Monday, 18 June 2012

Princess Fantasies

First let me make it clear that I've never wanted to become a princess, exactly. I only ever wanted their clothes and perhaps that handsome prince who always seems to be part of the package.

My princess (wardrobe) fantasies began very early in my life owing, perhaps, to the fact that most books I read were of princesses and fairy tale adventures. I can't say I fancied the idea of having to go through running through a dark forest to escape my wicked stepmother, or sleeping for a hundred years, but if you're not into the whole damsel in distress drama, I'm quite sure you would understand the separation between wanting the material bits (have I stressed the clothes enough times yet?) but not the work part (really now, running a kingdom?).

It was so easy then to believe myself to be a princess and, as Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) said in The Princess Diaries 2, walk the way I thought a princess should walk and act the way I thought a princess would act.

I suppose it was made much easier for me by the fact that I'd had a rather ideal life still up to that point. I hadn't felt the sting of any major heartaches or disappointments. And even if I did (I mean really, who hasn't felt some form of heartache or disappointment during their younger years only to look back and realise it was "major" and not major?) it was still easy to imagine it all away.

The desire to even try to pretend or imagine everything away disappeared completely by the time I began college. I could say that I was poisoned by the idea that I to grow up meant to give up those fancies.

Oh but there's no question that my base fascination with it all remained. The only difference was that I'd moved on from fantasy to reality.

I posted before about one of my Irish treasures, the fascination for which is actually a spin-off from my personal readings on European monarchs. To start with European because they have the clothes that I like, haha. As a child, most of my books were of stories based on European traditional tales, hence the greater familiarity with them.

My primary readings are of the Tudors and the Bourbons though I know little bits and pieces about prior monarchs and dynasties.

It was reading these histories that made me realise how lucky I was not to have been born an actual princess, given how difficult their lives were, and how difficult they continue to be.

I must say the clothes continue to be fabulous though. And the jewels! I wouldn't mind just borrowing them if it meant I could actually wear the sparkly, usually not so little things.

As I read I do place myself in their shoes, though I can't imagine how truly comfortable they might be, literally and figuratively. 

These two women are among the most tragic as far as my readings have gone so far. I'm sure others have their own opinion on the matter but I do find these two to have had very tragic lives. There's really no other way for me to describe it. Mary Tudor went from her parents' greatest love to a bastard princess to an ill-loved queen. Marie Antoinette wasn't even in line for a prestigious marriage; she was the youngest daughter and hardly a priority in the political games her mother played. And we all know what happened to her head.
Aside: As much as people attribute the whole "Let them eat cake." scenario to her, the statement actually predates Marie Antoinette and it has been rumoured as something at least two other French queens prior to her ascendance have uttered. As referenced in Lady Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey. As it turns out, she is actually compassionate to a fault--which also was partly her downfall. (I refer to Yolande, Duchess de Polignac--who, incidentally, may or may not have been slandered herself.)

There is much to learn from these women and those like them however, no matter their faults. For one thing, they remained strong in their beliefs, no matter how one-tracked and flawed these beliefs now look to us retrospectively. There's just something about their stubborn clinging to what they believed in that I honestly admire.

I'd given up thinking myself a princess nearly a decade ago but recently I've been thinking it may be worth it to start thinking that way again. Grace under pressure and all that.

Sometimes we all need a little fantasy to hold on to for our sanity.

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