Why Kate might need to put on a few pounds

Lotsa luck Kate. Enjoy those bandage dresses while you can.

Why Kate might need to put on a few pounds

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Unlike some observers of the duke and duchess of Cambridge, I am not, to borrow the easy grammar of a Globe and Mail columnist, “conflicted” by royalty. I’m often ambivalent about eating another chocolate biscuit and I certainly have conflicting feelings about whether to get another dog since my husband has said one more and he’s building a house for people, but a constitutional monarchy isn’t something that bothers me. As an organizing principle of society compared to religion or tribal rule it looks harmless.

Royalty may irritate some female columnists given the infernally good-looking crop of princesses these days, all of them young, size four and about six feet tall. As if it were not enough to be sporting about the stunning former Miss Kate Middleton, now we have the wincingly gorgeous South African champion swimmer Charlene Wittstock beaming next to new husband Prince Albert II of Monaco. I saw their wedding announcement in last Sunday’s New York Times.

The Monaco royal marriage did not get the featured spot in the Times’ wedding section, which is called “Vows” and is ever a gold mine of joyous moments in courtship. This week’s “Vows” was given over to Laura Hwang, a classical viola player and former cashier at Blue Apron Foods in Brooklyn who married Steve Rosenbush, a business writer. Steve had to spend up to $100 a visit getting to know Laura because obviously it’s tricky to chat up a cashier with an impatient lineup behind you. They were married by a Universal Life minister, an unfamiliar denomination but apparently used by almost every American Jewish person who marries a non-Jewish person.

The Times announcement of the Monaco wedding was formal, lacking romantic little moments about how when Albert saw her in a swimsuit he knew she was the right stuff and proper future mother of his children—unlike previous flings who have given him two illegitimate ones, possibly a third if DNA tests confirm. (This may have something to do with Charlene’s reported attempts to flee Monaco before the ceremony.) Instead, we had the bride saying she “felt a profound sense of destiny” on meeting Albert, which sounds like George Bush declaiming on a battleship, and Albert reciprocating with “I know the Monegasque population was waiting for this moment,” about as romantic as a BBC announcer covering a royal ship christening. Is this a marriage of convenience or not? At stake here is procreation: the Monegasque constitution requires legitimate heirs and Charlene is clearly the chosen broodmare just as Diana Spencer was for Prince Charles. The New York Times writers were clearly in a royal swoon as well: the Grimaldis are an old distinguished Genoese family who had a good sideline in piracy but had not, as the Times asserted, “held the throne of Monaco since 1297.” They didn’t get continuous control until the 15th century.

Broodmares have been important to both aristocracy and monarchy. It’s a sorry role that jewels may not alleviate. When love is actually part of the equation and sperm and egg either do not meet or produce an XX instead of an XY chromosome, it’s heartbreak. Love gets ruthlessly squashed, as with Princess Soraya of Iran, who got a marriage decorated with 1.5 tonnes of flowers but couldn’t give the shah a male heir. His tears and hers did however beget a French hit pop song, “Je veux pleurer comme Soraya.”

The Japanese monarchy had official concubines to solve matters—far kinder than Henry VIII’s off-with-their-head approach. The concubine became a litmus test of who was to blame for the barren marriage bed: not one concubine pregnant and clearly the emperor’s bits were wonky. That allowed for a backup called a princely “collateral” family to produce heirs. When concubines and collateral families disappeared from Japan, the old pressures returned. In 2004, Harvard-educated Japanese Crown Princess Masako, then 41, under pressure to produce a male heir, was smitten with an “adjustment disorder.”

During Europe’s early Renaissance, mistresses and bastards were all part of the family, giving lots of good candidates to inherit the title. This flexibility led to some odd situations in the various succession battles. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the House of Este (that later produced the Hanoverian line of British monarchs) was ruled for 150 years by only illegitimate princes, causing Pope Pius II to quip, “It is an extraordinary thing about that family…the sons of their mistresses have been so much more fortunate than those of their wives.” This cozy solution was eroded as the Church’s ability to legitimize heirs was sharply reduced. Gossipy historian John Julius Norwich, who knows absolutely everything about anyone in Venice, remarks on the 100 years from 1675 to 1775 in which, out of Venice’s 14 doges, only four ever married. By the 18th century, 66 per cent of Venetian male aristocrats were single, which probably accounts for the large number of courtesans working the canals. This increased bachelorhood was a pecuniary calculation—keep the money in the family by allowing only one son to marry—a mercenary variant on China’s one-child policy. Tough on Venetian upper-class females who, given the husband deficit, had no choice but to get to a nunnery.

