The handsome young prince’s spreading bald spot may be pertinent in this tale. Actually, it may be the most important part.
Not for everyone, of course. As the countdown to the April 29 royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton starts ticking off the days in earnest, people’s minds—well, royalists’ minds—are focused on important things like the bride’s dress and the antics of William’s brother and Harry-Potterish best man, Prince Harry. Really important things.
The republicans, predictably, are talking up waste, anachronisms and how boring the royal family is. The “politically very angry” are planning “massive” demonstrations. The republicans and enragé can pout all they want as the Windsor family renews itself over the next year; it won’t change anything. And it’s not just William’s nuptials on the world stage, but also his grandmother’s Diamond Jubilee celebration throughout 2012. This is how royalty keeps itself ahead of the game: taking over familiar events like weddings or funerals or anniversaries and investing them with the little bit of magic and mystery that has been left to them—and us.
The best thing going for the anti-monarchists is the recent and dismal record of three of the Queen’s children’s marriages. If, as Samuel Johnson famously said, second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience, successful first marriages in the Windsor family are an even bigger triumph.
But William and Catherine Middleton’s marriage may surprise the skeptics. For one thing, they took their time getting to the altar, including having at least one significant holiday from total togetherness. He seems decent, dutiful and blessed with a sturdy sense of quiet humour. She, understandably, is more nervous, and one of the delightful character traits of William is his protectiveness of her, just as he was toward his mother. You can see it every time they appear officially together, but also in the way he shields her from the dreaded paparazzi and the snotty brickbats against her parents’ middle-classness.
If you can concoct a “normal” upbringing in the bizarre lives royal figures lead, William’s was more normal than most. His mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is part of the reason. She was a fruitcake, but an endearing one, and for all the games she played to get back at the dour Windsors, she had a generous heart and reached out. William does too, and his bride looks set to follow his lead.
Which brings me back to the growing bald spot. It started being noticed at the end of 2007. The British press published a group of pictures of the spread of the thinning process. It was accompanied with one of those wretchedly unctuous articles only the British press can produce about royalty. Other “reports” have claimed he had been covering up while he was in the army and that was why he kept his military caps on all the time. More recently, there has been media speculation that the marriage date may have been hastened to accommodate the rapidly disappearing hairline. Sure.
What everyone seems to have missed is that if William was once bothered by it, and what handsome young man wouldn’t be, he no longer appears that concerned. The fluffing and forward brushing has stopped. His brother makes wisecracks about it all the time, in and out of public scrutiny. “I’m a little more ginger in there than I am in real life,” Harry was quoted saying last year when a joint portrait of the brothers was unveiled, “and he got given more hair than he actually has, so apart from that it is what it is…It could have been worse.”
This is all a good sign. It means William is at peace with himself, just as he seems to accept with some sort of usefully resigned calm the inherited duties of an heir to the throne. The media laughs at his father for his alleged looniness, but William doesn’t. He always talks up his father and all his myriad good-works projects. That’s his nature and another good sign and also a good reason to look forward to the nuptials.
William and Catherine Middleton are putting themselves in the way of history, and their marriage before a billion people, like all weddings, showy or humble, will be an occasion for many successful couples to quietly renew their own vows. It will be a moment of bonding to drive the republicans crazy.