been persuaded to change my thinking. That is what makes the blog of most value to me.

During my first trip to London during my college years, I came away from my visits to Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and other royalty-connected sites with a firm conviction that I was in the anti-monarchist camp. The materialistic excesses were overwhelming to me and seemed wrong compared to all the poverty around. My experiences with a class-driven society had left me more republican than ever. In several personal encounters with the so-called upper class, I found myself held in contempt for my ancestry and economic status—things that to me matter not one whit in the eternal scheme of things. I had no admiration for any of these people.

All these years later I feel guilty for adopting Cambridge-watching as a hobby when my initial reasons were as shallow as those of the people who despised me—I simply liked their looks. But in watching them I have been drawn to another royal—Queen Elizabeth herself. I have read about her, watched some documentaries, and everything seems to me to be admirable. This woman puts duty first, and yet she is still flexible enough to learn to do things differently even at her advanced age. I find her intellect and understanding to be deep and her sense of humor engaging. (How else can her appearance as a “Bond girl” at the 2012 Summer Olympics be interpreted?) She seems to regret parts of the past that to me were arguments for abolishing the monarchy at the time, and she seems to be actively promoting a different future with the hope of producing better people in her own family.

Family is the most important thing to me. I find the comments on Charlotte’s blog a bit alarming these days, with many critical voices calling for Catherine to stop indulging herself in what is perceived as the easy life of a mother of young children and get to work; some sort of serious, regular job seems to be the thing these people want her to perform. These are strange comments in my mind.

First and most important, I find it alarming that so many people think that Catherine should not choose to be a wife and mother before her so-called royal duties. It seems also that lots of people think little children do not need to have their mother around, that the nanny is there to allow Catherine to get away from daily work with George. It seems that motherhood and laziness are equated in most of the public’s mind. I cannot understand how people can think that rearing children is the same thing as taking a vacation. I am extremely annoyed that all the decades of work toward the liberation of women has not allowed women to choose any work they want, for if they choose the roles of wife and mother as their primary work, that is seen as an unacceptable choice, a lazy choice. But apparently the Queen sides with me: Catherine is being given the gift of time to spend with her children while they are young, and I can only applaud it. It looks as if Catherine had a good mother herself; I would imagine she wants to give her children the benefit of that experience. It certainly does make for a better-adjusted adult if it’s possible to give the child a well-adjusted, happy mother who likes spending time with her children.

Second, I think people who call Catherine lazy do not understand the monarchy at all. Most of the comments about Catherine being lazy come because people want to see her doing more of the charity and public relations work that the rest of the royal family does. But they fail to take into account the position she occupies within the royal family. She is a spouse of a royal, and not the next-in-line to the throne at that. Senior to her husband’s position are the Queen and Prince Philip, and Charles and Camilla. In addition, William is not a full-time working royal; none of the royal grandchildren are, and not all the grandchildren are destined to ever be working royals. Right now the Queen’s children and her cousins are full-time working royals, and the grandchildren help out. For William, Catherine, and Harry, it is a time of apprenticeship. For Catherine to do more work than her husband would be odd, and more so if she were to do more than his aunt and uncles and their spouses. Yet Catherine’s so-called fans find themselves disappointed that Catherine does not make herself into an activist for dozens of causes.

Third, I find it utterly illogical that some of the people who profess themselves to be fans of the royals want to make them over into non-royals. What are they fans of, exactly? How can their comments be explained that call for Catherine to stop patronizing the charities and sports and other organizations (the same kinds the rest of the royal family work with) and take a regular job with a 40-hour work week? Only if you are calling for the abolition of the monarchy does it make sense to say that Catherine must work like that or else stop calling what she does now, work. (That these people do not allow acting as a patron to be classified as any form of work is another argument beside my point about their idea that Catherine should take a job with regular hours.) And to think she should have such a job is also illogical, because you would have to abolish the wealth of her family and make it economically necessary first. If you feel that none of the royal family actually do any “work,” then logically I think your position is that the money they receive from public funds is a form of charity to people who clearly do not need nor deserve it, and your next step is to call for the abolition of the monarchy.

I used to think abolishing this monarchy would be a good thing, but I have changed my mind. They may be anachronistic, and they may need to change with the times, but I do see that they have a lot of good to offer in the form of fund-raising for many, many good causes. Celebrities who are movie stars or sports figures or politicians do not have the same effect, nor do they have the same sense of duty, tradition, and higher purpose in the service of their country. Nonetheless, the royals can set the example for all those who have excessive wealth of a way to give back to society and lift the level of the country they live in.

I never want a monarchy in my own country, but let this one stay as long as they still provide a service to their public. When that ceases to be the case, then let them all get the jobs they will need. Meanwhile, I will keep watching the Duchess of Cambridge and hoping that she gets the time and space to rear little George and the next child in the best way possible. The world desperately needs more well-adjusted, happy people in it. Even a future king should have that chance.

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