Yesterday’s Royal announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant had Fleet Street’s finest scrambling for an angle. On the face of it you might have thought it was hard to do much with “Kate Pregnant”. It’s Kate. She’s pregnant. What more is there to say?
Day One of the yarn is a bit early yet for “Kate’s baby scare”, even for the British newspapers, and there’s nothing to suggest the Duke of Cambridge isn’t responsible for her condition, so no dice there either.
So congratulations to the London Daily Telegraph for being the first to grasp the implications of her hospitalisation with morning sickness, asking “Could it be twins for the Duchess?”
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Prime Ministers are Tweeting, the Queen is delighted, the whole magazine industry is embracing temporary salvation and a young woman is in hospital feeling like death warmed up and no doubt desperately hoping everything is going to be ok.
Talk about a lot of pressure on one lone uterus.
The announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant is indeed joyous news, and when you’re carrying the future third-in-line to the British throne, it’s not news you get to celebrate in private. But while I’m not usually one to advocate public institutions outright lying - continuing the cat-and-mouse speculation game for a few more weeks might have been the kindest thing to do for Kate and William.
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At about the same time last week that news broke a French magazine was about to publish some topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge an American actress of the rising-star variety “accidentally” Tweeted a naked picture of herself.
It probably says a lot about how big a gulf the Atlantic Ocean really is. While the immediate and unanimous reaction to the Kate pictures has been condemnation and disgust that a private holiday with her husband was infiltrated and exploited in such a manner, across the ditch Alison Pill and her boyfriend both laughed off her self-inflicted breach of privacy.
The biggest difference between the two cases, of course, is that the Duchess quite reasonably thought she was alone with her husband, unaware that more than a kilometre away a grub with a giant telephoto lens was crashing their private party.
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Thank you Royal Family for bringing me back to my senses. Your groovy new Duchess, and your rain-sodden Diamond Jubilee had lulled me into a feeling of warmth towards your institution that I realise now was caused by a bad bout of demographic creep.
You know that feeling you get when you start buying the Women’s Weekly and listening to the ABC because you think they’ve become cooler, when actually you’ve just become older and less cool? I can now put my recent dabble with Royal love down to that.
And today you’ve grabbed me by the shoulders and shaken me out of it with the publication of your new rules of court.
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As the Royal Wedding approaches, details are starting to emerge about the rules and regulations that surround an event of this magnitude.
In the past week information has been trickling through about exactly what is required of guests, beyond the traditional RSVP, and you have to wonder if it’s all actually worth it.
Recipients of an invite were greeted with more than just the time, date and dress code thanks to an accompanying 22 page guide detailing exactly how they should behave at a Royal function. What a buzz kill.
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The headless Anne Boleyn would struggle to get her point across, but any one of Henry VIII’s other five wives could sympathise with Kate Middleton in these last, frantic, nerve-inducing weeks before their “big day”.
The 16th century princesses would be right at home with all the fanfare and ever-expanding array of royal memorabilia, albeit with a few medieval modifications.
Lego-sized replicas of the royal couple would more likely have been in bronze or bashed copper, decorated with a bit of horsehair. And the royal Pez or Union Jack-embossed shortbread replaced by a boiled sweet. But not everything’s changed for the better.
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When Prince Charles visited Australia in March, 2004, he boarded a large military helicopter in Canberra and flew to Gunning, a small town near Goulburn, NSW, where he spent the morning visiting some kind of organic farm. It made for a great story on ABC Radio’s Country Hour, but didn’t exactly resonate with the wider community.
Compare that to Prince William, whose tour de disaster zone this week has been an absolute tour de force. When necessary, Will has overstepped the bounds of protocol, hugging the commoners as the mood struck him. He was also professionally standoffish as required, most notably when he wisely declined to answer a bystander’s question about recalcitrant insurers.
It’s a gift, this business of playing the people’s royal. Will’s mother Diana had it. His father Charles doesn’t. And given that pretty much the only reason the royal family still exists is to pep up the public spirit, there’s only one conclusion – and that’s that William should be the next British Monarch.
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Has all this royal wedding talk made you think about Princess Diana? I know she was much-derided when she was alive – what with the nutty psychics, playing the paparazzi and preying on other women’s partners. But, come April 29, there’s going to be an empty seat at Westminster Abbey and, sappy as it sounds, I know that will make me sad.
