Marlene Wagman-Geller

"As far back as I can remember, it was always on my bucket list, even before the term bucket list was coined,
to be a writer. It was a natural progression to want to go from reading books to writing one."

Jewel in the Crown (1982)

Mar 16, 2024 by Marlene Wagman-Geller



    The British national anthem uses the adjectives “gracious” and “noble” to describe the queen, words that aptly applied to a woman not to the manor born. Carole and Michael Middleton met at British Airways where she worked as a flight attendant; he as a dispatcher. In 1984, the company transferred him to Amman, Jordan, where the Middletons, along with their daughters, Catherine Elizabeth (Kate) and Philippa (Pippa), lived for two and a half years. Their son, James, arrived upon their return. The couple shed their middle-class roots when they founded the Internet site, Party Pieces. Carole came up with the idea on Kate’s fifth birthday; outfitting girls in princess pink proved so lucrative that the Middletons purchased a five-bedroom wisteria-covered brick house in Bucklebury, Berkshire, and a second in Chelsea, skiing trips, and private education.

    Kate attended St. Andrews preparatory in West Berkshire where, at age eleven, she starred in the role of Eliza Doolittle in a production of My Fair Lady. A natural athlete, Kate broke a high jump record at prestigious Marlborough boarding school. After graduation, Kate left for Florence to study art, but it was in Scotland where she had her rendezvous with royalty.

       In 2001, the University of St. Andrews doubled as matchmaker when Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, third in line to the British throne, met Kate, a fellow art history major. William had an advantage in his field of study as the walls of his palaces display Vermeers, Rembrandts, and Turners. Initially, they shared a platonic friendship: handsome, wealthy, and royal, the prince had his pick of dates, from princesses to porn stars. What made their relationship something more is when Kate modeled something less-a see-through black dress-for a 2002 charity fashion show at St. Andrews Bay Hotel. Sitting in the front row, complements of his 200 pound ticket, the prince suddenly viewed Ms. Middleton in a new light. He told his chum, “Wow, Fergus, Kate’s hot!” Nine years later, the leave-nothing-to-the imagination garment that bagged a billionaire went up for auction and sold for 125,884 dollars.

       A 2004 photograph, taken on a ski trip in Klosters, Switzerland, captured the couple against the backdrop of the snow-capped Alps. The Sun’s headline proclaimed, FINALLY…WILLS gets a girl.” In truth, they had each other for months. The lovers had shed dorm life for residence at Balgove House, an estate surrounded by two acres of wild grassland hidden behind a six-foot stone wall. Renovations included bombproof windows; unmarked police cars served as sentries. The Sun’s photograph launched thousands more and Kate-sightings proved irresistible catnip.

    Although educated, poised, and cultured, because of her pedestrian roots, Kate had detractors. Carole’s great-grandfather had labored in a coal mine, one that belonged to the Bowles-Lyon family, whose descendants became British royalty. Feeling her background made her an unworthy love interest to the prince, William’s friends mimicked the flight attendant phrase, “doors to manual,” in reference to her mother’s airline stewardess days. The upper crust scoffed at Carole who had committed the royal faux paus of chewing gum in the presence of the queen. In the same vein, various media outlets derisively dubbed Kate “Middleclass Middleton.” The press called Pippa and Kate “the wisteria sisters” as they were “highly decorative, terribly fragrant and have a ferocious ability to climb.”

    Even more hurtful, in 2007, the prince, claiming he felt claustrophobic, broke up with Kate.

