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The American Obsession with Royalty: Kate Middleton Edition
hadley newton 12 arts entertainment editor volume 86
March 3, 2011

Until recently, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was as foreign to the American public as meat pies and teatime. It was only when she became engaged to Prince William of Wales that Americans began to seriously take notice.

Born a commoner to parents in Berkshire, England, Kate Middleton never seemed like someone to warrant great fanfare. Her brown hair, sweet girl-next-store look, and quiet demeanor were far from extraordinary. Then why did Prince William take interest in this girl when they met at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland? But more importantly, why do we as the American public take so much interest in his infatuation?

The attraction lies partly with the tabloids. Media giants like Us Weekly and People Magazine are always hankering after juicy stories on any celebrity they can find. Naturally, when a private and largely secretive prince began to show off his leggy girlfriend and then fiancée, gossip writers everywhere seized their pens.

At every grocery store and street corner, Middleton’s pixilated face has caught the eye of millions of commuters, teenagers, and soccer moms. But why is this marriage so important?

The popularity of Princess Diana, Prince William’s mother, undoubtedly has something to do with it. Princess Diana took England by storm when she married Prince Charles, and immediately become an icon of style, philanthropy, and grace.

Her confident, yet feminine bearing incited pride in many of the English, and Americans were fascinated as well. About 750 million people watched the royal wedding on television, making it one the most-watched broadcasts in history.

In many ways Middleton seems similar to her fiancé’s mother, sharing her poise, style, and philanthropic tendencies.

It seems as if William has done what countless other men have done before him and “married his mother.” And, if her marriage was such an attraction, it only seems natural that her first son’s marriage would be extraordinary. But why do the affairs of the British still interest Americans?

Of course Americans and the British have been joined for centuries with a common history. It was not until 1776 that the United States broke from the grasp of England, in order to create a democracy.

But with this freedom, Americans lacked one essential item, a monarch to obsess over. Sure, we had George Washington and now we have Barack Obama, but there is little longevity in their time in the spotlight. Presidents enter the political realm late in their lives and disappear after office, and thus a whole section of their life is inaccessible to the public. Monarchs, however, are famous from birth to death and provoke a constant stream of fascination from their subjects.

Perhaps Americans see something democratic in the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton. She was a “nobody” without a public past, just like almost every American celebrity and politician. She was not aristocratic or important; in fact, she might as well be American. Every U.S. citizen sees in her what they want for themselves; she emerged from obscurity and attained bigger and better things.