A 32-year-old man marrying a barely 20-year-old woman isn’t a fairy-tale
November 19, 2020 4:12 PM   Subscribe

This season of The Crown highlights how very young Diana was during all of this — and it’s uncomfortable to look at that through a modern lens

"I have enjoyed the glamour and the jewels and the dresses. I have residual affection for Diana’s sons, embedded deep in my psyche from the day I, like millions of other people around the world, watched as they walked after their mother’s coffin. But it’s been clear for a while now that the family appears to be deeply dysfunctional — a man with links to a convicted sex offender/paedophile has retained his titles but Harry and Meghan, the first biracial woman to be a senior royal, cannot actively use theirs.

"If this was a soap opera, the two most interesting characters have just been written out of the show and the ratings are about to plummet — and the institution itself doesn’t bear close examination, as it is imperialist, colonialist, nonsense."
posted by roolya_boolya (129 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
"a man with links to a convicted sex offender/paedophile has retained his titles but Harry and Meghan, the first biracial woman to be a senior royal, cannot actively use theirs."

GOOD POINT. Especially since Andrew is no longer a "working royal" either. But he, of all of them, is the favourite, so....
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:23 PM on November 19 [13 favorites]


I was pleasantly surprised that they kept Andrew in the series this season and doubled down on how creepy and awful he is, in a family full of problematic people.

Also, everyone should know that Margaret Thatcher's son did not learn anything from getting lost in the desert and grew up to be an awful person. His millions of pounds of wealth are questionable and he has been accused of tax evasion. He was eventually convicted in South Africa of aiding in the overthrow of the government of Equatorial Guinea. He's so shady that both Monaco and Switzerland denied him residency, something that is usually granted without much thought to the wealthy. Somehow he has retained his title as a Baron as granted by Queen Elizabeth to Denis Thatcher, the husband of the Prime Minister.
posted by Alison at 4:35 PM on November 19 [34 favorites]


We watched The Crown up to this point, but I really don’t think I can easily sit and stomach both Thatcherism and the tragedy of Diana.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:44 PM on November 19 [8 favorites]


If this was a soap opera, the two most interesting characters have just been written out of the show and the ratings are about to plummet

The royals not understanding the small amount of affection they have is not the tragic part here but their refusal to embrace Meghan Markle simply from a self-preservation standpoint pretty egregious.
posted by Emmy Rae at 4:47 PM on November 19 [15 favorites]


The portrayal of Diana really is spot-on to an eerie degree. At times it’s like watching a ghost.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:51 PM on November 19 [12 favorites]


The royals not understanding the small amount of affection they have is not the tragic part here but their refusal to embrace Meghan Markle simply from a self-preservation standpoint pretty egregious.

I often wonder how different things would be for the royal family if everyone had been honest about the situation, Camilla had divorced her husband earlier, and Charles was allowed to marry her in the first place.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:54 PM on November 19 [25 favorites]


That being said, if Charles ever becomes king I'm flying home and voting for a republic.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:55 PM on November 19 [6 favorites]


On a related note, the "You're Wrong About" podcast has five recent episodes about Princess Diana.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:59 PM on November 19 [54 favorites]


As an avowed republican - when the marriage was announced, my reaction was that if I was Diana's mother, I would consider myself a failed parent allowing my daughter to marry some old bachelor with a conga-line of past girlfriends and the original dominant mother-in-law, especially without my daughter having any professional or other qualifications.

I was about the same age as Diana and when I discussed the marriage with my mother - she was disgusted that anyone could let that happen to their child.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:20 PM on November 19 [19 favorites]


In a way the royals are sort of a scrim for all the other rich people - they absorb much of people's feelings about extreme wealth and privilege while also being dumb enough and victims enough to get some sympathy. Like, it would be a fine thing (if you had no conscience) to be, say, a viscount or something shady in the City - you could do more or less as you liked, marry more or less as you liked, hold political power if you really wanted it, spend your money as you liked and get no real flack from the public.

