When Princess Diana’s parents broke up, her mother was reviled in aristocratic circles as a "bolter".
Despite the fact Frances Roche had married Johnny Spencer at the tender age of 18 and bore 5 children in a miserable marriage, she was still spoken of like a horse that had took frit. But that’s aristocrats for you.
When Diana repeated history with Prince Charles, marrying a few weeks after turning 20 and entering a restrictive life she loathed and left, the same epithet was flung at her. Another bolter, another silly filly who objected to bit and bridle.
But Diana’s trials had exposed, shaken and modernised the Royal Family. Courtiers and Royals alike were forced to examine their behaviour and change their ways – they opened up, humanised, and protected Diana’s two sons who have gone on to make others’ mental health one of their primary concerns.
That’s the family Meghan Markle has chosen to marry into. Yet the same fears surround her impending marriage to Prince Harry, with Germaine Greer claiming that she will "bolt" from the boredom of Royal life.
Now, Germaine Greer is no aristocrat. She’s a Melbourne-born ball-buster rightly celebrated for explaining that women who submit to a male idea of what they ought to be are miserable, isolated and powerless. But a woman as brilliant as she should never use the word "bolt" about a woman who appears to be 98% determination with a 2% titanium core.
Not only is a woman not a horse (do I really have to type that?) but one who bolts is, by definition, in a mindless panic. A brood mare who gets barn-shy, terrified of the world outside her stable. A show pony driven crazy by all the prancing.
It’s easy to argue that was precisely what happened to Diana, as well as her mother. In an era when we infantilise young adults with further schooling and toddler-esque self-centredness, such young brides seem almost victims of abuse.
But Meghan Markle is 36. She’s a divorcee who has a clear idea therefore of what marriage should, and should not, entail. She’s carved out a career and become confident in an industry which appears to actively make people more fragile.
It may be 50:50 whether Meghan’s second marriage lasts; but if she goes, it’ll be because she’s swallowed enough crap and wishes to ingest no more of it. It won’t be out of terror, madness or boredom.
Meghan may *be* boring – someone that thin and beautiful is quite likely to be obsessive about things that would make the rest of us would roll our eyes skywards. Were we ever to be invited to enjoy a yoga-focused hen party or carb-free wedding cake we’d find a reason to be somewhere else, preferably with some nice biscuits and someone who wants to bitch about their family.
But she’s unlikely to kick off at the restrictions of scrutiny. She’s spent the best part of a decade as an actress famous enough to avoid photographers, be sent free dresses, have the best beauty treatments. Being looked at won’t scar her in the way it did Diana.
Whether her and Harry’s marriage will be happy only time will tell, but he’s seen the damage adultery can do and they seem to share an interest in charity work. Whether it’ll survive his interest in shooting things and their mutually-incompatible families we’ll just have to wait and see.
She has a history, whether it be friends, family or husbands, of cutting off contact when it becomes painful. The precise opposite of what Diana or her mother did, who both felt compelled to remain in the marital war zone until it damaged them beyond bearing.
Were she ever to become that special kind of mad the Royal Family specialises in, Meghan will have not just a partner who recognises and rejects it but the life experience to overcome it herself. Diana had neither.
Meghan appears more willing to do Royal ‘work’, starting her public appearances for The Firm a lot sooner than Diana did and with a clearer idea of what sort of projects she wants to support. She’s just as open, just as warm, and has the added bonus of not wanting to hide, unlike Kate who seems a reluctant Royal.
Diana was always uncomfortable. Kate seems forever on-edge, in a never-ending shampoo advert. But Meghan has so far been nothing but relaxed. She makes other people uncomfortable precisely because she’s not like other princesses.
The palace want her to be apolitical – she isn’t. The Press want her to be a young virgin – too late. People who claim to be ‘traditionalists’, when you drill into their objections, want her to be whiter, richer, or quieter.
But the Royals have tried that. It didn’t work. Diana shook the constitution, her mother shook the aristocracy. Meghan’s just shaking up the bigots.
It’s about time we had a princess with the guts to say Donald Trump’s a living nightmare, which our Prime Minister won’t. Time that a woman, rather than a girl, got wed without rose-tinted glasses of what marriage should be.
Meghan is, in short, many of the things Germaine Greer has spent a lifetime saying we need. A woman who is sexually and politically powerful making a free choice, and who is inclined to move on if it doesn’t work out.
Princesses of the past were the female eunuchs Greer always railed against: Rapunzels locked in a tower, combing their hair to attract a prince. If Meghan enters that castle, the chances are she’ll show the Royals and the world at large that she’s a princess with power – like Diana did, but quicker, and better.
The people who are terrified of that will call her a witch. The rest of us will wish she could be Queen.
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