Saturday 21 September 2019

Midlife: Bairbre Power

Doria Ragland arrives at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle for the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Photo: Reuters
Doria Ragland arrives at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle for the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Photo: Reuters
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

I watched the royal wedding on American breakfast TV last week. Big mistake. Huge. They were all over the place with frothy, inane coverage most of which I watched with my hand over my mouth. It got worse day by day and the absolute low came with the lookalike bride and groom competition for which the judges really should have gone to Specsavers.

I should have just turned the painfully awful coverage off early in the week but the ol' jet lag kicked in so I was awake at 2am.The irony was rich because on Saturday, the wedding day, I was actually sleepy at 5.30am and had to force myself to turn on the telly. The previous few days, I was getting increasingly frustrated at the media's silly attempts to brand her a Princess because, just like Kate Middleton when she joined 'The Firm', Meghan is now a Duchess but not a Princess - she is not a royal by birth.

In the end I couldn't take any more of the TV drivel and ran out across Lexington Avenue to get myself an iced latte. I needed some fresh air to fight off all the verbal diarrhoea and looking upwards, I saluted the glistening Art Deco dome of the Chrysler Building and went back in for round two of wedding. Sadly the coverage was terribly lightweight and I craved some of that solid BBC reporting, tea in a china cup and some of that delicious looking elderflower lemon cake I'd read about.

I popped in my new contact lenses in order to see the wedding outfits better. It was fabulous to see the fashion spectacle. I loved Amal Clooney's dress with its exaggerated bow train and pleated cap sleeve detail. I'm 100pc certain I will be seeing lots of 'homages' to the Stella McCartney concept and that glorious shade of goldenrod when I'm judging on the Best Dressed racing circuit this summer.

Sadly, the American TV coverage didn't improve - they were not reacting to the footage as it popped up on the screen. There was Sarah Ferguson who has felt the full-on Arctic treatment from the royalty hierarchy since her marriage to the Queen's second, and reportedly favourite, son Andrew collapsed. Fergie, often called the stealth royal, is a tough cookie. She's often in Ireland and I've met her and always had admiration for the spunky woman who seems to be so often in the ex-wife limbo - on the outside looking in at her ex-husband and their two Princess daughters.

However, it now seems the rehabilitation of Sarah, the Duchess as she calls herself on Twitter, is on the cards. She arrived at the chapel on her own but who was that guy that she was talking to so animatedly? Turned out it was Jack Brooksbank, her future son-in-law, who Princess Eugenie marries in the same chapel later this year (I had to find that nugget scrolling on social media).

I dived off the bed when I saw her two daughters arrive with their portly dad. Would their hats be anything as controversial as they were at Wills and Kate's wedding seven years ago? Oh dear, they were totally dull, so safe, and way too old too. No more Philip Treacy fun and that funny upright 'toilet seat' headpiece that the Irishman made for Princess Beatrice that she eventually sold for charity.

Just like the press got them and their two outfits mixed up, the Americans couldn't get a grip on the fringe royals, like the Middleton family. The presenters married off James Middleton in a hotel when it fact it was his sister Pippa, the most famous bridesmaid in the world, who did it in the family's back-garden. I was screaming at the telly and laughing at how much I actually knew about this extended clan, even though I would never have thought myself to be an Irish royal-watcher.

My late grand-aunt, May Griffin, who lived in the Tower of London with her husband, Allan, a gallant Corkman, surrounded by royal pageantry and photos of him with the Queen, would have smiled one of her big infectious smiles at me.

Wait, was that forlorn-looking blonde on the telly Chelsy Davy, Harry's on-off girlfriend? If it was, wasn't that nice of him to make sure she was invited? Oh, I craved some plummy toned BBC accents with comprehensive TV reportage to go with the live footage. The Americans segued to reporters whose onsite offerings were to wave at the passing royal couple and to interview Wildcat alumni from Northwestern university, which Meghan attended.

But meanwhile I wanted to know why there were seats left empty in front of the Queen and Prince Philip. And I wanted a close-up of Doria Ragland, the serene looking mother of the bride. What was that colour she was wearing? Was it lemongrass, like the Isabel Toledo outfit Michelle Obama wore for her husband's 2009 inauguration, or was it more of a pistachio green?

Either way, I loved her diamond nose stud and her dreadlocks scooped up in a tear drop hat. I wish more Mothers of the Bride would retain their own preciously sweet sense of identity like Doria did. She certainly ticked the age-old MOB convention of dress and matching coat combo that most mothers now run from, but she brilliantly did it on her own terms in pistachio Oscar de la Renta and most importantly, preserved her personal style. I suspect wearing nude tights was a concession to royal protocol for the free-spirited clinical therapist.

Interestingly, both she and Carole Middleton are both former air hostesses and I salute women who raise daughters with a self-belief that they can reach for anything they want in life. Just two decades ago, it would have been unimaginable that two daughters outside royal circles could have married the two most eligible Princes in the world.

I've no doubt that Meghan would have respected her mother not to ask her to take out her nose stud - so to the mother who contacted me about being nagged to put a plaster over the hippy 70s tattoo snaking around her ankle for the daughter's posh wedding, I say be yourself and don't put up with any Princess-y behaviour.

By the way, I totally recanted my initial disapproval of Meghan's messy hair and ended up loving it. It's going to be interesting to watch Duchess Meghan define her role as a modern royal and if she makes it to Ireland for their mini-moon, all the better!

Irish Independent

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