Royal life is worth the scrutiny 

A FEW weeks ago, during an idle daydream (probably while washing up), I found myself thinking: I wish I was Kate Middleton.

The hair, the clothes, the prince ... Sigh.

Then I thought: What are you thinking?

The endless scrutiny, the protocol, the in- laws ...

Maybe it was growing up believing that with just two months and four days between us, Prince William and I were destined for eternal happiness (you can thank Mr Disney and co. for that.)

Once living in London, a friend and I would religiously attend public royal events, hoping for just a glimpse of him.

Surely he would see us (well, me) and fall head over heels in love.

Then of course, he went off to uni and met a (slightly less) common-er and the rest, as they say, is history.

I had to accept it probably wasn't going to be me he married.

All this royal-stargazing, then, made me pretty interested in the recent furore over a lecture given by Booker Prize-winner Hilary Mantel at the London Review of Books on February 4.

The lecture was rapidly misconstrued as an attack on Kate, in which Mantel, 60, described her in the opening few paragraphs as " a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung, "a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore".

How dare she, the people cried, from publican to PM, the bitter old harpy.

They problem was, they had missed Ms Mantel's point.

She went on to say that "royal bodies" (the topic of her lecture) are seen as just that - bodies.

The public claims ownership over them and deconstructs them until they are merely a collection of body parts, especially royal women: " a royal lady is a royal vagina" - and therefore a mere babymaker.

Guiltily then, I recalled my joy upon discovering a waiting-room collection of women's magazines, which recently printed a front-page picture of Kate, four months pregnant in a bikini on the island of Mustique in the Caribbean.

Let me be clear: I don't buy magazines that rely on paparazzi stalking starlets and snapping snaps of them when they least expect it (OK, well sometimes at an airport, but I try not to).

But if I stumble across one ... welllllll ... the line gets blurry.

I found myself staring at Kate's bump, smiling. I remembered having a bump like that at four months.

But I probably didn't look quite as good in a bikini.

Then I looked at the quality of the picture. Not great. In fact, pretty grainy really. It had been clearly taken from a long way off, with the subject oblivious.

"I'm not asking for censorship," Mantel said in her lecture.

"I'm asking us to back off and not be brutes."

Indeed. But let's not have a pity party for Kate either. She's a smart chick, who has chosen this life and this man.

And at least Will was allowed to marry the woman he loves.

Let's just hope she's tough enough to withstand whatever comes her way.

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