Why can’t I just be happy for them?
I learn from the PA Newswire that 9 January 2011 has been Kate Middleton’s last birthday as a commoner. I checked my watch, and it’s not the 16th century.
As an atheist who would prefer to live in a republic, let’s just say I’m as excited by the Wedding of our Future King as I was by the visit of the Pope. In an age when there’s less respect for the ruling classes than in the past, I thought I’d check how often the former student of £22,000-a-year Marlborough College and future princess Kate is described in the British press as a commoner, and how often the newspapers just come out and accuse her of being common.
The branding of Kate Middleton as a commoner began at the same time as the speculation about an engagement. When Kate and Wills split up in 2007, and afterwards, it wasn’t a useful description. Now it’s used to create a fairytale princess story: the commoner who won the heart of the royal.
People on the internet will tell you that being a commoner (breeding) isn’t the same as being common (class). But, usefully, the press can swap one for the other and wink-wink signal the same thing. Kate and Wills are engaged now, so the royalist press have to stop insulting her parents for obviously being far too poor, but it wasn’t always the case:
For example, from the Daily Telegraph in 2007:
Some of William’s circle would even whisper “doors to manual” when Miss Middleton arrived, in a jibe at her mother being a former airline stewardess.
There were even worse social sins, such as using the word “toilet” not “lavatory”, saying “pleased to meet you” rather than “how do you do?”, and “pardon” rather than “what?”.
It’s not that the Telegraph agrees or anything, it’s just saying. When they assumed Kate was William’s bit of rough in 2003 almost one in four stories asked if she was common. Fast forward to the end of 2010: since the engagement the description of her family as common has been ruled out. It’s lucky the press can put commoner in its place.