Sunday 15 September 2019

Regina Lavelle: 'Duchesses At War is the drama that keeps on giving'

Meghan and Kate would love social media
Meghan and Kate would love social media

Regina Lavelle

It's the pseudo feud with something for everyone. It has royalty - a pair of princesses both in the relatively early stages of their marriage.

It has all the pomp of a fairytale with dukes and courtiers and protocols. It has high fashion - Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren and Givenchy. It has grandeur - they live in apartments, how very Versailles. It has Hollywood glamour - Venus Williams and the Clooneys. It has the reminder of the arcane elitism of the English upper class.

Meanwhile, the newest addition to the Family carries a faint whiff of Wallis Simpson; money, America, and divorce...

The last few episodes of Duchesses At War have been gripping, amping up to the crescendo of Meghan and Harry moving out of Kensington (did they jump or were they pushed?) to what is referred to as a "bolthole" in the same staggeringly understated language that refers to a palace wing as "a flat".

And so, before the newlyweds break for Frogmore, let's have a quick recap. There's been the succession of spats and 'explosions', the emerald tiara episode, the 'smelly church', Kate's 'tears' before the wedding and intemperate words over staff. Forbidden jewels, smelly churches and sororal bollockings - what could make this juicier for a prurient public? A good new-fashioned social media showdown.

Or would it?

Imagine if we had:

@CatherineCambridge Married to William. Sister of @HerRoyalHotness. Proud mother to George, Charlotte and Louis, #royalfamily. #blessed #whereswaitykatie #werenotinberkshirenow.

There would be copious family photographs, behind-the-scenes of photo shoots - how Kate styles her hair, what colour foundation she uses. There would be cameos from Kate's stylist, YouTube vlogs of 'What Kate Wears'. Her Instagram would prompt followers to buy her wardrobe with one click.

And @MeghanSussex. Married to Harry. Previously actress/activist/UNspeaker #royalfamily #earlyriser #feminist. #dontmentionsuits #nopiersididnotghostyou.

@MeghanSussex would be 50pc her and Harry, 25pc Meghan, 25pc Meghan and Meghan's friends. Amal at the UN, #soproud. Venus on Centre Court #sostrong. Harry meeting his fans #somine.

Meghan would do her own interviews with designers - Erdem, Tom Ford and, of course, best friend, Canadian stylist Jessica Mulroney. There would be a YouTube yoga channel.

Any disagreements reported in the press would be dismissed briskly as "petty" and there would be interminable Instagram soliloquies published the second something distasteful hit the papers. It would be beige.

Where now we have two feisty princesses engaged in a power struggle: one apparently pushing against protocol, the other for it, both with edges, tempers, wills of steel; their social media rebranding would be more palatable. The Kate and Meghan currently writ large are almost redolent of the old-school celebrities, the Hepburns, the Joan Collinses, unbidden, untouchable and unapologetic.

And as the information drips out, it makes the drama all the more compelling. Of course the drama might seem more acute because it is being told by a third party - when a spat is recounted by another, it's never downplayed or dismissed in the manner one would oneself.

This is, or used to be, the opportunity cost of celebrity.

That we no longer hear such stories about Hollywood stars does not tell us that behaviour has improved, it merely hints at the power of lawyers and NDAs deployed to keep the staff in check. What scandals do emerge tend to be self-inflicted - an ill-judged social media post or a duff public appearance. And so, as we all await the season finale of Duchesses At War, this unmissable drama continues to keep us rapt.

Speculation makes fairytale come to life, replete with heroes and villains and all the sub-plots and dramas we have come to expect from royal families.

There is nothing as prosaic as 'real life' to puncture our fantasy, and as gossip is eked in tiny portions, there is nothing to quell our appetite for more.

Irish Independent

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