Wednesday, June 01, 2011

William & Catherine: Their Story by Andrew Morton

Andrew Morton, personally responsible for the virtual canonization of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, has been first to the press with a biography of the newly married Duke and Duchess of Cambridge--aka William & Kate. While even Diana stepped back a little from the revelations she made to Morton, Morton himself still carries a brightly burning torch for the late Princess.

His new book is predictable--he gushes about what a loving mother Diana was and how she simply LIVED for her boys. My own belief is she likely was a decent mother, most likely did love her kids as much as any Mom does, but she also shamelessly used them to make herself look good. [And, seriously, how hard is it to be Super-Mummy when you've got two nannies, a household staff, an unlimited bank account, 9 1/2 months a year boarding school and 1/2 vacations at the ex's house? We could all be fabulous parents with THAT set up!] While Prince Charles didn't help his own cause leaving William in the hospital with a fractured skull to go to the Opera, Diana damaged her bid to be "Mother of the Century" by shamelessly tipping off the press to her little "teachable moments." Imagine the press finding out Di took William to visit the homeless! Imagine, the press being there to catch her on the water-rides at theme park with her boys! imagine she took them places in JEANS!! So news worthy! So LOVING. Charles, on the other hand, took them places in SUITS. Ugh! How Cold! The truth is always more complicated than soundbites and tabloids make it out to be.

Morton gives space, too, to an incident (not sure how he heard of it and who he verified it with) in which a young Prince Harry "launched an attack on his father, ineffectually beating him on the legs with his fist shouting 'I hate you, I hate you, you make Mummy cry..."(p. 17). Ummm, yes, that certainly adds to a book about the engaged couple, now doesn't it? It does--if your goal is to show the Wales boys as being as messed up as the the rest of the Windsor and Spencer kids. Otherwise, it's simply a cheap bid to once again make Charles look the cold, uncaring father.

The reality, as even finally confirmed by Diana's brother (who claimed it was "unnecessary" to follow up on his funeral peroration promise of her "blood family" caring for them), was that the boys had TWO loving parents. Morton, however, does his best to dispel this--going so far to get a disgruntled former Diana staffer to say that Charles used William as a "human shield" allowing information to be released to the public on William in "return for favorable coverage of Charles and Camilla" (p. 61). He also calls Charles' response to his son's engagement as "churlish"instead of humorous as most other people took it. On asked about the engagement Charles joked" He's been practicing for a long time." (p. 179)

But let's not forget Diana's one great regret--she died knowing she hurt her "precious boys" with the revelations about her love life on tv. You see, she had lied to the boys about (probably among others) James Hewitt. In fact, Morton reveals, at the time of her death William was really angry with her. I hope not, for his sake, but it's likely. While it's doubtful that ANYTHING ever will be more embarrassing to ANYONE, let alone to William and Harry, than their father's dreadful "Camillagate tape," having your mother tell you she's learning to ride horses when she's really doing something ELSE ENTIRELY with the Cavalry Officer-Riding Instructor is apparently not something teenage boys shake off quickly. Nor do they like it when Mum frolics around on a yacht with a foreigner, apparently. (For the record, no mention is made of how she explained the other men in her life to her sons.) Sort of makes old "chin up" Camilla seem pretty tame, I'm sure! Remember, we've been told that William "met" Camilla for the first time (at least the first time since he was a toddler) not that long before Charles and Camilla's wedding. No record of the boys being home when Camilla was in residence. P'pa may have been an insensitive clod to their mother, but he kept his love life separate from his life with his sons. Compartmentalizing is a generations-old Windsor trait that shows no sign of abating--even in William.

This brings up an interesting question, neatly sidestepped by Morton: Has William's anger toward his mother dissipated or turned into guilt? THE RING makes it seem likely that it's tipped into a vat of guilty feelings and unresolved issues. Another, equally valid interpretation of Diana's engagement ring as Kate's new ring is simple--a loving son gives a gorgeous memory of his beautiful mother to his beautiful bride. It's perfectly, 1000% ok for her sons to love her forever and want to remember her--she's their mother for goodness sakes! But the rest of the world needs to MOVE ON--it's well over a decade since the poor woman was killed. Give it a rest already!

William's protective embrace of his bride-to-be in the engagement photos shows the world just how much his own man William is. His wife, will not be let down by the House of Windsor--at least not by HIM. He will keep her safe from the hell of the paparazi. He will make sure his wife is treated with respect and well briefed on her role. He's given her a long time to get used to it all and they, very wisely, are starting married life in the RAF at a remote house near the base. They are not having servants there, either. [Police officers guard and protect, they do not do the laundry or walk the dog.] This shows amazing maturity in letting them get used to being married, ease into Royal Duties and eventually start a family.

In the run-up to the wedding, William's Uncle the Duke of York (aka Prince Andrew) told the interviewer that lessons had to be learned from how Diana and his own ex-wife Sarah were brought into the House of Windsor. He claimed that William has "a father and an Uncle" who will remind the courtiers of this if they forget it. Good for you, Andrew! I'm guessing William will do the same though I'm not sure poor Charles has enough spine to do that.

The rest of Morton's book standard stuff--a brief bit on Kate's background, some cute stories, the list of posh schools both Kate and William attended, etc. The usual things you would expect to find in a rush-rush biography. For all his Diana-worship, Morton does draw a lovely portrait of type two young, well-educated professionals who seem to genuinely love and care about each other, who actually (unlike William's parents) have some interests and experiences in common and who seem fully committed to each other. And, unlike poor Diana and Sarah, Kate comes from a solid family who also seem to love and care about each other. Unlike her new husband, Kate is NOT from a "broken home" and it appears William truly values what HER parents bring to he table. Let's hope this is very good omen for them!

It also appears that Granny and Grandpa (aka the Queen and Prince Philip) have a real influence over William in the best sense of that. It was Prince Philip after all who got William to walk in Diana's funeral procession by offering to walk with him. The Queen, mindful of all that William needs to know to be King, has had him to tea on Sundays during his school years down the hill at Eton and she seems to have done a good job of guiding him toward his destiny. I think, with the clock counting down to the end of the reign of Elizabeth II, the monarchists in the United Kingdom need fear no republican coup ("republican" in the British sense, that is anti-monarchy, not the American GOP) with William in the wings. I do agree with so many others though, tradition be damned, a Coronation is a ridiculously expensive thing so I think either Charles should have a very small one or that he should just pass the crown to his son who will reign far longer. Just like Diana, Charles will always be associated with "Prince of Wales." Let William be the next king.


Susan said...

Ah, such fun to read! Although I feel like poor Charles should get his chance at kingship (kingdom??) - poor guy has had that as his life goal forever.
Interesting that the book is so fawning towards Diana, although yeah, being by Morton I guess one could expect nothing else.
I'm excited to hear about the book as I didn't know it was out. I saw a CD of music from the wedding at Walgreen's the other day - thinking I may have to pick that up :)
Off topic: LOVE that you had a gum chain too! And what an awesome day that must have been when Dad pulled out all the stops and bought 3 packs of special gum!!!

Hopewell said...

I remember even the SMELL of those 3 precious packs of "unique" gum even 47 years later!