The XX Factor

The Next Queen of England?

After months of reading Kate Middleton coverage, the descriptor of the soon-to-be-princess that pops first into my mind is “correct.” Her clothes are always correct, her proportions are correct, her manners (at least to my American eyes, blind to her middle-class “deficiencies”) are correct. She has conducted her relationship with Wills in a way that seems to be unimpeachably correct and refreshingly modern. She has handled the media scrutiny in a way that seems to be the correct way to handle it, which is to say that she reveals just enough to keep us interested but not enough to actually give us much to grab ahold of. The result of all that correctness is that we’re collectively fixated on the lissome Kate, without much evidence that there’s much interesting lurking beneath (maybe with the exception of whatever steely impulse motivated her, if the rumors are to be believed, to hunt the prince as prey).

All of that occurred to me as I read this morning’s New York Times piece contrasting Middleton with Camilla Parker Bowles , who is perceived to be just as incorrect as Kate has been correct: Not only was there the whole affair thing, but her look is not a hit with the pull-no-punches British press, which, the Times helpfully compiles, has described her as  ” an older woman with no dress sense and bird’s nest hair, one who  “packs the stylistic punch of a Yorkshire pudding,” and , more  generally, an “old boiler,” “old trout,” “hatchet face” and “frump.”

Yet old hatchet-face, whose own royal wedding created far less of an uproar , sounds like she’d be rather a fun time. The Times , again:

Her resilience has been leavened with self-deprecating humor. She has made fun of Diana’s embittered nickname for her, answering the telephone at her country home west of London, “Rottweiler here!” She has never disguised her fondness for a drink, though she gave up a 30-cigarette-a-day smoking habit at the insistence of Charles. After her first, long-delayed meeting with Prince William, in 1998, she is said to have turned to a friend in relief, saying, “I really need a gin and tonic.”

Of course, the Duchess of Cornwall has stayed out of the press thanks to the irreversible, homewrecking stain on her record. Even that title tells the story: She’s the Princess of Wales, technically, but out of deference to Diana, doesn’t use the honorific. In her own way, she’s been very correct in the way she’s comported herself through a sticky situation.

There are recent hints, though, that she and her husband won’t necessarily roll over and let the more popular next generation ascend to the throne when the time comes: Both Camilla and Charles have come across as coy but hopeful when asked recently whether she would ever be queen.  Frankly, by this point, when the press has begun reporting on jelly beans that look like Middleton , I’m a little bored with the royals-but if an old-fashioned power struggle bubbles up, I’ll tune back in.