Well, Kate Middleton is pregnant, so there’s that. Everyone is excited and curious. Will the fetus be as graceful and pretty as she is? As kind and handsome as Prince William? Is there any way to inoculate the child ahead of time against contact with Uncle Harry?
I know I’m supposed to care about this because I’m American and every good American cares about the British royals. But I don’t care about Kate and William. They’re too dull. What good are royals without scandal? The only thing that could excite me about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy is if it turns out like Rosemary’s Baby: The infant is born as some kind of devil creature, and instead of spurning it, Kate embraces it, and is thrown out on her arse. Now that would be spicy.
When I was growing up, the only royal I paid attention to was Princess Stephanie of Monaco, the daughter of Grace Kelly. Dear god, what a mess she was! It was fantastic. She was pretty, in a sort of husky, tomboyish way, but she was obviously unable to be comfortable in her own skin. (That was, it was thought, because she was with her mother during the fatal car crash.) She was never able to keep on the straight and narrow: She was thrown out of school after school, got into drugs, went out with an endless parade of bad boys—every headline about her was like a letter from juvie. While her sister Caroline would be photographed bending down behind a curtain of brown hair and handing a sick child a bunch of flowers, Princess Stephanie would be snapped half-clad, her hair hacked off in some unappealing way, scowling.
Given that Grace Kelly was from a legendary Philadelphia family, I saw Stephanie’s rebelliousness through a local prism. That attitude? That was Philly grit, all right. She reminded me of the tough Catholic-school girls my friends and I took the bus with. They were scary—they hated us, spit at us, punched us—but I felt sorry for them too. They wore that toughness until it was wearing them; they were exhausted by it. And unlike Princess Stephanie, they didn’t get to date Paul Belmondo for their troubles.
This excerpt from a 2003 Daily Mail article sums up Princesss Stephanie’s delicious soap-opera unpredictability:
She was born to live in a palace, surrounded by flunkies attending to her every need. But Princess Stephanie of Monaco has traded it all in—to live in a camper van in a public car park. Wearing only her underwear and puffing on a cigarette in full view of passersby, 38-year-old Stephanie has adopted a lifestyle a million miles from the fairytale image of the House of Grimaldi.
It’s funny how right that seemed. Stephanie was always living in a trailer park, puffing on a cigarette in her underwear, even when she wasn’t.
Nowadays the youngest daughter of Grace Kelly is mostly out of the spotlight. Her children are of increasing interest as their mother ages. She appears at events in fancy dresses, very little jewelry, and keeps her hair in a tight bun. Usually, however, her tattoos are visible.
The thing that made Stephanie interesting for so long—beyond all the marriages and liaisons and divorces and alienation—was that she seemed complex. You got the sense that she wanted to escape herself but couldn’t, that she was walking around with a kind of pain none of us could really imagine. With Stephanie, there was the illusion, if not reality, of depth.
The same cannot be said of Kate—though of course it’s preposterous to speculate. And isn’t it better that she’s a happy person? A well-adjusted person? A person who won’t gad about with racecar drivers while William cries for her at home? And yet, I can’t cotton to her. I guess if there’s anything to learn about our interest in the royals—any royals—it’s what it says about ourselves.