Oh goodness. I mean, OH, GOODNESS. Universe, why don’t you ever tell us anything? How did we not know this already? See, according to Ancestry.com in a recent press release, Kate Middleton–excuse me, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge–is related to Jane Austen!
It’s an Independence Day* miracle!
They’re super close: only eleventh cousins six times removed! Which is only probably about how closely everybody in Britain is related to everybody else in Britain! So really, we can expect her finely observed, deeply romantic, and wryly hilarious novel any day now, right? It all runs in the family, I’m sure, so…let’s see. What could Lady(?) Catherine possibly write a novel about? Hmmm. I’m having trouble coming up with compelling content, here.
Wait, I’ve got it: aliens!
You heard it here possibly first, ladies and gentlemen.
*in the United States, which is super relevant to this story
Today, we’re talking royal wedding. SURPRISE! I mean, come on. It’s not like anybody’s talking about this little shindig. We’re just trying to make sure you get your fill, is what we’re saying. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Okay, so royal wedding talk isn’t exactly Austen. After all, nobody in Jane Austen marries a prince, and maybe that’s half the point. But it’s wedding week! We’re down to the thirty-six-hour mark, people, and these navels aren’t going to gaze at themselves! What do you want from us?
So as we rush towards the big day, leaving commemorative mugs and press-on nails in our wake, we ask: Is Wills marrying an accomplished woman? And does it matter?
In a sense, maybe we’re past the point of the Jane-ian “a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages….something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions.” Kate, after all, graduated from university with honors; all things being equal, she might have gone on to work and distinguish herself on any number of personal and professional merits. But then, parts of Bingley’s list do translate awfully well to the kinds of traits the royal family is looking for in a daughter-in-law: sure, she hasn’t had a job since 2007, but she’s certainly on top of her Best Dressed status. She photographs beautifully. She hasn’t said anything cringe-worthy in the press. She even studied Art History at St. Andrews, potentially taking care of that precious “drawing” (or, at a minimum, “talking about drawing”) requirement. For the twenty-first century, she can’t possibly be too far off the mark.
I wonder about Kate and what she’s going to do after the wedding—again, not that she appears to be an absolute comet of ambition (other than social) now. Perhaps being a princess is a full-time job, what with all that careful waving and the wearing of oppressively heavy headgear? On the other hand, until she distinguishes herself in some way, she dwells in the shadow of perhaps the ultimate accomplished woman: Princess Diana, who, after playing the basic princess and later slogging through an ugly break-up with her prince, got the ultimate revenge in the form of doing something significant with her life and being almost universally loved for it. I guess this is my hope for Kate—I wish her marital happiness in the manner of any winning Austenian marriage, of course, but I also hope that she’ll be (or become) accomplished in a sense greater than the drawing-room one. I’d love to see her use all of those carefully honed skills to the end of being somebody unique or doing something interesting for the world.
Because not even Caroline Bingley can argue with that (though Lord knows she’d try).
Is it just me, or do you get the tiniest twinge of excitement when you hear something about the upcoming royal wedding? When the subject comes up around anyone around my age or older, we reminisce about getting up in the wee hours to watch Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981. Diana wore the puffiest of puffed sleeves, the likes of which would make Anne Shirley swoon with delight! She was so young and lovely, and I wanted to be a princess just like her! Of course, now I think the dress is sort of hideous, and we all know what a disaster the marriage turned out to be.
Even in Jane Austen’s time, the royals weren’t so good at marriage. Apparently, while George IV was just a young prince, he secretly married a woman named Maria Fitzherbert, who was not only a commoner, but also Catholic. Big no-no considering he wouldn’t be able to become king if he were married to a Catholic (fun fact: the Act of Settlement 1701 is still in effect today!), nor could he marry without the king’s consent (which he didn’t have). Eventually, his crazy dad (King George III, see also “Madness of…”) promised to help pay his debts if he married his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. I don’t know if it’s just that she was German, that she was his cousin, or perhaps that she wasn’t particularly easy on the eyes, but they didn’t get along. Things were so bad that in an act of extreme turdiness, he banned her from his coronation. Through the years, George continued his relationship with Maria Fitzherbert, as well as many other mistresses.
I hope for much better relationship between William and Kate—and, despite the odds being against marital harmony, I can’t help but get excited about their wedding. Clearly, I’m not alone, otherwise we wouldn’t have the wedding artistically recreated with Legos or replica engagement rings coming out the wazoo. I am rooting for them, and I wish them the best as I share their joyous occasion along with millions around the world! I’ll be the one wearing the “I (heart) Prince Harry” t-shirt.