But to be a member of the royal family! Constant scrutiny, terrible education, bred like a prize poodle, can't marry who you like, hated by half the country - sure, you have lots of money, but you have to sing for your supper. And yet, just when it seems like the public is going to turn on you, the inevitable tragedy and waste of your prize-poodle life brings out the sympathy.

You can't help but feel a little sorry for them in a way you'd never feel sorry for Jacob Rees-Mogg.

(Speaking of whom - my sense of the difference between Tories and American conservatives is that Tories seem actually to value stupidity, while Americans just hate intellectuals. Tories seem to value the overtly stupid utterance for its own sake (I was thinking of Rees-Mogg's public moments) while Americans are more interested in proving that you're not some kind of pointy-headed liberal. It's like, in the US our politicians lie openly and obviously to show power, whereas I always feel like Rees-Mogg, etc, say just the most obviously stupid and ignorant things to show power.)
posted by Frowner at 5:23 PM on November 19 [28 favorites]


A 32-year-old man marrying a barely 20-year-old woman isn’t a fairy-tale

OK, I'll bite on this offensive statement. What's the supposed problem? That she's 20 and shouldn't be allowed to make adult decisions? Or that her husband is gasp 12 years older? I read the fine article twice and it doesn't really explain this nakedly ageist comments.

So many other criticisms. A man who is a literal Prince, the power disparity. The hideous behavior of the press. The cruelty from the larger royal family. The grossness of the monarchy as an institution. I understand all those reasons to pity Diana. But are we robbing her of her agency now?

Is their some realistic evidence she was coerced and lacked the capabilities of a young adult to make her own decisions? Maybe so, I'm no expert on British celebrities and their lives. But this article sure didn't put any case forth.
posted by Nelson at 5:26 PM on November 19 [59 favorites]


We're only a few episodes in, but I don't like any of these people anymore. The courtship with Diana has so much disturbing subtext. The show presents her as being offered the role of princess, rather than a relationship with Charles, and it presents Charles following the royal tradition of coerced marriage to the family-approved candidate rather than the person he loves. In the earlier seasons I could find someone to root for. Of all people, I sympathize with Thatcher, because I would detest the Balmoral Test. The royals have been presented in such an unpleasant way that I was rooting for Thatcher.
posted by sillyman at 5:32 PM on November 19 [6 favorites]


But are we robbing her of her agency now?

Yeah, it's sirt of like Monica Lewinski. They made choices that adults are entitled to make, but without the benefit of experience and maturity. Reportedly, Diana wanted to back out when she got to know him better, but her friends said "You can't, you're already on tea towels."

Royal mariages iin général are creepy because of the "dynastic" thinking (Will she be a good breeder?) behind them.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:34 PM on November 19 [61 favorites]


but without the benefit of experience and maturity

This. Diana may have had adult agency and the ability to make her own decisions, but that doesn't mean she wasn't fed to the wolves through a dramatic power imbalance in the relationship.

There's a reason why smart people don't rent cars to people under 25.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 5:36 PM on November 19 [80 favorites]


What's the supposed problem?

Weeeeeeellll, if my theoretical barely-out-of-high-school daughter started dating a thirty-year-old, yes, I'd be very concerned in a way that I would not if my, eg, thirty year old daughter were dating a forty-two-year-old.

When I was that age, I dated someone in their mid-twenties and there was a really significant power imbalance and the relationship alienated me from my other friends - and I was still basically dating a nice person. If I'd been dating a thirty year old who wanted to marry and impregnate a teen ASAP, that would have been a lot worse.

Mostly I'd be concerned because the kind of man who wants to date a teen when he's thirty tends to be pretty awful. I'd be concerned because she hadn't had time to live on her own and become her own person before being enmeshed in the fully-developed life of a much older man. I'd be concerned because, having been both eighteen and thirty, I know that the life experience and concerns of a thirty-year-old are a very, very poor match for those of an eighteen-year-old. (And having been both eighteen and thirty, I'd be very, very aware of how young eighteen year olds look when you're thirty, and I'd be even more skeeved out.)

