With her Marlborough college education, Sloaney wardrobe and millionaire parents, Kate Middleton isn’t really what one would call underprivileged. That said, the fact remains that she is the first commoner to make it as the wife of the British heir to the throne- which goes to show Britain has gone a long way from its rigid class rules and gives its people a real reason to celebrate.
With the heir to the throne marrying a “commoner” -albeit a privately educated, daughter of millionaire’s one- it seems quite obvious that England has become much less class-obsessed that it once was. Thirty years ago, the idea of Prince Charles marrying the daughter of the enterprising middle class, as his son has just done, would have been unthinkable. For Diana might be remembered by adoring fans as the “People’s Princess”, but the fact remains that she came from one of the country’s oldest aristocratic families -in fact more ancient than the Windsor- and was considered suitable for that specific reason, and certainly not for her supposedly “common touch”.
Of course, the notion of social class endures today, but the difference is that the more plebeian British don’t consider the upper echelons as “aspirational” as before. On the contrary, the reverse seems to be true- witness the rise of the “Trustafarians”, sons and daughters of England’s finest who lead bohemian lives in areas like Notting Hill and try to mask their £30,000-a-year public school accent with Mockney intonations. Similarly, much has been said about Samantha Cameron’s tattoo and friendship with rapper Goldie to show that, despite her very upper class background, the Prime Minister’s wife is just “one of us”- which makes her even more popular and a serious asset for her politician husband. Anecdote aside, Britain in the 21stcentury has definitely become more of a meritocracy: social hierarchy might still exist, but society -especially in London- has never been so fluid, with the new ruling class based on professional success rather than birth. That said, snobbism still perdures, as some of William’s best friends proved when they made fun of Carole Middleton’s past career as a flight attendant. But whatever some of the less socially evolved elements of the Establishment might say, William has chosen a princess from the people, which makes her a true People’s princess, and gives the British a good reason to celebrate.