I have been experiencing Monarchy Overload lately.
Between Kate & Will's engagement (another one bites the dust *le sigh*), seeing the King's Speech the other night (which you MUST go see if you haven't already, by the way), and watching a documentary on Princess Margaret last night I've quite had my fill of the royal family and it's various idiosyncracies.
However, it also got me thinking, not about how jealous I am of all their money, ponies and mansions (even though I am...Harry, call me!) but about how their entire existence revolves around OBLIGATION and DUTY. Sure they have lots of money and admirers and lead very glamourous lives, but they also have an awful lot of expectation resting on their shoulders.
There is one particularly heartbreaking scene in The King's Speech where Colin Firth (aka King George VI) sits down to review the program for his upcoming coronation. He opens the folder, begins to read...and bursts into tears, moaning about how he didn't want this. I felt so sad for him in that moment I just wanted to reach through the screen and give him a big hug and it occured to me how overwhelming it must be to be in a position of prestige and power. It's one thing to come from nothing and to build yourself up TO a position of prestige and power, but it's quite another to be born into it (and therefore expected to uphold it whether you like it or not, or risk being completely ostracised).
The idea of being a Princess is certainly an appealing one in a romantic sort of way, but there is no WAY I would want to live a life of constant scrutiny, nor have everything I do and say be dictated to me by other people. No wonder families such as the royals and Kennedy's are plagued by such dysfunction!
I did not know much about Princess Margaret before watching the documentary on her last night, so I was unaware that in the 1950's there was an enormous sensation concerning who she could marry. Most of the documentary focused on her relationship with Peter Townsend, with whom she had a slow-burning romance in her late teens/early 20's. You can imagine the issue even if you're not familiar with the story either - they wanted to marry, but according to royal law at the time they would have to either a) get permission from the Church of England (which did not allow divorce) or b) Margaret would have to renounce her title and life as a member of the royal family. *
There are many more details to the story, of course, but the important thing to know is that in the end, she chose to keep her title and NOT marry the man she loved. Never mind the fact that he was a decorated and well-respected war hero, as well as a friend of their family for many years, the fact that he was divorced and a commoner overwrote everything and it's almost as if the decision was final before it was even made.
The fact is, someone in that kind of position cannot make their own decisions, or at least not make decisions based purely on their personal desires. Their decisions are manipulated and managed by "handlers", their inner circle, and the wants/needs of the people of their country. How devastating it must have been to walk away from love to fulfill duty (the heartbreaking photo above provides some insight into the pain she must have experienced). In my mind it would take a very strong, brave person to make such a choice. Imagine having to consult a panel of people for every major decision in your life! (Dear God, shoot me.)
The point is (never mind my overarching opinions about the monarchy in general - that's for another post), I feel sorry for these people. It seems to me that there are more burdens on the shoulders of people like them than we "commoners" will ever know or understand. It's not all carriages and hunting trips and balls and banquets. Underneath the veneer of shimmer, smiles and crowns there must exist a lot of anxiety, loneliness, and resentment. These are, of course, emotions that we all deal with and have to hide at times, but the difference with "average" people like you and me is that we're not doing so while living underneath a glass dome.
If it's one thing I've learned from the royal family this week, it's that there is something to be said for being common.
(although having a pony would be pretty freakin cool)
*not sure if these rules still apply - anyone know?