I mean, yes, I think it's important to live as an adult into at least your early twenties before getting married, and I think that substantial age differences tend to correlate to substantial power differences, the more so when one party is still very young. Marriage is a big decision and I think it's better to have at least a few years of making your own decisions for yourself before you make such long-term one, especially if you know you're going to have to have kids.
posted by Frowner at 5:37 PM on November 19 [135 favorites]


I was 32 when I married a 21 year old. That was in 1987. We are still married.
posted by bz at 5:45 PM on November 19 [25 favorites]


I just binged the entire season, and I agree, the portrayal of Diana is often uncanny. Watching it after having listened to the You're Wrong About podcasts about them was interesting - it's very difficult to see the "Crown"'s side of the story when she was so clearly in over her head. I'm in the middle of watching the documentary "In Her Own Words," which is made out of her interviews, and it's hard to see it as anything but a tragedy - and I suspect might make a great opera.

As far as the issue of her agency at 20 (engaged at 19 into a situation that she couldn't remove herself from once she realized it wasn't going to end well) while he was 35 - she herself said in multiple interviews that she wasn't prepared, that she was thrown into the deep end and didn't yet have the emotional tools to cope. I think part of assuming she had agency is also believing her when she said that she was too young.
posted by Mchelly at 5:49 PM on November 19 [87 favorites]


she herself said in multiple interviews that she wasn't prepared

Thanks! That's really helpful information, I wish the article had included it to support the point. I'd like to read these interviews, can you recall which ones you're thinking of?
posted by Nelson at 5:57 PM on November 19


Yes, the article is pretty slight but it's intended to be a companion piece for those who've watched the show in which there is greater context. What also hasn't been brought up is that Charles (at least as portrayed on the show) very much viewed Diana as a child and immature. That also doesn't bode well for any relationship when the older party considers the younger to be too immature for so many things. Respect is important and he didn't respect her, either. It's not that an age difference can't be overcome, and certainly there are 20-year-olds that do have a lot of life experience and maturity that comes with it, however, Diana didn't have that.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 6:08 PM on November 19 [10 favorites]


" I'd like to read these interviews, can you recall which ones you're thinking of?"

Literally all of Andrew Morton's 1992 tell-all "Diana: Her True Story." As basically everyone knew at the time, Diana secretly sat for several interviews with Morton and candidly told the story of her disastrous marriage, but that was openly confirmed five years later.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:08 PM on November 19 [23 favorites]


By Diana’s count, she and Charles met just 13 times before getting married. The majority of these meetings took place in group settings, [royal biographer Penny] Junor tells History Extra, “so they really didn’t know one another at all.”
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:08 PM on November 19 [11 favorites]




By Diana’s count, she and Charles met just 13 times before getting married.

Also a terrible idea. I don't think people should get married before they've lived together. Unless, of course, they are hermits and don't plan on living together after marriage.
posted by jb at 6:17 PM on November 19 [4 favorites]


I echo Frowner: as someone who has been both 19 and 30, a person who is 19 is most definitely still a teenager. Even people in their early twenties look and act incredibly young. They have not had much time to develop independently, to build their own self confidence, to learn to assert themselves in relationships, and that makes them easy prey for older partners who want someone malleable that they can control. Hell, it's easy to inadvertently end up emotionally and psychologically shaping the other person in your own image even if you DO mean well. Like, sure, there are exceptions, but in general if you hit your thirties and look at a teenager and say "yeah, that's for me" then you have problems.
posted by schroedinger at 6:22 PM on November 19 [31 favorites]


You can't help but feel a little sorry for them in a way you'd never feel sorry for Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Not really? Not as a general rule, anyway. Some of them earn some sympathy, in engaging in at least some of their public life like decent human beings and not being treated the same way in return, but most of them do not. I certainly feel even less sympathy for Prince Andrew than for JRM.
posted by Dysk at 6:31 PM on November 19 [3 favorites]


I don't think people should get married before they've lived together.

Strong concur. My mother always said (warning: cultural differences ahead) that if you asked yourself "should I get married to this person?" the answer was always No.

...because the question you should have been asking yourself is "Can I cope if I'm NOT married to this person?"

