The sudden fame of Marvin the Royal Hamster came as a shock to Christine Frazier. Though a lawyer by profession—she was a civil defence litigator—Frazier now focuses on her artistic projects, including the Better Novel Project, in which she deconstructs the similar structures in Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games in both word and doodle. That project was plodding along, she admits.
Then, on May 4, came the “Marvin moment,” when Kate, duchess of Cambridge, revealed her family had a new member: a hamster named Marvin. “[Princess] Charlotte really likes it because the whiskers tickle her face,” the royal said, according to a People report. Until then, Frazier, who lives in a Washington suburb, had been “consuming a lot of royal news, not participating.”
That changed when she read about Marvin. “I thought it was so funny that the Cambridges have a hamster. There’s the smelly cage; who is cleaning it?” she remembers thinking. It seemed a very plebeian pet for the royals to have.
Frazier was intrigued: “The hamster was there, so close to royal life, and so far away at the same time. I began thinking he was obsessed with them.” For the artist, the only way for Marvin to get closer to the Cambridges and the rest of the royal family was through their clothes, which is what so many fans of Kate do as they pore over royal fashion websites. So she decided to dress Marvin in royal clothes. “I heard it in the afternoon, drew two in the afternoon—one with a crown and one in Kate’s outfit worn at an event at the National Portrait Gallery.” Then, for good measure, she put Marvin in Prince George’s bathrobe—the one seen when President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, went to Kensington Palace for dinner.
It was an immediate hit and Frazier had a new, rather specialized gig: modelling royal fashion on a hamster. “He’s not as tall or thin as Kate. People connect with him,” is how she explains his popularity. Marvin has become a virtual mascot among royal bloggers. “Marvin has become a delightful character that makes the royals —especially younger royals—feel more accessible and present, says Christine O’Brien of the What Would Kate Do? blog.
Marvin’s popularity has spawned a mini-industry in prints ($10 each) and even magnets. For $15, buyers get Marvin wearing a crown and waving the Union Jack, plus three outfits, including two of Kate and one of William in the uniform worn for his wedding. She’s shipped them as far away as Brazil, England and Canada, where Marvin has been taking in the royal tour.
— What Would Kate Do (@WWKD_Official) September 25, 2016
She tried to create her digital drawings the minute the pictures hit Twitter, so as to ride the frenzy of the first sharing. It’s harder than I thought,” she says, pointing out that it’s sometimes hard to get the proportions right. “I usually sit at the breakfast bar with an iPad,” she explains, with a cup of tea on the counter. (Her desk has an ergonomic ball chair that she can’t sit on while drawing.) “Apple Pencil lets me pretend. I do use a ‘water colour’ to paint in [the designs.] The more complex the outfit design, the better, such as the intricately patterned red-and-white dress by Alexander McQueen worn on Sunday in Vancouver. “It’s immediately recognizable,” she said, though its complex pleating and layering made it a tough design to draw.
— The Royal Hamster (@theroyalhamster) September 25, 2016
It’s harder reducing plain outfits to hamster sizes. For example, once she’d put on Marvin the solid pink dress that Kate wore in Cornwall, Frazier fretted that it wasn’t immediately identifiable as something that Kate wore. Once she’s happy with the design, she makes sure the tail, eyebrows and signature is on it. And adds a quip if needed.
Christine Frazier is not getting rich off Marvin the Royal Hamster, but she’s having a lot more fun than she ever thought she’d have drawing a rodent wearing royal clothes.