I was pondering the diamond jubilee celebrations, you see, and enjoying the outfits on show at the service on Sunday. There was Camilla in a statement coat and massive hat, all in shades of gold and beige. There was Kate (a former accessories buyer for Jigsaw) in her famous nudey-coloured shoes. A row of princesses and duchesses all with neutral high heels, clutching off-white bags. All very tasteful, all very feminine, all very bland.
And then there was the star of the show herself. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in fondant-mint-green silk tulle, embroidered with flowers, using silver thread. ‘A chiffon drape is a lovely, soft touch: it is studded with Swarovski crystals, and a matching drape adorns the hat,’ drooled the Daily Mail’s Liz Jones.
And what does our monarch chose to accessorise this soft, sparkly number? Why, clumpy (but comfortable-looking) black shoes and a black handbag.
I doubt there are many women who’d have chosen that particular combination (I’m coming out in stress bumps just thinking about how I’d have run around trying to find the exact shade of green kitten heel) but somehow on this particular woman, at this particular time it summed up a great deal about who she is and how she sees herself.
If you grow up as a princess in a palace, if you’re beautiful and you marry your tall, handsome teenage crush, if your education was left to governesses then it might be tempting to be the princess of fairytales. The ones who are as beautiful as they are good (or is it the other way round?) and who never need to show the world anything but their pretty face and occasional resourcefulness.
I find it difficult to see a very rich woman who has inherited her job as a role model. What does she know about the struggles of her subjects? Why should she have a life of power and privilege that she has not earned? Tulle and chiffon, crystals and diamonds don’t impress me (metaphorically speaking – the outfit was fabulous).
I admire our queen, for her many qualities that seem distinctly unfashionable – her comfy shoes, her black handbag. She keeps her emotions and her opinions to herself, in a way that seems so natural that one forgets how often she must itch to tell everyone exactly what she thinks or feels. She’s careful not to offend or embarrass the many people she meets. She never shows off – which means that some dismiss her as unintelligent and uncultured – and yet we know that she takes her role and responsibilities extremely seriously. She accepts her lack of political power, and acts as her ministers’ best adviser.
She is a mother of four, yet never neglected her day job. When people criticised her parenting style, she ignored them. Her job is more important than her husband’s, they remain devoted to eachother. I wouldn’t want her life or her family – but I envy the way she negotiated traditional gender roles, a good decade before feminism became popular.
I’m sorry her heir isn’t her unprincessy daughter – snappy, strong, an Olympic sportswoman. Some day we won’t have a female monarch any more. I suspect that then we’ll appreciate the difference she makes.