Setting that aside, I was vaguely conscious and in Canada at the time of the wedding and tbh I always felt like Charles was a creep due to the age difference. All of my acquaintances (we were children) felt the same, even at that age, even despite the whole Commonwealth! thing.
posted by aramaic at 6:51 PM on November 19 [12 favorites]


dramatic power imbalance in the relationship.

On the one hand, there was always going to be a dramatic power imbalance, when one party is prepping to be king. But it's clear at least from the show (and I guess from life as well) that Camilla is a much better match for him.

Diana was painfully young and naive -- that's why they picked her, after all -- and then they were shocked when she grew up.
posted by basalganglia at 6:52 PM on November 19 [10 favorites]


But I feel like we can all agree the entire series should have been about Princess Anne, her horseback riding career, the time she foiled her own kidnapping, and her unimpressed faces.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:08 PM on November 19 [117 favorites]


Yeah, anytime somebody says girls shouldn’t look up to princesses I want to tell them to go say that to Princess Anne’s face.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:34 PM on November 19 [8 favorites]


But I feel like we can all agree the entire series should have been about Princess Anne, her horseback riding career, the time she foiled her own kidnapping, and her unimpressed faces.

Could Netflix make a historical drama in which Princess Anne and Jolene from The Queen's Gambit get together and fight crime?

Because I would watch that.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:42 PM on November 19 [31 favorites]


the royals are sort of [...] dumb enough and victims enough to get some sympathy.

Auden describes the rois feaneants as "political prisoners of a kind", though iirc even there he’s mostly talking about the good looking ones.

At the end of a fixed term, when their strength fails, when the crops fail...
posted by clew at 7:48 PM on November 19 [4 favorites]


the end of a fixed term, when their strength fails, when the crops fail...

Are you suggesting a Wicker Man solution?
posted by emjaybee at 7:56 PM on November 19 [8 favorites]


Chapter headings from The Golden Bough, loosely remembered. So - sort of?
posted by clew at 8:06 PM on November 19 [6 favorites]


Age differences are worse the younger one of the parties involved are. A teenager getting married on this level is just insane. Especially married to a guy she's barely met and who doesn't give a shit but is being forced to marry her himself. The royals required that he marry a virgin, preferably one from noble society, and even in 1980 there weren't too many of those to pick from.

Diana in particular was SUPER sheltered, I don't think she'd even HAD a boyfriend before. She didn't have much of any idea of what's wrong or right here before getting in so far she couldn't socially back out. God knows her parents sound like useless self-absorbed jerks and her sisters are the ones who made the remark about the tea towels. And then nobody knew she'd be that popular and blow up so hard and would be far more loved than any royal family member, just for being fun and caring and human.

"Mostly I'd be concerned because the kind of man who wants to date a teen when he's thirty tends to be pretty awful. I'd be concerned because she hadn't had time to live on her own and become her own person before being enmeshed in the fully-developed life of a much older man. I'd be concerned because, having been both eighteen and thirty, I know that the life experience and concerns of a thirty-year-old are a very, very poor match for those of an eighteen-year-old. ... I mean, yes, I think it's important to live as an adult into at least your early twenties before getting married, and I think that substantial age differences tend to correlate to substantial power differences, the more so when one party is still very young. "

Yeah, this is why I hate large age gaps, especially when it's older man, younger woman, and the woman's barely legal. I think I can say that Charles at least wasn't the usual sort of creepy predator (hard to say he was a predator when he had little to no interest in her as a human being and as mentioned, "had" to marry her, more or less), but God knows I've run into enough old predator men who went for younger women, at least in part because the younger women didn't have enough experience to see through their bullshit. They work that power differential, "I'm older, I have more experience, and oh baby, you're so mature," blech.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 PM on November 19 [44 favorites]


The HeirHeads podcast is deliciously anti-royalist and touches on a lot of these points with such aplomb and humor.
posted by bluefly at 9:04 PM on November 19 [4 favorites]


it presents Charles following the royal tradition of coerced marriage to the family-approved candidate rather than the person he loves

Charles really should have manned up and absolutely refused to be railroaded into marrying a woman he didn't love -- and for that matter, abiding by the appalling "virgin bride" requirement. The palace would have had to back down if he'd stuck to his guns. At 32, and given that he had experience with past relationships, he should have known better than to rely on the hope marriage with a woman he barely knew and (rightly) considered hardly more than a child would work out.
posted by orange swan at 10:54 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]


The palace would have had to back down if he'd stuck to his guns.

