Wills and Kate are now roy­alty’s ‘mid­dle class’

The Observer - - NEWS -

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.

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