A few weeks ago we were doing our food shopping. Little P was sitting in the trolley and I was strategically trying to wrestle a bottle of hand sanitiser away from her at the till (don't ask, she has a thing about small bottles!!). There was a very charming American lady in the queue who started chatting to us. She asked Little P her name, her age and the usual stuff. When we were leaving we waved goodbye to her and she turned to Little P and said: "You're such a beautiful little girl, you're like a real-life princess". We continued on our way and as we were packing the car she asked: "What's a princess Mama?". I was completely stumped. I had no answer for the child. The daughter of a King and Queen? That answer would only lead to "but what's a King and Queen Mama?". The fact is that princesses are no longer relevant in her life or any of our lives anymore. They're a mediaeval concept so why do we hold them up as an aspiration? In this time of modernity and freedom and autonomy why on earth would anyone want to be a princess?
Like many people, I am completely captivated by the Meghan and Harry romance. It put a smile on my face to hear their good news this week despite the fact that they have no relevance to my life whatsoever! I think because it's always inspiring to see two people so obviously in love and partly because it's an interesting, slightly unconventional romance. Of course, it was almost impossible to avoid the media coverage of their wedding and the one "fact" I read/heard repeatedly was that apparently every little girl wants to be a princess. So what is it about the princess trope that just won't go away.
Is it the lovely dresses? We can all wear as many lovely dresses as we want, they're not the sole preserve of princesses. It's a free world. Is it something to do with money & wealth. Again that's something anyone can achieve if that's what they really want. Much better to aspire to be a business tycoon or an entrepreneur if money is the goal. Then at least the money you earn will be your own. Is it something to do with beauty? Surely we all know by now that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Anyway a good hairdresser and the right make up can make anyone look as good as a princess.
Maybe it's a notion about having all of these things without having to put too much effort into getting them. Having it all just by being entitled to it. But I suspect that if any of us could see what life is really like beyond the palace walls we might feel differently. Every family milestone meticulously documented by the media, little freedom of expression and minimum privacy are just some of the downsides for a modern-day prince or princess.
I also think it's universally acknowledged by now that the fairytale story of a princess waiting to be rescued by her prince is one that belongs in another time. It's been turned on it's head in popular culture over and over again. My personal favourite has to be "Shrek". This animated tale mirrors real life perfectly where, at times, we're all the rescuer and the rescue-ee depending on circumstances. One could argue that in this instance it is Harry that has been 'rescued' by Meghan and not the other way around.
It's worth noting that Meghan Markle is not a princess. She has given up a highly successful career and a considerable amount of her freedom to take on her new role as the Duchess of Sussex. It would be difficult for any parent to see that as a desirable life choice for their daughter. Of course, she wants to be with the person she loves but I suspect she also feels she's going to be able to make some significant changes in the world in her new position. She already has a history of involvement in various charities including 'World Vision' and 'One Young World'.
Someone who makes sacrifices for the greater good and wants to make a real difference in the world? Forget princesses, these are the kind of real-life qualities that can provide inspiration for young women everywhere. Anyway, as Meghan herself knows, it's a wonderful and exciting world out there for girls with plenty to look forward to beyond tiaras and fancy dresses. And for her and Harry I suspect the best is yet to come!