Seeing how the palace have reacted to Harry and Meghan sticking to their guns I'm not certain that is true.
posted by roolya_boolya at 12:16 AM on November 20 [26 favorites]


On the one hand, there's a difference in the amount of clout that can be exerted by the heir to the throne, and that which can be exerted by someone who is now several steps away from it. On the other hand, Charles is a great man-baby brought up to unthinking privilege who could only contemplate the prospect of squeezing his own toothpaste (not a euphemism) with disgust and horror. In any event, we know he didn't stick to his guns.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:43 AM on November 20 [14 favorites]


Charles really should have manned up and absolutely refused to be railroaded into marrying a woman he didn't love -- and for that matter, abiding by the appalling "virgin bride" requirement.

True. But he was establishment and not rebel. His recently assassinated mentor had been very much pushing him to marry a young, innocent woman (and had a specific niece in mind). His father encouraged him to either propose to Diana or leave her alone to avoid damage to her reputation. By the time he was thinking of marrying Diana, Camilla was already married with two very young children and was not available to be his wife in any case.

Overall, Charles effectively considered his wife as a business transaction for the family firm, and his mistress as his love. That kind of arrangement still happened in the upper classes maybe up to the early 60s but neither Charles nor anyone advising him seems to have realise that things had changed since then. The tragedy was that this doesn't seem to have been Diana's understanding of what she was signing up for.

What Charles really needed was to have been born 16 years later. Then he might have been able to meet and marry someone in the way that Prince Edward did with Sophie Rhys-Jones.
posted by plonkee at 4:07 AM on November 20 [6 favorites]


We've not finished season 4 yet but the Charles / Diana / Camilla fits with the theme of duty that has run throughout the whole show.

Philip battled against being the least important half of the relationship but finally came round as it was his duty.

Margaret rebelled and played the field, but in the end returned to the fold, because it was her duty.

Charles did what he was told by Mountbatten and let Camilla get married to another, because he knew she wasn't suitable to "the family". He then got railroaded into marrying Diana in what was essentially an arranged marriage, because it was his duty.

The other half of each relationship doesn't matter to the Royals as long as they do what they're told. As the Queen Mother says when talking about Diana, "they all bend eventually".

That Diana didn't bend, but indeed broke as predicted by Margaret in the same scene is what's new here, and it being the late 20th century she broke in a very public way. For centuries everybody involved with the Royals had to bend in order to survive.
posted by jontyjago at 4:17 AM on November 20 [15 favorites]


I know a couple that got together when she was mid-twenties and he was mid-fifties. But he was very kind, cultured, brilliant, and most of all wise, (not to mention rich). His influence on her was to teach her about life and love, step by step, and what she learned she passed on to others around her. They were together for 20 years, until he died of ALS, with her at his bedside.

All of her friends, including me, had their lives changed to some extent, and became better people, by knowing this wonderful man. But the age difference wasn't the factor, it was that this man was a great man, and that's a missing element here.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:33 AM on November 20 [8 favorites]


To be honest, another thing that bothers me about age gap relationships is that it never goes the other way - neither society nor individual men value age, experience or even wealth in a woman the way they do in a man. We're pre-socialized to see woman's value in her potential/blankness and a man's in his personality and achievements. If it had been Princess Charlotte, thirtyish heir to the throne, she would not have married an eighteen year old, and indeed, she would have been pressured to marry and have children long, long before.

If we lived in a society where age gap relationships were equally likely to be young man/older woman*, society would be different enough that it's quite possible these relationships wouldn't be screwed up, given the vast social changes that would be needed to value women for their personalities and achievements.

Honestly, when I hear about relationships where a much, much younger woman stays with a much much older man and nurses him through his last illness, I tend to think to myself, "can I picture a younger man doing this for an older woman" and in general, I cannot.


