Kate and William’s little Louis stole the show during Jubilee, but there’s a huge double standard behind his antics.
It’s a little-known fact that the Queen likes it when things go pear-shaped. We’re not talking Harry-And-Meghan-Buggering-Off levels of calamity or, say, the kind of disaster it would be if it turned out that Prince Andrew had used all his free time to really get into QAnon. . No, what Her Majesty (and Prince Philip too at the time) really enjoys is when the courtiers’ best-laid plans go to hell.
Prince William himself said of his grandparents’ unusual fantasy: “They love it because obviously everything has to always be right, but when things go wrong around them, they’re the first to laugh.”
Which is handy as Her Majesty’s appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after Trooping the Color last week was entirely overshadowed by her great-grandson Prince Louis’ theatrical and instantly memory-worthy antics. If the assistants had hoped for an august moment, then the monkeys of the four-year-old firmly paid for it.
British newspapers and the public alike enjoyed the juxtaposition of the often bittersweet queen and the naughty little HRH.
Then on Sunday afternoon, the extended royal family gathered to watch the Platinum Pageant, a 5,000-attendee extravaganza with taxpayers’ money and national spirit. All three of William and The children of Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were there, including Louis’ older siblings, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
Again it was Louis’ delirium which unequivocally stole the show.
He stuck his tongue out, had what looked like a tantrum, at one point put his hand over his mother’s mouth when it sounded like she was telling him to behave, yawned dramatically, looked like a small storm cloud and sat on his grandfather Charles’ lap.
Most commentators in the UK press and social media applauded Kate’s calm approach to her rambunctious son who I think we can safely say looks a bit like a handful. Parenthood, even for future kings and queens, is an eternally trying endeavor.
But what kind of reaction could we have seen if we were talking about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex here and his son Archie?
Last week, Louis’ cousin, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, returned to the UK for the first time since 2019, with his parents, Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussexand her little sister Lilibet.
For the Sussexes, their British exit was a chilling and demeaning affair.
Their personae-not-particularly-grata status was confirmed when the DaIlly Mail’s Rebecca English reported that they were “not invited” to the private luncheon at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen after Trooping the Colour.
Then came the service of thanksgiving for Her Majesty at St. Paul. While the last time Harry and Meghan had attended a royal church servicenamely for Commonwealth Day in March 2020, they entered with the Cambridges and took prime seats.
This time around they were very publicly relegated to List B status, stuck in the middle of the large handful of lower Windsors who make up the Queen’s extended family, then forced to wait 20 minutes for HRH to make the one of the newspapers. (The Sussexes were also reportedly booed by the crowd outside.)
So let’s do a bit of experimenting here. Consider one of Louis’ angry photos and replace it with Archie and Kate with Meghan. Imagine it was the California tot making old-fashioned faces Combinations star who seemed totally relaxed by his cheeky (and age-appropriate) antics.
You don’t have to be a committed royal watcher to know the reaction would have been a world apart.
Meghan was reportedly crucified for her lax parenting with tons of shrill copycats spitting out her tricky California parenting style. Where is the discipline? Where is the respect for the Crown? Can’t she control her own child? ! Oh the shame of it all!
That Kate gets a loving pass at times when Meghan never would is nothing new.
In fact, there’s a little cottage industry on the internet that tallies all the times when Kate did or said something that’s seen through a blissful lens, and then when Meghan said/ate/wore/touched/or did the exact same thing, she was constantly reprimanded.
Although Meghan faced instances of racist coverage early on, I think the answer to the question lies elsewhere.
It hurts my core feminist, but I think to understand this double standard, you have to understand that Kate has somehow survived nearly two decades of an excoriating trial by the media.
For years she’s been a greedy upstart with a rising mother or a lazy party girl with less substance than the uneaten canapes at a cocktail party in Chelsea. When William briefly dumped her in 2007, it was because she was supposedly too possessive, with a gimlet eye already redecorating Kensington Palace.
Then there were the years of shy work where she was regularly seen as lacking in something as unsettling as ambition as she patiently waited for her royal boyfriend to pull his finger away and keep proposing.
Even when she finally had Diana, the Princess of Wales’ sapphire and diamond engagement ring on her left hand, things didn’t improve because suddenly she was way too thin, a story that clearly sold papers.
Joining the official ranks of royalty barely drowned out the cartoonish chorus, for then came the years when Fleet Street columnists went to town regarding the number of holidays she and William took and their continued reluctance to submit to royal duties. (It wasn’t until 2017 that they became full-time working HRHs.)
Somehow Kate took it all, the occasional good and a lot of bad and emerged on the other side of it all after withstanding the constant slingshots and arrows, proof that she must have the psychological skin of a rhinoceros or a bloody good therapist or a weekly delivery of Waitrose gin. (Or all three.)
Like some sort of mythical hero, the Duchess of Cambridge performed the Herculean labors of endurance assigned to her and emerged as a sacred cow in the British public consciousness and media.
And Megane? Well, she even refused to take to the field to play this particular game.
Every woman who has married into the House of Windsor in the last 40+ years has been mutilated by the press, interspersed with occasional periods of adoration, a punch from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
For some reason, royal women are expected to withstand this long test of their courage, commitment and masochism for years until they arrive in some kind of promised land where they are regularly considered a step before sainthood.
It’s a brutal initiation and there isn’t a frontline person who married a member of the Queen’s family who has been spared this hazing.
I really think that if Harry and Meghan had stayed put and weathered the waves of criticism they drew in 2019 (for private jet flights, the $4 million Frogmore Cottage renovation, and its worthy baby shower Kardashian in New York, among other controversies) things would have followed exactly the same trajectory.
I think we would have, over time, seen her go from Meghan The 5am-Email-Sending-Interloper to Meghan the Savior. His work ethic, drive, and quirky approach would have gone from being considered so awkwardly American to being touted as exactly what the Antediluvian Palace needed!
I don’t agree for a second with all of this or think it would have been anything but a grueling and horrible experience to have.
But none of this was a secret or well-kept private knowledge that Meghan couldn’t have learned when she started dating a flat British boy in 2016.
When the Sussexes sat down with Oprah Winfrey for their infamously caustic interview last year, she admitted she hadn’t done any research on what marrying into the royal family would mean.
Even Oprah, whose questions were so softball they were the journalistic equivalent of cotton, seemed stuck on this point, questioning the Los Angeles native three times about how she hadn’t done any preparation. Is it any wonder, then, that Meghan then admitted, “I didn’t quite understand what the job was about.”?
If only she had spoken to Kate or Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall or Sophie, Countess of Wessex or even gotten Sarah, Duchess of Ferguson, briefly off Instagram for a second to prepare her for the fact that her treatment at the hands of certain elements of the press wasn’t going to be nice or fair.
Explaining to her that the standard she was going to be held to was going to be totally different to what Kate would be held to, simply because her sister-in-law had years of Royal Warrant under her belt and Meghan didn’t. .
The day after Jubilee ended, the Cambridges’ official Instagram account posted a series of behind-the-scenes photos of the family, ending the caption with “We all had an amazing time, especially Louis” who was very cute.
Thanks to the decisions their respective parents have made, Louis has a lifetime of appearances on the balcony of the palace ahead of him and Archie may never be. I really don’t know which little boy got the better deal.
Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of top media titles in Australia.
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