Diana would have been 50 this year – a fabulous age to watch your first-born son marry the woman he loves. You can speculate all you like on how she might have stolen the show, but she was nothing if not an instinctive and affectionate mother.
What was fascinating about Diana was that both her life and death provoked a visceral response – not an intellectual one. Occasionally her actions made us think (her charity work for AIDS/landmines) but, more often, she made us feel. Struggling with the same problems as the rest of us – men, parenting, body image – she was like Julia Roberts’ character in Notting Hill: “I’m also just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
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Anyone seeking linguistic confirmation of the weirdness that comes from associating with royalty should look no further than our very own dinki-di princess Mary Norgen-Vaaz, or whatever her surname became after she got hitched to that rich norseman.
Almost overnight, Mary went from being just another foxy bogan chick dancing around her handbag at Sydney’s Slip Inn, punching in the Bacardi Breezers and wooo-hoooing when Blur’s Song #2 came on, to sounding like some la-di-dah Queen Elizabeth impersonator. Not only did her perfectly normal Australian intonations make way for the plummy accent which the BBC defines as “received English”, she even adopted the tortured sentence structures of QEII. On the occasion that one becomes a member of the Danish Royal Family one is struck not only by one’s sense of duty but also one’s place in a long and proud tradition, one is.
Princess Mary is of course a perfectly nice person and her relationship with Prince Frederik could be described unimaginatively as a fairy tale. The same can be said of Prince William and Kate Middleton who are now doing their bit for magazine circulation and the sale of Franklin Mint commemorative plates by tying the knot.
He’s finally done it. After nine years together, approximately 76 fascinators and most of Will’s head of hair, the second in line to the throne has managed to get down on bended knee and give his long-time girlfriend one hell of a sparkler (12 carats in fact).
It propels Kate Middleton, long the fodder of the voracious paparazzi pack and Hello! devotees, well and truly into the global spotlight.
And it is today that the work really begins for Catherine Middleton. She faces perhaps the most daunting and dramatic transformations, to somehow deftly emerge from the shadow of one the most iconic, albeit neurotic, personalities of the 20th century.
It’s that time of the year again – April has become the crazy royal month in the media and this year is no exception.
Early the other morning, Kerri- Anne Kennelly’s producer called me to say the London media was buzzing with two stories; one was the ongoing speculation about William and Kate, the other about Andrew’s and Fergie’s daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie.
So I rushed into Channel Nine’s studio and shared my thoughts on both matters with Kerri-Anne’s huge audience.
Amid the continuing debate about our national identity and our constitutional arrangements, readers might be interested in this piece written this weekend for English newspaper The Mail on Sunday about our response to Prince William’s visit. It’s obviously written for an English audience, and it ended up being an embarrassingly positive piece where my republicanism almost abandoned me.
The last thing we need over here in Sydney is another cashed-up foreign interloper buying into the hyper-inflated property market to further jack up prices in the Harbour City.
But Prince Williams’ joking suggestion that he had so fallen in love with Sydney that he intends to buy a house here was not so much condemned as applauded.
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Don’t think for a moment that last week’s visit by Prince William was anything other than a stunt by the House of Windsor or, at the least, those whose survival depend on its.
Prince William was said to have been “mobbed” as he moved through Victorian country towns. The Beatles were mobbed. The future king was watched. “King of the kids” was the headline. You’ll get that during school holidays, and how fortunate was he to chance upon those?
We aren’t the only nation still constitutionally tied to the old colonial master – there a more than a dozen - but we are the jewel in the crown.
Here’s a heads up. If you really want to know what Aussies in 2010 think about our country becoming a republic just flip a coin.
According to the odds, there’s a 50-50 chance of turning up the head of Queen Elizabeth.
Eleven years since a referendum was held to settle the republic debate, Australians seem just as divided about cutting their ties to a monarch living on the other side of the world.
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The last time I thought about an Australian republic was in 1999. I was 12 years old and too busy thinking about how hot Prince William was to really care about the republican movement.
Eleven years later, Prince William arrives in Australia. The only time I come into contact with the Royal Family is seeing Willy’s grandma on the $5 note and her head on all the Aussie coins. While I’m interested in the republic v monarchy debate, the dramas of the Royal Family appeals to me even more.
