October 20, 2011

{Princess Redux} Part Three

[excerpt from upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place]

What fuels the princess dream? What is at its heart?

As Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, wrote in her review of The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown: “Ladies, let’s be honest: who really among us hasn’t dreamed of becoming a princess?”  Women around the world, “sometimes against their better judgment,” fall entranced by the glamorous prospects and “redemptive metamorphosis that this particular myth promises.”

However, even Lady Diana Spencer herself, who as a dazzlingly beautiful bride became a real princess on her wedding day and lived her life as the most famous woman in the world, confirmed: “Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Being a princess—or a prince for that matter—is a title, a role to play, and for many such title holders, it is a big job (and not always an easy or glamorous one.) The Hollywood “princess” Grace Kelly—who like Diana, became a real princess when she married—said: “I certainly don’t think of my life as a fairy tale. I think of myself as a modern, contemporary woman.”

Howell Conant, in his 1992 book, Grace (a beautiful collection of memories and photographs by the acclaimed photographer and old friend of Grace) shared: “The transition from Hollywood actress to princess of Monaco had not been an easy one for Grace. Yet once she became accustomed to her new role, she showed an eagerness to be the very best princess she could be.” Grace, like Diana, “focused on several pet projects” that included the arts and children.

Soon after Diana became engaged to Prince Charles in 1981, she met Princess Grace—someone she had admired from afar—at the first official formal engagement attended by the couple. The nineteen year-old Diana got lots of attention in a revealing, low-cut black strapless gown and her uncertainty and discomfort at the extreme scrutiny caught Princess Grace’s attention. Leaving the other guests, the ‘experienced’ princess “whisked her off to the powder room,” explained Andrew Morton in his biography. “Diana poured her heart out about the publicity, her sense of isolation and fears about what the future held in store. ‘Don’t worry,’ Princess Grace joked. ‘It will get a lot worse.’”

So if the life of a real princess isn’t always so great, why does the appeal to be one continue, like a call from the other side of the mirror? I believe that this princess myth touches all women in some unique way. Not necessarily as a desire to become a princess or to marry a prince (or princess), but at the heart of the dream is the desire to be noticed, to be seen as beautiful, to be attended to, to be loved. ~

[Next series of posts will being the "Disney Princesses" section of the “Princess Redux” chapter; all are excerpts from the soon-to-be released book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place. To see other excerpts in the series, click on "Princess Redux" in Labels below.]

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