 Along with friends, he visited Mahiki, a Polynesian-themed club in Mayfair, where he jumped on a table yelling, “I’m free!” He also ran up an 18,000 dollar bar bill in less than a week. Hounded to dish Windsor dirt, Kate remained mum, immune to the dollar signs journalists dangled. The woman scorned put on a brave face- along with thigh- skimming mini dress- and the paparazzi snapped pictures of her emerging from limousines and nightclubs looking knock em dead gorgeous. As bachelor status wore thin, William resumed his relationship with Kate, although, after years of dating, he still did not offer the four coveted words, “Will you marry me?” Will’s failure to make her his future queen earned Middleton the nickname of Waity Katie. The derogatory epithet became obsolete when Will whisked Kate away to Kenya where they stayed at the 1,500 pounds-a-night, Masai-owned Il Ngwesi Lodge in the Mukogodo Hills. In Africa, William presented Kate with Princess Diana’s sapphire and diamond ring. He said of his gift, “It’s very special to me. As Kate’s very special to me now, it was right to put the two together.” The announcement resurrected the romance that had gone from regal to rancid due to the Charles-Diana-Camilla triangle, Prince Andrew’s divorce, Prince Harry’s shenanigans. The bride-to-be was over the moon. William described himself as, “massively excited.”

     The 2011 day when Kate entered The Firm was as greatly anticipated as William’s parents had been thirty years before. The magnificent gala was an over-the-top display of pageantry, romance, and outrageous hats. While most brides have the jitters, Kate’s, newly dubbed the Duchess of Cambridge, nerves were even more frazzled as she was tying the knot with an audience of 100 million. For those not the possessor of the golden ticket in person invitation, thousands lined the route of the royal procession as it wound its way to Westminster Abbey. Crowds congregated in front of Buckingham Palace to watch as the newlyweds kissed, twice, on the palace balcony. Shakespeare wrote, “a touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” and the same holds true to a world event: people in Hong Kong wore Kate and William masks, Australians held bouquet-throwing competitions, crowned heads assembled in London. The bride dazzled in a dress that came with a price tag of 434,000 dollars; the “something borrowed” was the 1936 Cartier diamond tiara loaned by the Queen; the “something blue” was the color of her late mother-in-law’s engagement ring.  In a bid for privacy, after a wedding enacted in gargantuan fish tank, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent a ten-day honeymoon in the Indian Ocean paradise of Seychelles.

    Two years later, the press went into a fresh frenzy with the news of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy. The world was as fixated on the arrival of the royal baby as it would have been with the second coming. Hundreds of people camped outside St. Mary’s Hospital in order to catch a glimpse of the new Windsor, Prince George Alexander Louis, and the proud parents. To mark the occasion, the King’s Troupe Royal Horse artillery delivered a 41-gun salute. In 2015, Britain welcomed his sister, Princess Charlotte; to celebrate her arrival, famous landmarks, such as the Tower of London and the Trafalgar Square fountains, were awash in pink lights. Prince Louis came along in 2016, as genetically and financially blessed as his siblings. For each delivery, when the Duchess left the hospital, she looked as if she had stepped out of a photo op rather than undergone labor: auburn hair in lustrous waves, almost pre-pregnancy figure, feet encased in heels.

     The Duchess, who must belong to some more evolved species, has hardly had a misstep since stepping onto the international stage. Nevertheless, as a future queen and as a member of the most headline worthy family, scandal intruded. In 2012, the royal couple were vacationing in Luberon, Provence, where they stayed at Viscount Linley’s nineteenth century, secluded, 640-acre chateau. A hidden photographer, using a long-range lens, snapped a picture of the topless Kate sunbathing on the terrace. The British press refused to run the image; however, not all publications were so scrupulous. An infuriated William condemned the action and took legal action. A judge ordered the French magazine, Closer, to pay 100,000 euros in damages. However, as the future queen and king of England, expectations of privacy are a luxury they cannot command.

     The dust settled on scandal until 2019 when the Brit headlines ignited with the rumor of an affair between Prince William and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, Rose Hanbury, allegedly conducted while his duchess suffered from a severe case of hyperemesis gravitas, an illness that beset her three pregnancies. Kate allegedly demanded Rose be “phased out” even though David Rocksavage, the Marquis of Cholmondeley, was a friend of William, and the couple had often gone on double dinner dates. Kate had no comment.

      A river of ink followed in the wake of the news of a feline fight between the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex that supposedly ended the reign of the Fab Four, (the two princes and their wives), thereby casting Meghan as a modern version of Yoko Ono.

    Rising above the sordid, hurling all high jumps, the Duchess has traversed the road from Waity Katie to Kate the Great, the Windsor’s jewel in the crown.