The Social Network

To Be Queen, or Not to Be Queen. Is THAT the Question?

Surely we haven’t forgotten Queen Elizabeth I. You remember her, don’t you? Fifth and final monarch of the Tudor line? And Queen Victoria? Has she slipped our minds? Pudgy woman with the smallest crown and longest reign in British history? I prefer ‘Good Queen Bess’ myself, but you have to hand it to Victoria — industrialization, colonization — expansion of the ‘Empire’ distinguishes her era. Elizabeth, on the other hand, ruled over the flourishing of culture and empire, making her my favorite.

Here’s the thing. Both of these women were queens. Monarchs. Rulers. Astonishing, no?

Today, we can hear Rhianna singing along with Chris Martin a sentiment that goes like this:

“I could’ve been a princess, you’d be a king / Could’ve had a castle, and worn a ring/But no…”

Does anyone see the problem in the logic? Elizabeth was Henry’s (the Eighth one) princess. He had a bit of trouble with begetting sons and, Adam-like, blamed his women. Divorcing one, beheading another — it was all the same to Henry VIII. ‘Give me a son!’ But daughters came instead. (Well, there was Edward, ascending to the throne at 9 years of age and dead at 15…) Meanwhile, Henry’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, each wore the royal crown too, though Henry had illegitimized them both along the way, robbing them of their right to ascendancy. A complicated tapestry, the Tudor House did weave… In contrast, Victoria, though a beloved icon of the Empire, did more to influence social morality than she did to impact governmental policy. But my point, which I am quickly losing, is this: Victoria and Elizabeth, love them or leave them, for better or worse, were queens. Their ‘princess’ status, if they held it at all, was largely an irrelevancy. They held in their sceptered hands power and influence. They were decision makers. QUEENS, I tell you.

Today, Rhianna sings about being a ‘princess,’ with a lover who would be ‘king.’ Princess as term, much less title, connotes a good bit of privileged entitlement. Recognition, a beautiful face and a fabulous wardrobe, with ‘attention, attention, attention’ that must, at all cost, be paid. Rings. A castle. Fairytale-esque. To every girl a happy ending. No responsibility with that crown. No apparent inclination to lead. (not to mention that the pairing, ‘princess’ with ‘king,’ just seems a bit off, somehow…)

I’m an American — what do I know of monarchy? But a kingdom full of ‘princesses’ with nothing to do but be beautiful, pampered, and bejeweled harkens more to wearing glass slippers than to breaking glass ceilings. “Could’ve been a princess, You’d be a king… but no…” Hmmmm. Methinks the songster’s princess ‘doth protest too much…’

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