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28 May 2018 15:00
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  •   Home > News > International

    Meghan Markle meet Crown Princess Mary: She's been there, done that

    Meghan Markle's about to say "I do" to a life of weirdly-shaped headgear, constant surveillance, and creepy commentary about whether she is fulfilling her function as an heir oven. Fun times indeed, but the soon-to-be Royal still has it better than our Cr

    Despite the "happily ever after" line peddled by fairy stories, becoming a real-life Royal is more Handmaid's Tale than Disney special.

    It's true that Meghan Markle probably won't have to worry about an ultra-violent "salvaging" (Gilead-speak for a ritualistic public execution) any time soon.

    But she's still about to say "I do" to a life of weirdly-shaped headgear, rigid uniform codes, constant surveillance and control, regime-bolstering propaganda and censorship, and creepy commentary about how well she is — or is not — fulfilling her function as an heir oven. Fun times.

    To get an idea of exactly what Meghan is in for, we can look to Crown Princess Mary — the former Sydney real estate agent sales manager who endured a particularly arduous princessification process in the early 2000s after she met Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark at a Sydney Olympic Games after-party.

    For Mary, the road to Tiaraville turned out to be paved not with gold (compared to the Windsors, the Danish Royals are practically paupers) but with years of arduous language instruction, court etiquette boot camps and sneaking round to avoid dumpster-diving paparazzi.

    First date: club versus pub

    The difficulties for Mary began with Date Zero which had the potential to sound deafening alarms on the Royal scandal-o-meter.

    Meghan met Harry in exceedingly proper circumstances after a mutual friend set them up on a blind date in a swanky private room at a member's only London Club.

    Mary, in contrast, met Frederik in the midst of a large party posse during a huge night of beer-drinking, pizza-eating and bar-hopping that started in a Sydney pub called The Slip Inn.

    Mary was wearing jeans, had very nearly stayed home that night and took ages to realise that the cute, smooth-chested dude who'd introduced himself as "Fred" was actually European royalty.

    The playboy prince hit Mary up for her phone number even though he had a girlfriend at the time. Later, Frederik confessed that his memories of the evening were "a bit blurry".

    Mary stalked for months

    Over the next 14 months, Mary and Fred successfully kept their long-distance thing on the down low.

    Then the Danish press wised-up and a magazine paid a private investigator $US1000 a day to stake out Mary's pad in his pimped SUV.

    During this 24/7 assignment, the PI involved sent two-hourly situation reports back to Denmark, snitched sauce-stained letters from Mary's green wheelie bin and made use of an in-vehicle, makeshift Tupperware toilet.

    Shortly afterwards, Mary was outed and she relocated to Europe. And that's when things really got gruelling.

    Glamming up, slimming down

    In contrast with Meghan — privately educated in Hollywood and skilled at working the international fame machine — Mary loathed being photographed and many early shots taken by the snaparazzi show her looking like a wallaby caught in headlights.

    One Danish columnist called her a hairy-legged, didgeridoo-playing bimbo while someone else said she could be mistaken for a flight stewardess. Other Royal watchers condemned her frequent frowning, preference for dark lip-gloss and frumpy clothing (describing one outfit as a "confusing disappointment").

    Mary, however, had the power of white-collar managerialism on her side and approached her royal operating system upgrade with business-grade efficiency. (Later, she told the media she was in "a strategic planning phase" vis-a-vis her new Royal role. "I think in the position I'm in I can act as a catalyst to create connections and facilitate changes by bringing groups together." It's a line straight out of Cinderella.)

    Mary glammed up and slimmed down. She ditched the drab, corporate wardrobe, the slumpy posture and the broad Awstrayan accent.

    Learning Danish was difficult. It is, after all, a notoriously difficult language full of consonant-laden words such as "ølfrygt" (which translates as "ale fright" and refers to the fear arising from a lack of beer).

    Mary signed up with two experts and studied for three hours a day, determined not to make the same embarrassing errors as Frederik's late, French-born father who, at one banquet, apparently accused a visiting president of having "made a bad smell" instead of offering felicitous greetings.

    Don't mention the Mrs

    After the Royal nuptials in May 2004, media outlets changed things up by monitoring Mary's menstrual cycle as a gentle "hurry up" to conceive an heir. Mary obliged by producing a grand total of four micro princes and princesses.

    In the gazillion photos that have been taken of her since, Mary certainly looks happy and radiant and not secretly-screaming-on-the-inside or blinking "please save me" in Morse code.

    Meghan also sports a similar, COULDNOTBEEFFINGHAPPIER beam.

    Sure, the Buckingham Palace wedding invites refer to Markle as "Ms" instead of "Miss" on account of the scandalous fact of her having been previously divorced — but so what?

    Sure, there's been a racist storm on Twitter — but when isn't there?

    And sure, there's the bitter half-brother publicly imploring Prince Harry to call the wedding off, the tell-all book-writing half-sister who calls Markle "Princess Pushy", and the entrepreneurial nephew growing a royal-themed marijuana strain called "Markle Sparkle" — but it would hardly be a fairy story without a few tricky rellos, right?

    All Meghan has had to do is delete her social media accounts, change her citizenship and religion, and sign away having a private life forever, and Bob's Prince Edward's your uncle.

    Royal double standards are OTT

    The inconvenient truth, however, is that while royal families are stultifying for everyone, they tend to be particularly oppressive for their female members.

    While neither Meghan nor Mary had to undergo the outrageous indignity of a virginity test (as was rumoured to have happened to Princess Diana), the double standards for female and male royals is truly OTT.

    Consider, for instance, the likelihood of Meghan having passed palace muster if it had been her and not Harry who'd been caught wearing a Nazi swastika to a fancy-dress party, referring to members of her military platoon as a "little Paki" or a "raghead" or being photographed nude during a game of strip billiards in Las Vegas.

    And how would Mary have fared if it had been her and not her husband who'd once been photographed jumping naked from an upper level window of a French chateau into a swimming pool?

    Then there's the lifetime of having to always be on one's best behaviour as a ribbon-slicing, bridge-inaugurating, royal-breeding ornament — all while suffering concertina neck as a result of being constantly crushed beneath satin hats the size of industrial smoke stacks.

    These first-world problems are not nearly as dire as the hell that goes down in The Handmaid's Tale, but if anyone gets word that Offred or Ofharry require a Mayday Underground-style extraction, I'm so in.

    Dr Emma A. Jane is an academic at UNSW Sydney. She wrote Something About Mary: From Girl About Town to Crown Princess.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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