Princess Doll: The Unbearable Lightness of Perfection


I was glued to BBC News awaiting Kate and William (the Royal answer to Barbie and Ken) and the big reveal of the Hashtag Royal Baby. I couldn’t wait for Kate to float onto the steps outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s hospital, and delight the crowds with our future king in her dainty arms. I love watching media hysteria, and found myself caught up in the euphoria. Incredible how the media can mechanise such emotions in the masses. As I waited the anticipation was palpable. How must Kate feel? At a time when Kate presumably wanted to bond with her precious newborn baby, her firstborn no less, and share him with only her husband, she knew that the countdown had begun to sharing George Alexander Louis with the world’s media.

Kate had to put the physical exhaustion and agony of labour to one side and and keep a firm lid on the waterfall of emotions. No tracksuit bottoms, comfy t-shirt and hair in a messy top-knot here; instead Kate must be groomed to perfection. Inside the maternity wing instead of just her husband and perhaps sister and mother, Kate had to suffer the attentions of aides, well-meaning staff, advisors, hairdresser, make-up artist. I would have been screaming “leave me alone” but the Duchess must smile sweetly, be polite and sweet at all times. I read comments saying how lucky Kate was to have hair and make-up… can you imagine the pressure of having to always look immaculate, even when you have just given birth? To not be able to slip out to your car, and just go home, but for all that fuss when you’re at your most vulnerable and utterly exhausted.

It made me think of the pressure Kate must be under constantly. She is criticised for giving bland responses, but that is all she can give. Rehearsed lines and carefully choreographed outfits/ movements/ gestures. Everything is under surveillance. I thrive on freedom, and the thought of being so trapped in a gilded cage makes me feel claustrophobic. Imagine everything in your life being subjected to this royal protocol. Only approved friends allowed, and they subjected to severe restrictions; having to wear the correct style clothes; being told what to talk about, what is off-limits. Your day-to-day life planned for you. Spontaneity just the patterns at the end of a kaleidoscope. I can’t imagine moving away from my town/ friends/ family for a man, never mind giving up life as I know it for someone. Critics say Kate doesn’t do anything, as if the treadmill of public engagements where she has to morph into the robot doll are not emotional labour in the extreme.

Not to mention the unimaginably stiff and formal relations with your husband’s family. No going round in your comfy clothes to share a pizza and watch a Gavin & Stacey box set. Oh no. One wrong movement and you are ostracised. I bet life in Anglesey away from the glare of cameras and observation is a dream for Kate. The photographs of she and William with dog Lupo, look like any other young couple strolling along enjoying downtime. Only every other couple doesn’t have a long lens camera spying on them and papers falling over themselves to buy the shots of such a mundane everyday activity.

As Kate walked from the door of the hospital, her appearance gave the media what they wanted. A perfect princess doll, all Belle and polished looking shy and modest, holding her cherub close. A world away from how the majority of women look after giving birth, or indeed want to look. To rub salt in the wounds, various commentators had the audacity to comment on Kate’s “baby belly”. Catherine Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor is a willowy 5ft 8, and looked like she had eaten a small croissant before giving birth. Yet still people, largely women, said her belly was disgusting. This is a mother who had given birth in the same 24 hour period. Is this what misogyny has done, that we are now disgusted by the sights of a real woman (and I don’t use that term lightly) and the actualities of gestation and birth? That a slightly rounded stomach should be hidden because it repulses? OK magazine has caused outrage due to its commemorative Royal Baby issue talking about Kate’s baby-weight loss plan.

Yes these are first world problems, but I wonder how these expectations and surveillance affects the mental health of mothers and mothers-to-be. I wonder when pregnancy itself became an object of repulsion.