*And I know this happens, but it's an outlier that's remarked on, or else it's an "age gap" of like five years and the younger partner is thirty.
posted by Frowner at 5:10 AM on November 20 [88 favorites]


idk if this was the intention of the show but it's been interesting observing the general American audience reacting to it and coming to that largely ambivalent mostly cynical place most of the rest of the british commonwealth has been for decades now with regards to this (ridiculous, overrated) institution, especially with this season.
posted by cendawanita at 5:14 AM on November 20 [8 favorites]


My wife is 11 years my junior. We have been married for 25 years. Very happily and 'successfully'. If we had met 10 years prior to this we were both different people and would neither of us been interested in the other. Trying to work out at which point EXACTLY an age difference matters and what is deemed 'acceptable' and also what drives the judgment regarding this. On the younger side, I understand. At what point later on is it 'acceptable' to people who feel the need to judge? 18/29? 29/40? 40/51? 51/62? ... and so on.... How about 30/55? Or even 65/90? Where does it begin or end?
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 5:29 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]


I watched the wedding as a little girl, ensorcelled by the pageantry and actual princes and princesses. A month or so ago I was in a Youtube rabbit hole and saw a clip of Diana and her father entering the cathedral. Her father, affected by a stroke, has an escort up the steps. Which is completely fine! What isn't as fine is that Diana climbs the stairs alone while trying to manage her gigantic gown and keep her veil from completely obscuring her view as her 13 and 17 year old attendants valiantly try to straighten her train.

Her father is the first one to turn around and wave to the crowds, halfway up. He and his escort continue the climb, about a step or two ahead of her. Spencer reaches the top and he again waves triumphantly while Diana's still trying to manage the gown. Her father doesn't reach for her until the focus switches to the view of them from inside.

I'm not convinced that Diana went into her marriage completely oblivious to the situation that she was stepping into. But that 30-second sliver of the royal wedding video showed me that she sure as hell had no counsel or support from her own selfish and messed up family.

Here's the video which starts at the part I mention.
posted by kimberussell at 5:50 AM on November 20 [13 favorites]


To me it's not just a simple matter of plain maths. For me it's also supported by psychology and human development. The average human brain isn't fully matured until at least 24-25, according to neurological evidence. That's definitely where I see the point of TFA anyway. If you're almost 30 in love with a 60-year-old person the gap is still huge, but at the very least, you can expect it's a union of two matured adults biologically, other factors aside. Or with the age gap of Charles & Diana applied, a 30 year old entering a relationship with a 42 year old, you know it reads different. Trying to argue on the age gap alone is making the point more arbitrary than it needed to be.
posted by cendawanita at 5:52 AM on November 20 [34 favorites]


Yes, am a divorced person who lived far from my then-future spouse during our dating period and engagement. 2/10 do not recommend.
posted by wellred at 6:00 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Here you have a teenager who met Charles at 16 when he was vetting her sister for the same role, who makes one remark to Charles that he finds charming, so he brings her for a weekend to a royal residence to see if, her family having passed the bar in the first round, she’s sufficiently virginal and meek to be a credit to his position. If you watch their engagement video where they are asked if they’re in love, Diana’s swift “of course” demonstrates just so much of her sheltered age whereas Charles’ “whatever loves means” reads now as downright cruel.

But it was the early 80s, and as someone who was a kid then, it was a super weird time. Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep has a great chapter on this, which includes a line I am paraphrasing that Dirty Dancing taught us that the height of romance was a 25 year old schooling a 17 year old in sex and the merengue. Like...10 years later Bill Clinton is blaming his intern and we’re just starting to get it. In 2020 it is creepy!! It’s so disappointing that in this very thread people are screaming ageism. #NotAllPrinces man.

I am really disturbed at people defending it on the basis of how it’s worked out for a few, if you’re really saying you should at 30 have been dating a late teen. Stating that a thirty year old heir to a throne choosing to pursue an 18 year old nursery school assistant is creepy is not stomping on your goddamn right to your adult relationship, provided of course you don’t end up treating your bullemic, suicidal, pregnant wife as a “dynastic disaster” and blaming her for your affair with a woman you were exchanging love tokens with during your engagement. But why oh why oh why are men, sorry, people, treating this statement as if it’s an assault on their god-given right to have married the young woman of their dreams? And the perfect example of this in this thread is a “great man” who taught his naive wife about life and love before she nursed him through a disease...take me to my Victorian fainting couch now.