There was a time where the Royal Family were treated with near-universal respect. Now? The walls behind Buckingham Palace are producing scandals the writers of The Bold and the Beautiful wish they could come up with. The Queen must feel a twinge of nostalgia on the days where the family’s dirty laundry wasn’t aired to the press.
Well our local monarchists have worked themselves into a royal frenzy and the hyperbole is coming thick and fast - so let me try to help them get a few things into perspective.
William and his brother Harry - thanks to their gorgeous mother Diana - are the only really normal members of the world’s most dysfunctional family.
Granny Queen is locked into yesterday with her appallingly rude and insensitive husband.
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The arrival of young Willie Windsor in the Antipodes has brought renewed attention to the white elephant sitting in Australia’s lounge-room.
The republic has stirred, goaded by the media frenzy surrounding the Prince and the cheap point-scoring by monarchists heralding Willie as the man to save them from well-deserved irreverence.
It is nice to see him out there in Redfern, a slight change of pace from the official welcoming at Admiralty House. It is nice to see him mixing with the kids at Kirribili for lunch (Michael Clarke’s timely ton just snuck him onto the list).
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It’s time we shooed off our Royal parasites. I don’t want the Queen as Australia’s head of state, and nor do I want her untrustworthy, dysfunctional, self-serving family of heartless opportunists to have any say in our future.
For too long this racist, sexist and unworthy institution populated by dangerously inbred Europeans has arrogantly wielded power it does not deserve – just last week it was revealed the next King of Australia campaigned against the Coalition of the Willing and sarcastically abused “his” Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Prince Charles son, His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter may be a more pleasant chap – and he may not - and, at least by royal standards, he is quite well educated.
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AS soon as I can, probably within a couple of years, I hope to take the oath of Australian citizenship. It’s something I take seriously, not least because of the relief of finally being able to cast a vote on who gets to spend my taxes. But it will also place me in the naggingly uncomfortable position of being a citizen of a country whose head of state comes from a family with a long-standing tradition of doing cruel and unusual things to Irish people.
I use the word “naggingly” quite deliberately because despite my qualms about the British royals’ connections with lopping off Irish people’s heads and trying to wring the life out of Ireland’s language and sporting traditions, for some time I have been developing an increasing admiration for the Windsors. On balance I’m looking forward to having some ownership over the monarchy.
Prince William’s arrival this week compounds it. I’ve decided I’m jealous. I have crown envy.
On Tuesday 19th of January, Prince William – the 2nd in line to various thrones – will visit Australia for just the second time. It has been reported that he is doing this to “get to know Australia”.
Since this tour was announced in December, as Media Director for the Australian Republican Movement (ARM), I have been busy with requests from English broadcasters and newspapers.
The interest should have been surprising, since William is only stopping in on Australia for three days for a “semi-official” tour on his way to New Zealand. Moreover, he is visiting only two cities: Sydney and Melbourne. However, given that there has been a massive PR campaign by the Palace to present William as the youthful – cuter – face of the monarchy, it was inevitable that the English press would be awash with expectation about whether Australia would warm to the Prince like good little subjects.
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Prince William’s coming visit seems to have resulted in the dramatic conversion of a republican celebrity. This is none other than the editor and media personality Ms. Ita Clare Buttrose AO OBE, who campaigned for the politicians’ republic during the 1999 referendum.
Readers of the Wentworth Courier, which circulates in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, were surprised then by her harsh dismissal of the No case and indeed of constitutional monarchists.
Ms Buttrose was the founding editor of Cleo which, with its nude male centrefolds, was aimed at young single women. She later edited the more conservative Australian Women’s Weekly and the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs.
Dear Kate Middleton, Get a life. A job would be a good start.
Thing is, your boyfriend’s grandmother, the one with the penchant for corgis and who instills fear in the hearts of pheasants everywhere, has spelt out the riot act. Her Maj reckons that to be a future Queen of the people, you first need to be a working girl.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the UK’s Mail on Sunday has reported that “The Queen is keen that the monarchy should lead by example and that the princes and their girlfriends should all be seen to be hard workers.” This well-placed Palace peep went on to add “The Queen has made it known that she feels Kate should get involved with a charity, possibly an animal charity”. Labradors of the UK watch out.