I was in the midst of royalty. I could feel their presence on the sidewalks of Kensington Gardens, outside Buckingham Palace and as their faces — plastered on tea cups, mugs and shot glasses — stared down at me in tourist shops. I had to skim each book I came across chronicling “The Wedding,” soaking in hundreds of identical photos of them on the balcony at Buckingham waving to the people below, and the infamous booty shot of Pippa, the bridesmaid. I was that girl. The one in London, scouring the winding streets for any sign of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the royal couple: Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Any woman with perfectly blown-out brunette hair, nude heels and a bright trench coat could be Kate. A slightly balding, tall man in a well-fitted suit? Prince William.
There’s something about America’s deep fascination with the royal family, and I’m a prime example of that phenomenon. Even trying to write this column has me stopping every five minutes to scan through photo galleries I come across of the royal couple (and yes, Kate’s style keeps getting better and better).
When I talked to Londoners about their view of the royal couple, however, they didn’t have the same fascination. Many talked about how they didn’t feel the need for a royal family, adding that the royals served as figureheads, taking money from improving public services, like building hospitals. But here in America, most of us don’t have that view of the royal family.
When we gawk at the photos of Kate visiting Hollywood in 2011 in that gorgeous lavender Alexander McQueen gown, we don’t worry about money coming out of the pocket of the United Kingdom to purchase the dress. Monarchs merge everything we love about Hollywood stars — the glitz and glamour, fashion and fortune — with political power but no direct political issues affecting us. They’re our Brad-and-Angelina-mixed-with-Barack-and-Michelle across the Atlantic, minus the fiscal cliff.
Like with most Hollywood celebrities, we celebrate in their joys. Kate Middleton’s pregnancy announcement is sweeping the Hollywood gossip scene, even trumping the latest story on People about Lindsay Lohan’s latest fisticuffs in a club. And, we can’t forget to find the drama. Kate’s recent hospitalization for morning sickness is gracing the front pages of many gossip magazines. The “Guess the Baby’s Name” game has already begun, and People even compiled a gallery of past royalty’s maternity fashion, begging the question: Will Kate borrow the tunic flapper dress the Duchess of York wore in 1926?
And these sites aren’t bringing in the politics when they discuss the royals. The photo galleries examine the couple under a different lens, focusing on style and appearance. This is different from POTUS and FLOTUS. Most of the time, we’re seeing President Obama’s face on CNN along with the chatter of political analysts, not a photo gallery dissecting his every blazer.
The royal couple has a special place in the hearts of Americans, and the royal bun in the oven will surely make his or her mark as well. And maybe, this celebration of royals is steeped in tradition just like the monarchy itself. Royals have always been the focus of gossip and admiration, but today’s society is creating a fan culture around them. With the advent of Twitter, Facebook and the always gossiping E! Network, we have more access to the lives of the royals than ever before.
And maybe that’s why I sought them out in London. It would be like going to Hollywood and keeping an eye out for Britney Spears. To most of us, the royals are celebrities, not leaders of a nation. America has painted the couple in this way, and many of us — think of those who woke up in the night to watch the Royal Wedding with tea and crumpets in hand — are happy to view them as such. They’re royal celebrities; the top tier of Hollywood, New York and beyond. And we’re happy to welcome them into our gossip circus.