Land mines and bulimia: those are my only two real memories of Princess Di. Being young enough that the ’80s were just a (colorful plastic-scented) blur of Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake, I wasn’t much interested in fairytale weddings unless they came with a cartoon prince and soundtrack featuring Robin Williams. So I missed all the drama that plagued Diana Spencer from the moment she added “Princess of Wales” to her moniker. But like any good celebrity, she did leave a legacy and for me that included her good works with victims of land mines and even more vividly, the immense media scrutiny of her looks and her eating disorder. Hers was a Princess story that ended about as far from fairytale as you can get without turning it into The Producers.
I don’t think anyone would wish Diana’s fate on another young girl and yet with the recent engagement heard ’round the world between Prince William and Kate Middleton, here we are on the cusp of Princess 2.0 and I’m not sure we’ve learned anything. Here is what we know so far about the princess-to-be:
– Her engagement ring
is a huge diamond-sapphire ring that used to be Princess Di’s. And maybe it was supposed to go to Prince Harry but with no wedding prospects he handed it over to brother Will and at any rate, replicas of the gorgeous ring have spawned a whole new industry, that’s how much everyone loves it and blah blah blah what does this have to do with Kate
Clearly, just like Princess Di, her sartorial style is a winner. (Confession: I totally want that dress too – it’s got to be the best combination of flattering and subdued sexy I have ever seen.) Indeed, her style may be very similar – at least wearing ridiculously large hats in pictures styled by professional royalty groomers – to the late beloved Princess. And the comparisons don’t end there. In addition to having impeccable taste and perfect grooming, Princesses are required to have a certain, well, princess-ly body type.
Princess Di was hugely unprepared for the media barrage that commenced upon her marriage and even more so after the birth of her first son. Much of this media attention focused exclusively on her looks: her clothing, her hair, her jewelry and especially her body. Mere weeks into her marriage, after a run-in with Australian paparazzi, she said
“I was concerned I was a fat, chubby, 20-year-old.” She dealt with all this scrutiny by turning to bulimia which she described as not only a weight-management tool but as an “escape mechanism” from the insane pressure being heaped upon her.
Looking back, it seems a despicable way to treat someone who was so beloved and yet if anything the media eye is even more focused on Kate. While engagement rumors swirled late this summer, websites rushed to post pictures of her “dramatic weight loss
” first positing that it was an effort to get into princess form and entice William to propose and then proclaiming it was because she was so upset about the wedding drama that she lost weight from stress causing William to go into fits out of fear of his mother’s fate befalling his true love. Some articles gushed over her new (UK) size two figure, talking about how she wooed William by posing for lingerie shots while others bemoaned her “concave, bony” chest. Every article has to print her height and weight, as estimated by various experts and “friends” who don’t hold back on philosophizing about every morsel she eats. Even Kate Middleton’s mother doesn’t escape the diet police
who kindly call her a “health hazard.”
I’m not usually inclined to believe quotes from anonymous “palace insiders” (in the National Enquirer no less
) but I think this one has the ring of truth: “Kate’s obsessed with her weight and is bothered when people comment on it.” It would be quite the feat to not
be obsessed with her weight when the rest of us so clearly are and how could you not be bothered when people comment on it? Personally I enjoy it so much when people comment on my weight that I’ve taken up earwax-cultivating as my new favorite hobby.
For the miles of type written about the Princess-to-be, I wish more of it had to do with Kate’s actual interests or her plans for public service or what books she reads or even if she thinks Dancing With the Stars: Bristol Palin Scandal Edition really is rigged by waltz-loving gun-toting Republican mercenaries. Just reading about her speculated weight drama makes the crazy voices scream in my head; I can hardly imagine what it must do to her.
She seems (I write that like I know her at all which I so totally don’t – the closest I’ve ever gotten to anyone royal was when I swore I saw Pamela Anderson on a Southwest flight out of L.A. and she’s a queen of a whole different stripe) very level-headed and capable. She’s got almost ten years on Princess Di, at the age she wed, and that can make a huge difference in terms of confidence and self-esteem. Plus, it seems like the castle is taking precautions by having her meet with a support team of experts
to prepare her for the onslaught. I hope so. I really want her to succeed (if only so she’ll continue to find adorable dresses that I can then copy) and to find happiness and fulfillment in her new life.
But in the end, Princess Di’s words echo presciently from the grave
, “The most daunting aspect was the media attention, because my husband and I, we were told when we got engaged that the media would go quietly, and it didn’t; and then when we were married they said it would go quietly and it didn’t; and then it started to focus very much on me, and I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you, place you, is the bigger the drop.”
After watching beautiful Princess Di fall victim to eating disorders, why are we already setting up Kate to follow the same pressured path? Or is body scrutiny just part of the deal when you become a modern-day princess? Do you think Kate Middleton’s better equipped to handle it than Princess Di?
This month I’m blogging over at Never Say Diet on iVillage. This post is the longer version of the one that ran there.