Only this week, the duchess of Cambridge mentioned that she hoped to have a family, which got the British press in an uproar over “broody Kate.” If she can put on a bit of weight and avoid amenorrhea (at the nasty expense of going up dress sizes), she’ll probably have no problem conceiving. Of course, the British monarchy has always adapted to circumstance, whether by importing foreign monarchs or discarding infertile ones. If necessary, I wouldn’t be surprised if they extended the broodmare concept to embrace surrogate motherhood. Whatever works. Lotsa luck Kate. Enjoy those bandage dresses while you can.




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Why Kate might need to put on a few pounds

  1. Now isn’t this a piece of dark brown journalism? Not to mention uncontrolled envy that Barbara Amiel must feel every time she looks at one of the most charming and attractive future Queen Consort of England. And trying to fill in ”historical and religious data” that have nothing to do with the topic is quite embarrassing to most readers. Maybe Macleans will chose better its contributors next time around.

    • Great comment, Jaysonrex! You have hit the nail on the head. The first word that comes to mind about this “piece…” by Barbara Amiel is that her attitude is sneering. What does Amiel expect her to wear? Baggy clothing? Given that she has a wonderful figure, why shouldn’t she wear clothing which fits her and is tasteful? I am really happy that Prince William has found someone whom he evidently truly loves and who loves him back. I wish them well.

      • Also take into consideration…who…she is married to. Saying she is envious or jealous would be putting it rather mildly too, eh!

  2. Oh cut the mush, Jaysonrex and Cate Coupal. This is a brilliantly cutting and cynical assessment in exquisite language. For that alone,whether I agree or disagree with Amiel–and I often don’t–it’s an edgy, pleasurable read.

  3. Sounds like Amiel really knows her history.  It is a shame that she is revelling in jealousy and envy because of circumstances surrounding her own life.  Perhaps, getting proper exercise and eating a well balanced diet might put things into perspective for her.  I have not seen Amiel’s picture, but I am willing to bet, it’s nothing to shake a stick at.  Kate Middleton and Prince William are absolutely beautiful in every way.  Eat your heart out Amiel, or at least have another hot dog.

    CJ at Yorku:)

  4. Traditionally all women have been viewed as vessels to produce children and preferably a male one. In China and many parts of Asia/M East it is still the way. Brood mares one and all. You don’t have to be royalty to fall into that particular trap.
    Also Barbara, you could always insist that western women wear the burkha that way those folk with esteem issues won’t have to worry about how they compare with others.

    • Traditionally? The feminists are going to want to flog me for asking this, but I wonder…which human gender is supposed to carry the offspring to term…by nature?

  5. “Royalty may irritate some female columnists given the infernally good-looking crop of princesses these days, all of them young, size four and about six feet tall.”

    Speak for yourself, Barbara.  Most of us women, columnists or not, are quite capable of enjoying the sight of a beautiful woman without feeling the slightest bit irritated. Please, MacLean’s spare us the 50s housewife rhetoric.  It’s 2011.

  6. What trivial crap!

  7. Miaow!

    Katey, er…. catty much?

    LOL

  8. Given that it’s 2011 and we have a bit of a better sense of how babies are made, can we please at least acknowledge that a bride who “can’t (produce) a male heir” isn’t the one genetically at “fault”?

  9. This is the worst article I’ve ever read.  I’m really surprised at Maclean’s decision to publish it.  Here’s why…in additon to the comments others have already posted:
    - The article is hardly about Kate Middleton, even though the title leads you to believe it is
    - It spews out a bunch of facts, but doesn’t present them in a way that ties them to the subject of the article.  Sure it’s all about royalty, but other than that, each mention of a different woman is for a different critism
    - The last paragraph goes beyond inappropriate.  It’s not journalistic in any way.  Instead, for no good reason, the author takes jabs at Kate’s fertility….something we know nothing of at this point, and even if we did, it would be hurtful to write such things.
    I think this article should be removed, and the author should issue an apology to Kate and to Macleans’s readers, before getting a new job where she doesn’t communicate with others.

  10. As a young woman raised in North America, I’ve been exposed a great deal of advertising, imagery and editorial designed to make women feel badly about their bodies. I try to avoid this unhealthy media, and am disappointed to find more body snarking in a national news magazine. When will judging people on only physical attributes end? Are there not more important or interesting things to discuss?

  11. When will you put Amiel and us out of our misery?  She has changed from a good writer into I don’t know what.

  12. I think the column is quite funny, actually.
    Kate Middleton has achieved the greatest act of “marrying up” ever – what higher position could there be?
    Not to be too cynical, but I doubt either of them will achieve much beyond spawning rounds of Hello! Magazine photos with their eventual offspring.
    The monarchy serves no purpose, and i’m suprised that so many Canadian’s are interested in it, or in fact, even uinderstand its significance in todays context. Frankly speaking, it is really a parade of Kate in pretty dresses and Will making big smiles.

  13. As always, Amiel cuts to the chase and identifies the real motivation – in this case, jealousy – for much of the media carping on a given topic, in this case the Royals. Great piece.

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