“As a father, my wish for my daughters is for them to be modern working young women,” is how Prince Andrew responded two years ago to rumours that Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice wanted to be elevated to the rank of working royals – and perhaps even be given public money to perform official duties.
Today Eugenie tied the knot with Jack Brooksbank in a celebrity-packed ceremony at Windsor Castle that suggested she is loath to depart the royal stage for her day job as a director of a Mayfair art gallery. The wedding almost rivalled Harry’s nuptials, with 850 guests, 1,200 ballot-chosen members of the public in the palace grounds and a carriage procession over the cobblestones. Clearly, Theresa May was right: austerity is over.
Much of the public reaction has focused on the cost of the wedding (the royal family is picking up the tab for all the private aspects of the ceremony) and particularly the estimated £1-2m security bill that will be paid by the taxpayer. But some of the deeper issues at play have been forgotten, such as why royal weddings continue to touch the public nerve – and whether we could get the “magic” of monarchy at a lower cost?
At a time of general political and economic doom and gloom, a bit of sparkle can lighten the public mood – as happened with the then Princess Elizabeth’s marriage in 1947 and more recently with the genuinely popular wedding of Harry and Meghan in May. But has it gone too far this time with the ninth in line to the throne?
You wouldn’t lose any of the “magic” with a streamlined family of just half a dozen working royals – which crucially would leave no place for Eugenie and the house of York. This is what Prince Charles hinted at a few years ago when there was much talk of a “magnificent seven” of a core group of working Windsors.
Cynics might wonder whether staging such a public royal wedding for her youngest daughter is a way for the Duchess of York to rehabilitate herself with the royal family after her banishment following toe-sucking and other more serious misdemeanours. The Duke of York might also be sending out a reminder to his elder brother that his side of the family can still play a role in royal pomp and circumstance.
Others have wondered whether Eugenie wants to have her wedding cake and eat it. In other words, doing charitable work and basking in the limelight of being a royal with the perks of an apartment at St James’s Palace, while maintaining an independent career and a private life.
But the experience of the Countess of Wessex, who had to resign as director of her own PR company after marrying into the royal family (indeed her husband, Edward, had to close down his television business due to a similar conflict of interest) is that you cannot combine holding down a regular job with being a working royal.
In the long run, Eugenie might be better off if she stuck to her day job. A “modern working young woman” should leave the traditional pomp and pageantry of royal life to the old guard.
• David McClure is the author of Royal Privilege, which will be published soon
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