Diana herself was a revolution because she spoke her truth, that her marriage was not good for her, that she could relate to people because she listened to them and understood them because of her desperate unhappiness...her entire story, which apparently some people missed before leaping in to defend her right to make bad decisions at 19, was that she explained to the world how the royal family attempted to dehumanize both her and their roles as monarchs And she stood in the face of that and told her messy, bad-ass truth. And came into her own, a year or two before a drunk driver killed her.

Which included that being selected at 18 to produce an heir and a spare was creepy.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:11 AM on November 20 [146 favorites]


I've heard "N/2+7" as a good set of guard rails for relationship age gaps (where N is the age of the older person). I certainly know folks in relationships that fall outside of that where they've been happy and healthy, but I think anything outside of that guideline deserves a bit more scrutiny. For a 32 year old man, N/2+7 is 23. Sure, a 19 or 20 year old is old enough to make adult decisions and could plausibly be in a lower NCO rank in the military, but for someone who's sheltered and facing into a centuries-old power structure? There's no contest.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:15 AM on November 20 [9 favorites]


OK, I'll bite on this offensive statement. What's the supposed problem? That she's 20 and shouldn't be allowed to make adult decisions? Or that her husband is gasp 12 years older? I read the fine article twice and it doesn't really explain this nakedly ageist comments.

Thanks. My wife and I are 12 years apart and have been happily married for 18+ years.

Fuck the monarchy but also fuck ageist shit too.
posted by terrapin at 6:16 AM on November 20 [6 favorites]


My wife is an Anglophile and usually follows all the intrigue of the british royals. So I'm watching The Crown by default, which is fine. Have been enjoying The Spanish Princess a lot.

But The Crown? My skin was literally crawling last night over what was going on with Diana. Any warm fuzzys I might have had about the Queen have rapidly evaporated.

DEFUND THE MONARCHY.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:20 AM on November 20 [9 favorites]


I remember reading a lot of historical romances when I was a teen in the 60s, and was always creeped out that that the heroes were so old...30s or even 40, compared to the teen or early 20s heroines. This was especially evident in "Rebecca". So there was a certain literary convention for this sort of thing, but that did not make it feel right.
posted by mermayd at 6:24 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]


My parents had a 20 year age gap and their marriage lasted, but she was not a teenager when they decided to get married. My Dad was, I think, probably a particularly immature 40 year old, given that he was a non-citizen immigrant who spent the last 20 years working in railroad camps and doing nothing much else besides getting drunk with his buddies from the railroad. He lost his job on the railroad around that time. My mother was reasonably together and in her mid-20s, steadily employed with good family support near her. If there was a power differential in that relationship, I'm not sure it flowed from him to her, tbh.

You can't just subtract one number from the other and arrive at a conclusion, you have to look at the people involved and their lives and their history. A really low age for the younger half of the couple is a significant warning sign, though, vs someone even a few years older with a little history of independence, a career, friends and a life of their own, etc. Sure some older teens might be mature for their age but Diana pretty clearly was not.

People tend to treat 18 as if it is some magic line of maturity. Virginia Giuffre was 17 years old when Jeffrey Epstein trafficked her to Prince Andrew and I think everyone here agrees that that was child sexual abuse and is suitably outraged by it. Charles didn't sleep with Diana -- because she needed to be intact, gross, and also because he clearly only cared about shagging Camilla -- but she was literally 1 year older than that when they started "dating".
posted by jacquilynne at 6:35 AM on November 20 [18 favorites]


I remember reading an analysis last year that suggested The Crown was supposed to create empathy for the royals, and to make viewers feel more warmly toward Charles in anticipation of the Queen stepping back and allowing him to ascend. Boy howdy that's not how it's shaping up now.
posted by apparently at 6:38 AM on November 20 [7 favorites]


One of the things that's interesting about Diana's age at marriage in 1981 is that it wasn't so uncommon then, but things were definitely starting to change. For example, from 1947 to 1972 the median age at first marriage for women in the US was between 20 and 21, and the average age in the UK was about 23 in 1981. But it has steadily increased since then. Average age of first marriage in the UK now is over 30.

