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The Wedding March: The Princess Problem

At a time when young graduates struggle to find work, one former art history student's patchy résumé shouldn't be headline news. Unless of course, you happen to be Kate Middleton.

Since graduating from the University of St Andrews in 2005, Middleton has worked briefly as an accessories buyer for high street brand Jigsaw and at her parents' party planning business taking photographs and compiling catalogs, but her apparent lack of motivation and direction in her career caused the tabloids to nickname her "Waity Katie," implying that she was only killing time before her engagement. Even the royal family, a dynasty not exactly known for its work ethic, disapproved—sources close to the Windsors were concerned that her lack of career progression damaged their reputation as much as hers.

Now, of course, her detractors have fallen silent. A sporadically employed girlfriend might have been an embarrassment, but a wife who works? Unthinkable, if the man she's marrying is the heir to the throne.

It's the kind of double standard she'll have to learn to live with—whilst her husband is a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, nothing has been said about how she will fill her days.

The implication, of course, is that being a princess—and a wife—should be the pinnacle of her ambition. She has the life most women are indoctrinated to want as soon as we can articulate our desires, but can that ever be enough?

Prince William's mother, the late Princess Diana, was an illustration of what happens when the fairytale ending fails to satisfy. She is remembered not for what she wore but for what she did and, although I don't buy into the beatification that a certain section of the British press reserves for her, I think her choices were laudable.

So how is it that thirty years on, we seem to have regressed? Even Middleton's detractors were concerned only that she spent the time between education and marriage productively, not that she should build a career that would nurture and stimulate her after she married. In a way, she was perfectly within her rights not to commit to a profession: Why should she put the work in, when it would only be taken away from her the moment she said "I do"?

Her marriage comes with a certain set of expectations—not for nothing is the royal family nicknamed "The Firm"—and attempts to step outside the carefully prescribed boundaries are likely to be met with disapproval. Sources close to her have suggested that the Prince of Wales' private office vetoed a number of possibilities in order to keep her out of the limelight, and several art galleries were said to have been reluctant to take on board the paparazzi-shaped baggage that would have accompanied her had she joined their staff. Whether or not this is true, her choice of career would have been limited by her ties to the Windsors—the issue, it seems, was not finding her a job, but finding her a suitable job.

Middleton graduated with a 2:1 from a prestigious university, and to see that early promise trumped by state ceremonies and style accolades from glossy magazines makes me deeply uneasy. It baffles me that any woman would spend her twenties treading water and waiting for a proposal when she has the qualifications and the contacts to do whatever she wants. I don't want to belittle anyone's aspirations, and a stable, loving relationship is something to aspire to, be you princess or pauper, but what it shouldn't be is a job, even if it does come with a tiara.

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Comments

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Interesting post

Interesting post, thank you for sharing. Though where you say "She has the life most women are indoctrinated to want as soon as we can articulate our desires, but can that ever be enough?" I would say "She has the life most women are indoctrinated to want even before we can articulate our desires, but can that ever be enough?" A case in point: my little niece (she's 1 year old) doesn't even know how to speak but knows how to rock her baby-doll to sleep...  

Nomad, you don't have to

Nomad, you don't have to indoctrinate most children of any gender to be tender with small things. Caring work has inherent satisfactions; don't confuse
human traits with gendered tasks.

Forgive my ignorance, but

Forgive my ignorance, but what is a 2:1?

I thought that myself. I had

I thought that myself. I had to Google it. It's the British GPA. From what I found it is equivalent to 3.4 - 3.7.

Umm...

Isn't the whole purpose of the feminist movement so that we can have the choice to do what we wish with our lives? To bring options to the table for women? If Kate chooses (or chose) to work menial jobs that were below her because she knew what requirements were necessary to be a princess, good for her for knowing what she wanted. Or, have you considered perhaps just maybe the British decided to give the jobs you deem worthy to someone more qualified rather than the household name that has been in the tabloids since her undergraduate years-- you know, like the dilemma many new graduates in the US happen to be facing right now.

I mean, hell. I just defended my thesis from a fairly prestigious university and the jobs that I'm being offered that are "worthy" of an Ivy League PhD in genetics are in other states. I could just take a job in a random lab somewhere that is WAY below me until something better comes along, or I can leave my husband and kids in Boston while I live in San Diego for the *perfect* job. At the end of the day, my family is more important so I take advantage of the choice I have. Does it make me any less of a feminist because I chose them over a six figure salary?

Feminism.

This my question to you. If your husband was offered the *perfect* job, would you pack up the family and leave with him? or would you argue that just as you have done, he needs to make sacrifices for his family and stay put in Boston?

The fact you completely overlooked the reasonable possibility of your husband (and children) relocating because of your career boggles my mind.

"The fact you completely

"The fact you completely overlooked the reasonable possibility of your husband (and children) relocating because of your career boggles my mind."

This might be a reasonable option for you, but it might not have been for her. Do you know how exhausting and stressful moving across country is, especially if you have children? And, how do you know that her husband wouldn't make the same decision she has, are you living in the house with them? I know you were asking a question, but the question seemed to be based on the assumption that this woman would readily pack herself and her children up if it were her husband were the one seeking a job. But hey, so what if she that is ever the decision she makes because that's between her and her husband.

How nice of you to jump to

How nice of you to jump to conclusions. None of this was overlooked by any means, and it wasn't a snap decision. We both realize that sacrifices have to be made to stick true to our values and what's important to us. And what's important isn't chasing paychecks.

We both agreed that if we had kids, we were going to stay in the same place until the youngest was in high school, and Boston is an ideal place for both of us to live and work. We chose to move back here because both of our job fields (finance and pharmaceutical research) are booming in this area, plus our families are here. Why would we give up everything that makes us happy as a family just for an extra 10% in my paycheck? I'm just as happy in the job I took, and it doesn't make me any less of a person to have passed on it.

Some things in life are more important than paychecks.

Do careers happen anymore?

I know a lot of 20 somethings who haven't committed to any one career yet and in fact, most lament that at 30, we're not exactly at the top of our "careers."

Kate seems to be your typical 20 something in my view.

I can relate. I'm earning my

I can relate. I'm earning my Master's degree in a few weeks, and I'm in career panic mode. I doubt I'll find much even marginally related to my studies, and I've got a ton of debt.

I can't imagine how stressed I would be if I had the entire British paparazzi scrutinizing my every choice.

Agreed.

Most of the twenty-somethings I know are "under employed", or heading back to school, either because they can't find a job suited to their education, or because they simply don't know what to do with the degree(s) they have. I think it can take a long time to determine where it is you fit, and what you want, and the more options you have the more difficult that decision making process can be (fewer options means a whole slew of different challenges, and I know some people facing those, too).

Wait, what?

The royal family is "not exactly known for its work ethic"? The Queen does 300-400 public engagements per year; Princess Anne does up to 700. These people may not do their own laundry (or, in the case of the Queen, squeeze her own toothpaste), but they work.

And although she may not earn

And although she may not earn a paycheck when she's a princess, that doesn't mean she won't work either. Princess Diana worked - she worked on behalf of people who needed someone of her prestige to bring their situation to the world's attention. And I admire people who don't need the money doing this kind of hard, but important, work for free.