Wills and Kate are now royalty’s ‘middle class’
You might have noticed that last week Prince George embarked on his first day at school – at the prep Thomas’s, Battersea, south London – accompanied by his father, William. (Mother, Kate, was absent, incapacitated by morning sickness.) Some people might now hope that this marks the close of a particularly intense period of royal watching – the period of Diana remembrance frenzy. For a while, at least, a halt might be called to the anguished guff about people’s princesses, princesses of hearts and the like.
At least – this time around – it was the actual anniversary of her death. Too often, no excuse seems necessary for the cyclical torrents of (extremely repetitive) information about Diana. Personally, it can feel akin to being forced by a crazed, bayonet-wielding Beefeater into retuning into a decadesold royal soap opera.
Watching William being a good, hands-on father reminded me of a persistent odd quirk in royal coverage. Every time William or Harry displays any sign of humanity or good manners, it’s boomed that they’re “a credit to their mother”. And, of course, they
are, but why does Charles never get a mention? He parented them, too, and alone (with Camilla) for all the years after the tragedy, but it’s generally Diana who gets all the credit. Perhaps it’s this kind of mawkishly militant beatification of Diana that makes the whole spectacle so wearisome.
In a way, George’s first day at school showcased the new generation, perhaps even the next phase, of British royalty, a bit like a Star Wars or Avengers franchise renewal, but without the Christmas tie-in merchandise opportunities. Leaving aside the vexed matter of whether it was a good idea for the nation to gawp at a small, vulnerable child’s first day at school – thankfully, only one photographer was allowed to be present – it was quite interesting to watch William in action. On one level, just another dad (a nice caring dad) seeing his kid off to his first day of school. On another, it’s the latest instalment of what’s fast becoming “The Wills and Kate Windsor MiddleClass Real-Time Panto”. While this was Kate’s actual background, she somehow joins William in appearing as though they’re actively engaged in an over-zealous tutorial, or well-received TED talk, on “being uber-middle class”.
Indeed, the future monarch and his queen appear to be meta-normalising or, if you prefer, “de-royalising” at such an incredible rate, I keep halfexpecting to bump into Kate going through the sales rail in Seasalt or to spot William in Caffè Nero and asking if he could keep an eye on my cappuccino while I nip to the loo.
While William’s yearning for Middleton-level normality has long been noted, the elephant stubbornly refuses to budge from the room – in that (deep breath)… William and Kate are not middle class! Not even a posh version. The last time I checked, middle-class people didn’t tend to be feudal heirs to the British throne or have their child’s first day at school broadcast all over the world.
The fact that William and Kate want to be middle class, or at least present as such, could say something very positive – demonstrating that they want the royal family to remain relatable to the British public in a more metropolitan way than ever before. More cynically, this couple triggering all the right middle-class endorphins (“The VegBox Factor”?) could help ensure the royal family’s survival in these serious troubled times. Whatever lies behind it all, nothing quite takes away the strangeness of watching these high-ranking royals conduct an ongoing, near-flawless impersonation of affluent, middle-class life, almost as though an evil wizard has trapped them inside an affluent London snow globe.
Whether you find this bizarre, sweet or sad (or annoying), for me, it makes the royal family more interesting than they’ve ever been before.
Prince George’s first day at school in Battersea.