Kate and William’s little Louis stole the show at the anniversary, but there’s a huge double standard behind his antics.
It’s a little-known fact that the Queen likes things to go pear-shaped. We’re not talking about Harry-And-Meghan-Buggering-Off levels of calamity or, shall we say, the kind of disaster it would be if it turned out Prince Andrew had used all his spare time to actually get into QAnon. No, what really gets Her Majesty (and then Prince Philip) really kicks is when the courtiers’ best plans go to hell.
Prince William himself said of his grandparents’ unusual fantasy: “They absolutely love it because of course everything should always be right, but when something goes wrong around them, they are the first people to laugh.”
That’s handy, because Her Majesty’s appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after Trooping the Color last week was completely overshadowed by the theatrical, immediately meme-worthy antics of her great-grandson Prince Louis. If the assistants had hoped for a lofty moment, the four-year-old’s loitering certainly paid off.
The British newspapers and the public, however, had a field day at the juxtaposition of the often sour-sweet queen and the little mischievous HRH.
On Sunday afternoon, the extended royal family gathered to watch the Platinum Pageant, a spectacle of 5,000 participants of taxpayer money and national spirit. All three children of William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were there, including Louis’ older siblings, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
Again, it was Louis’s hijinx that undeniably stole the show.
He stuck out his tongue, had what looked like a tantrum, at one point put his hand over his mother’s mouth when it looked like she was telling him to behave, yawned dramatically, looked like a small thundercloud and sat down on his grandfather Charles’ round.
Most commentators in the British press and on social media have applauded Kate’s calm approach to her rambunctious son who, I think we can safely say, seems like a bit of a handful. Parenting, even for future kings and queens, is an eternally difficult thing.
But what kind of reaction would we have seen if we were talking about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex here and her son Archie?
Last week, Louis’s cousin, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, returned to the UK for the first time since 2019, along with his parents, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and his little sister Lilibet.
For the Sussexes, their British sally was an icy and humiliating affair.
Their status as personae-not-particular-grata was confirmed when the daily mail’Rebecca English reported that they were “not invited” to the private lunch at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen after Trooping the Colour.
Then came Her Majesty’s thanksgiving service at St Paul’s. While the last time Harry and Meghan had attended a royal church service, which was for Commonwealth Day in March 2020, they came in with the Cambridges and occupied first-class seats.
This time they were very publicly relegated to the B-list, wedged in the middle of the large group of lower Windsors that make up the Queen’s extended family, and then forced to wait 20 minutes for the headline HRHs to arrive. (The Sussexes were also reportedly booed by the crowd outside.)
So let’s experiment a bit here. Consider one of the Louis tantrum photos and replace it with Archie and Kate with Meghan. Imagine if it was the California toddler who made faces at the first To grab star who seemed totally relaxed by his sassy (and age-appropriate) silliness.
You hardly need to be a devoted royal viewer to know that the reaction would have been a world apart.
Meghan would have been crucified for her lax upbringing with piles of shrill copies that radiated her tantalizing Californian 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 certain moments when Meghan would never, never be is hardly new.
In fact, there is a tiny internet cottage industry in adding up all the instances where Kate has done or said something that is viewed through a blissful lens and then when Meghan has said/eaten/behaved/touched/or done the exact same thing, she’s been verbally abused endlessly.
While Meghan faced racist reporting early on, I think the answer to why can be found elsewhere.
It hurts me to my feminist core, but I think to understand this double standard, you have to understand that Kate somehow survived nearly two decades of an agonizing process by the media.
Year after year, she was a catchy arrival with a social-climbing mother or a lazy party animal with less substance than the canapés uneaten over a Chelsea cocktail. When William briefly dumped her in 2007, it was because she was supposedly too possessive, with one gimlet eye already sprucing up Kensington Palace.
Then there were the work-shy years where she was routinely cast as lacking something as disturbing as ambition, while patiently waiting for her royal friend to pull his finger out and get on with proposing.
Even when she finally got Diana, the stank sapphire and diamond engagement ring of the Princess of Wales on her left hand, things didn’t get any kinder as she was suddenly much too thin, a storyline that clearly sold newspapers.
Joining the official ranks of royalty did little to stifle the caricature refrain, as after that came the years when Fleet Street columnists took to the city when it came to the number of vacations she and William took and their continued reluctance to take on royal duties. to subject. (They only became full-time HRHs in 2017.)
Somehow Kate took everything, the occasional good and a lot of the bad, and came out the other side after enduring the constant slingshots and arrows, proof that she had the psychological skin of a rhinoceros or a damn good therapist or a weekly delivery of Waitrose gin. (Or all three.)
A sort of mythical hero, the Duchess of Cambridge completed the enormous endurance efforts that had been established for her and emerged as a sacred cow in the British public consciousness and media.
And Megan? Well, she actually refused to even go out on the field to play this particular game.
All the women who have married in the House of Windsor in the last 40 years – plus have been torn apart by the press, interspersed with the occasional fallow period of adoration, a one-two punch from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
For whatever reason, royal women are expected to endure this prolonged test of their courage, devotion and masochism for years, until they arrive at some sort of promised land where they are routinely held up as a step of holiness.
It’s a brutal initiation, and there’s no frontline married to a member of the Queen’s family who has been spared this hazing.
I really think if Harry and Meghan had sat down and rode out the waves of criticism they provoked in 2019 (for the private jet flights, the $4 million Frogmore Cottage renovation, and her Kardashian-worthy New York baby shower, and other controversies) things would have followed exactly the same trajectory.
I think we would have seen her change over time from Meghan The 5am-Email-Sending-Interloper to Meghan the Savior. Her work ethic, pep, and out-of-the-box approach would have gone from being so opaque American to framed as just what the antediluvian palace needed!
I don’t agree for a second or think it would have been anything less than a grueling, horrific experience to put yourself through.
But none of this was a secret or well-cherished private acquaintance that Meghan hadn’t been able to learn when she started dating a sloppy British guy in 2016.
When the Sussexes sat down with Oprah Winfrey for their infamous biting interview last year, she admitted she hadn’t researched what marrying the royal family would mean.
Even Oprah, whose questions were so softball they were the journalistic equivalent of cotton wool, seemed to get bogged down at this point, asking the Los Angeles native three times about going in without any preparation. Is it any wonder then that Meghan admitted, “I didn’t quite understand what the job was.”?
If only she had talked to Kate or Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall or Sophie, Countess of Wessex or Sarah, Duchess of Ferguson, but took a break from Instagram to prepare her for the fact that her treatment by some elements of the press wouldn’t be nice. or be honest.
To explain to her that the standard she would be held to would be one that would be completely different from the one Kate would be held to simply by the fact that her sister-in-law had had years of royal tenure under her belt and Meghan hadn’t.
The day after the anniversary ended, Cambridge’s official Instagram account posted a series of behind-the-scenes photos of the family, with the caption ending with “We all had an incredible time, especially Louis,” which was all very cute.
Thanks to the decisions made by their respective parents, Louis has a lifetime of balcony performances in the palace ahead of him and Archie may never. I really don’t know which little boy got the best deal.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years experience working with some of Australia’s leading media titles.