Meghan v Kate: the joys of a fam­ily feud

The na­tion is gripped by the ru­mours of royal sis­ters-in-law at war. But you, too, can enjoy the ben­e­fits of bick­er­ing rel­a­tives, sug­gests Eva Wise­man

The Observer - - Focus -

There is a Yid­dish word that comes in handy if you are part of a fam­ily, and the word is broi­gus. I of­fer this word (mean­ing a feud, es­pe­cially be­tween rel­a­tives) to the royal fam­ily, free to use, as ru­mours of their own al­leged dis­pute spread across the press.

Here is what we know: Harry and Meghan are mov­ing to Wind­sor. The Sun and the Daily Mail say it’s be­cause Meghan and Kate hate each other, of­fer­ing the word “flounce”. A courtier coun­tered, no, it’s just, “they are very dif­fer­ent peo­ple”. Which of course is far more grave. The Times pointed out that at royal events Meghan and Harry keep be­ing seated far away from Kate and/or the Queen. At which point – the Mail on Sun­day rushed in to say – Prince Charles sug­gested that Wil­liam and Kate in­vite Harry and Meghan away for the week­end to make friends. EX­CEPT, once there, Kate told Meghan off for the way she talked to the staff, and Harry kicked off and Wil­liam took Kate’s side. Hence, “the move”.

The more ea­gle-eyed roy­al­ists will note Tatler’s sly sub­tweet of Meghan this week, in their must-read up­dated list of U and non-U. Nes­tled be­low (gasp) “Tro­phy spouses”, and above “Say­ing, ‘I’m all right thanks’ when of­fered a drink”, in the non-U col­umn, a sin­gle word: “Wind­sor”.

There is noth­ing like the idea of two women fight­ing to drag our weary eyes away from Brexit. It’s only a shame one isn’t blonde – you can lead a fin­ger to MailOn­line, but you can’t make it click. Nev­er­the­less, this is a story that has ig­nited the imag­i­na­tion of many thou­sands of strangers to the royal fam­ily, al­most as if they were wait­ing for it. Al­most as if Bri­tain’s open-armed wel­come to a mixed-race, di­vorced, fem­i­nist for­eigner into the Palace was a shal­low prom­ise, a drunken Christ­mas truce, a game of foot­ball be­fore the snip­ing be­gan.

The cat­fight trope, where two women compete out of jeal­ousy and in­se­cu­rity, is repli­cated through­out our many cul­tures. In part be­cause it’s tit­il­lat­ing and some­one’s top might get ripped, in part be­cause it ex­poses the ten­sion and vi­o­lence in­volved in fe­male am­bi­tion, and in part be­cause women are con­di­tioned to compete with and mis­trust each other.

The other thing we know about the pub­lic cat­fight, whether played out in the tabloids or on the grassy bit out­side the Royal Oak, is no­body wins. It is a bat­tle against the self – even if you’re left stand­ing, you’ve lost, by prov­ing there’s only space for one woman up there. The cat­fight is a trope as well-worn as the princess fan­tasy, the idea that once a woman has mar­ried her prince her life be­comes per­fect. And, well.

Per­haps Meghan and Kate are at war. Or maybe it’s giv­ing them ideas. If so, it’s the per­fect sea­son for a broi­gus. The fes­tive pe­riod is de­signed for the prod­ding of fam­ily feuds. The en­forced jol­lity, the pres­sure of gifts, the anx­i­ety of every­body in a room all at once and the heat­ing on at 23. Al­co­hol.

I speak as some­one whose fam­ily din­ners would not be com­plete with­out the car­cass of an an­cient broi­gus to pick over for dessert, and as some­one who drinks up friends’ sto­ries of: the great-aun­tie who ban­ished her son when he an­nounced he was mar­ry­ing a woman with a lisp, the sib­lings who have been fight­ing over the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of “sched­ule” since the early 1990s, and the woman who re­scinded her sis­ter’s wed­ding in­vi­ta­tion when the sis­ter lost weight. Kate be­ing left in tears fol­low­ing a brides­maid’s dress fit­ting for Princess Char­lotte be­fore Meghan’s wed­ding would cer­tainly make the cut.

As the Wind­sors pre­pare to con­gre­gate at San­dring­ham (and with Meghan’s mother, Do­ria, too) I hope they lean in – the drama can be as de­li­cious as a good pud­ding. There is some­thing cleans­ing about a broi­gus, when per­formed well, and at Christ­mas it brings the re­main­ing fam­ily to­gether bet­ter than any carol ser­vice or cosy BBC mur­der. I rec­om­mend it.

News­pa­pers claim there is a rift be­tween the royal wives.

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