Prince William, Kate Middleton represent future
Monday, March 14, 2011; 10:02 AM
LONDON -- Powerful husband? No problem. Money? Got that too. Clothes, good looks? Ditto. What does the woman who has it all do after her honeymoon? That's a tough one.
Kate Middleton's fame is undeniable. She is already one of the world's most talked-about women, and that will only increase when she marries Prince William next month. But her royal role remains completely undefined, and much rests on her slender shoulders.
If her marriage to Prince William is a joyous union that produces heirs, not tears and recrimination, the young couple could put the somewhat shaky British monarchy on solid footing for generations to come. But if it collapses into a replay of Prince Charles' I-hate-you-I-hate-you-more donnybrook with Lady Di, the impact on the House of Windsor would be grave.
Journalism professor and newspaper columnist Roy Greenslade said William and Middleton must rebuild public trust that has been eroded by heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles - because of his failed marriage and perceived eccentricities - and by scandal-bound Prince Andrew. The British public still reveres the queen, he said, but has doubts about her four children, including Princess Anne, who is divorced, and the nondescript Prince Edward.
"The glue that holds the monarchy together is the queen, but there is a great deal more skepticism and even cynicism about the next generation," he said. "You have a dysfunctional family, so it really falls on William and Kate to actually be an upright couple that can engage with the public and be glamorous at the same time. It's fine with the queen on the throne, and Charles won't reign for long, so it really does fall to the next generation to rescue them."
Restoring the frayed bond between crown and subjects is vital, Greenslade said, because the monarchy will suffer a substantial blow when the queen dies, and also faces the very real threat that Australians will decide to sever ties to the British monarch in the next decade, likely giving republicans in Britain a boost.
That's a lot of pressure for a young woman who already faces the formidable task of marrying into a rather imposing family.
She will be expected to support William as he takes on more royal duties - like his trip this week to Australia and New Zealand, where he is serving as the queen's representative. Middleton will also serve as an articulate (and photogenic) link between the public and the royals even as she tries to master the mysteries of married life.
"Her prime objective is to become a wife, and a good wife," said Dickie Arbiter, a former royal spokesman who expects Middleton to give up her nightclubbing ways once she becomes a princess on April 29.
"People are judged by what they do," he said. "She knows what is expected of her when she marries into the royal family. There is an element of royal duty that is expected of her, just as it was of Princess Diana, and she knows that."
The British public expects its royals to earn their keep with a nonstop series of appearances in exchange for the considerable benefits the royals receive each year.
Arbiter said Middleton is likely to take up charity work in earnest, picking the causes she really wants to promote, but could instead decide to put everything on hold and concentrate on starting a family. He said the royal couple won't need a "getting to know you" phase because they have already lived together for some time in the years since their romance started in college.