Diana wouldn't have looked too young to get married to most people in 1981, because most adults would have seen lots of people marrying at about that age, and may well have married young themselves. Nowadays, not so much. The age gap was unusual, but Charles married late.
posted by plonkee at 6:43 AM on November 20 [8 favorites]


The cries of ageism here are kind of fascinating, as my understanding is that ageism is about being discriminated against on the basis of your age. People on the internet pointing out that relationships with significant power or age imbalances have a higher-than-average risk of going wrong for the reasons eloquently described by other commenters is hardly discrimination against people who've done this themselves and had it work out okay. No one's dismantling your personal marriages or suggesting we prohibit relationships of this nature in the course of describing their many potential pitfalls; my read is that folks are merely pointing out that no matter how well this can work in specific cases, it is often a recipe for trouble, and that the younger/less powerful spouse is likely to disproportionately bear the impact of that trouble.

One of the happiest and most successful marriages I've ever seen began as an older, already-married-once teacher and his 20+ years younger (late teenage) student. Does that one data point mean I think these kinds of relationships are 100% fine, no issues? No. Does everything I know about how those kinds of relationships often work out mean I think those two happy people should have broken up on principle? Also no. It is possible for many things to be true at the same time. I'm personally on team "this kind of setup tends to skeeve me out". Does that mean I'm criticising or judging your personal relationship? Yet again, no.
posted by terretu at 6:46 AM on November 20 [69 favorites]


My Dad was, I think, probably a particularly immature 40 year old

I think that's the key here. Older men who tell younger women that they're so "mature for their age" are effectively really saying "I'm actually immature at this stage in my life's development and my maturity matches yours, much younger person. Plus, I want to fuck you." It's the age version of saying "you're not like the other girls."

In this case, the Royal family was desperate to get Charles hooked up with someone, and yes, his wife *had* to be a virgin, according to their ridiculous rules. The framework of this family is so toxic, they create an environment where children don't mature into well-adjusted adults and the RF promotes
predatory behavior. The Queen herself was younger than Philip by a fair piece, and he began writing her letters when she was just 14 and he was already an adult. Charles simply lacked the capacity to push back on this, regardless of Camilla, who is, I think, a few years older than him.
posted by erattacorrige at 6:49 AM on November 20 [11 favorites]


Warriorqueen, you rock (eponysterical comment). Kind of gross to see dudes posting here “it worked for me.” Even if it did, sometimes it’s not about you. Read the room. Sheesh.
posted by rikschell at 6:49 AM on November 20 [75 favorites]


In the context of an arranged marriage, subtracting numbers has validity. The power differential is already great, age does matter, but more importantly expectations are different. There is great pressure to *stay married*. My parents had an arranged marriage with my mother being 8 years younger than my father. She was 21 when she married - pregnant by 22. My father had already a career at that point - he had wider resources in that regard. Unlike her sisters, who were even younger when married, she at least had a college education. I know she was deeply unhappy for many years. They eventually went to therapy, and seem very happy now, but my mom very occasionally talks about those years as being lost. It's heartbreaking.
posted by bluefly at 6:51 AM on November 20 [11 favorites]


Just want to clarify on my own post that I don't think being a non-citizen immigrant made my father immature. I wrote first about the age difference and then poorly shoe-horned that in to explain part of why I don't think there was a huge power differential between them at the time. The end result is a weird, xenophobic statement about immigrants for which I apologize.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:01 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]


I remember reading an analysis last year that suggested The Crown was supposed to create empathy for the royals, and to make viewers feel more warmly toward Charles in anticipation of the Queen stepping back and allowing him to ascend. Boy howdy that's not how it's shaping up now.

The Australian Prime Minister is finally getting his wish about that trip severely damaging the reputation of the Royals, if 40 years deferred.

Part of me wonders if this whole show was a secret con job by fiercely anti-royalist producers. