JUST before the holidays, my sister and I sat down to binge-watch the last series of The Crown on Netflix. For anyone who has managed to miss all the hype, The Crown is a drama series covering the reign of Queen Elizabeth II from her accession at the age of 25 in 1952 to her Golden Jubilee in 2002. It has generated a lot of debate and controversy because of the way it has taken artistic licence to a whole new level.
The last six episodes take place in the late nineties and early noughties as we see a teenage Prince William (Ed McVey) struggle after the untimely death of his mother Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki). In a flashback scene, we see the prince and his mother handing out copies of the Big Issue on a London street to raise money for charity at Christmas. A mother and a daughter, shopping for party clothes, are thrilled at seeing the most famous woman in the world and her son, and rush up to donate.
When Diana asks the pretty young woman her name, she replies ‘Kate’. Immediately, her mother interjects ‘Catherine, it’s Catherine.’ Obviously, this is William’s future wife Catherine ‘Kate’ Middleton and her mother Carole. Later, Carole Middleton (Eve Best) walks into her daughter’s bedroom to find her cutting out pictures of William for a scrapbook. In no uncertain terms, she tells Catherine that there is nothing she can’t set her mind to and that even if a woman does marry a man from a wealthier, more privileged background that doesn’t automatically mean she’s the lucky one: sometimes it can be the other way around.
A few years later, we discover William and Kate (Meg Bellamy) as classmates at the Scottish university, St Andrews. This could of course be a coincidence. But The Crown portrays Carole Middleton as an obsessed, modern-day Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice on steroids, hell-bent on fixing her daughter up with Prince William and becoming a future queen consort. This involves advising her to take a year out after school and go on the same expedition to Chile as William, and encouraging Kate to change her university choice from Edinburgh to St Andrews upon hearing that was where he had decided to go.
Of course The Crown is a fictionalised drama and must be taken with a fistful of salt. The likelihood that any of the interactions or conversations portrayed happened is slim. However, speculation about Carole Middleton’s ambitions as a mother have been tabloid fodder for years, long before The Crown was thought of. But even if there is even the slightest hint of any truth in it all, is it so bad? Not if you ask me.
While my dear sister thought that Carole Middleton was a borderline stalker who went too far, I was quite impressed by her. This was a woman from a working-class background, educated in state schools, who married Michael Middleton, from a middle-class background with distant links to royalty and aristocracy. It was Mrs Middleton who came up with an idea that would change the family’s fortunes. When her party supplies mail order business took off, it was her husband who was able to leave his job and go work for the family enterprise. Turns out he was the lucky one after all.
So what if Carole Middleton thought her attractive, intelligent, and kind daughter could catch the eye of Prince William if she moved in the same circles as he did? She was right in the end. She had the confidence to believe that Catherine was more than good enough to be a future queen consort, and the wisdom to realise that after the familial train wreck that William came from, he could be better off with a nice, normal girl and not some distant, spoiled blue-blood. Another goal for Mrs Middleton. The Prince and Princess of Wales seem to be very happy bringing up their three children and Catherine has been credited with making the monarchy less staid and stuffy, thus preserving its future. For now, anyway.
If her mother had encouraged Catherine and her sister Pippa to be Prime Minister or Governor of the Bank of England, there would be no criticism. In fact, she’d be applauded by the feminists and the tabloids as pushing her girls to break the glass ceiling. Instead, like most, if not all mothers, she focused on their personal happiness instead of their professional credentials. She ensured they married well so they could have a loving, stable home life with a mainstay husband and devoted father for their children. Which in Catherine’s case will surely determine the course of history.
Doesn’t seem so backward and degrading when you put it like that, does it? I think every little girl (and boy for that matter) could do with a mother like Carole Middleton, or even Mrs Bennet, come to that.