Admit it. You watched. The dreamy yet of-the-moment dress, the horse-drawn carriage, the pomp and circumstance of days gone by. The tragedy-turned-fairytale of a young prince, left motherless at the age of 15, choosing his beautiful bride and riding literally into a palace to live happily ever after.
Even cynics must admit: it was fun to watch.
But why, exactly? We know it’s unlikely to be “happily ever after,” because even if William and Kate are truly in love, real life will intercede. The made-for-television (and the British tourism industry) spectacle will give way to daily life and what it really takes to make marriage work. Plus, royal marriages are famously fraught alliances historically ending in quiet estrangement, scandal or even beheading.
And yet, we want to believe it’s possible. For a brief moment, the “Royal Wedding” provided what felt like a much-needed distraction. World news is grim, to put it mildly. Oil prices are high and getting higher, numerous countries are at war — civil and otherwise — and thousands upon thousands are being killed by what feel like freakish acts of nature. Donald Trump is even mulling a run for President. The news is bad and getting worse.
So for today, there is a prince and a princess and a chance to forget all that is ill in our world and indulge in fantasy that we recognize to be just that.
I know I’m not alone. Facebook “Friends” have announced wedding watching parties across time zones, complete with champagne, crumpets and watercress sandwiches. Even here in Paris (where sneering at Brits is a time-honored tradition), there are signs of Royal Wedding fever. On LeMonde.fr, France’s preeminent newspaper, one could watch the wedding proceedings live. Le Figaro proclaimed the impending nuptials of “Le Petit Prince” and provided coverage of wedding celebrations around the city. As the bells tolled across the pond at Westminster Abbey, Paris felt oddly quiet.
And who can blame us? Like it or not, princess fascination often begins early.
When my daughter’s love of princesses began around age 3, I reacted with predictably feminist horror. I amended story endings, (“And they lived happily ever after…after the prince decided to put his career on hold and accompany the princess to a new city where she completed her medical residency…”). I bought PC books — Paperbag Princess, anyone? I talked a lot about the importance of strength and self-reliance.
But none of it dimmed her fascination with all things princess. She begged for a Sleeping Beauty costume (to my mind the most odious of the princess tales), donned sparkly crowns and played “wedding.” She went through what felt like an interminable period where pants were flatly refused in favor of skirts or dresses. Snow on the ground, temps below freezing, she insisted on wearing fluffy things that twirled about her thighs. She even expressed frustration at my own daily uniform of jeans and sweater/t-shirt, and showed genuine delight when I donned a skirt or — joy of joys — a dress.
Newly four, I recently asked her what it is about princesses that she finds so fascinating. “Because they are so b000-tee-ful, Mommy,” was her reply. Well, yes.
At some point, I decided to give in. After all, what was so wrong with childish fantasy and imaginary play? Wasn’t that really all it was? My son fantasizes about being a dinosaur or shooting bad guys, and I’ve never seriously worried that he would one day take up eating herbivores or make headlines following a rage-filled shooting spree. As he wisely explained to me, “But Mommy, we’re just playing.”
Of course they are. And for a silly, fantasy-filled morning of royalty, outlandish hats, and a flowing white lace dress, so was I.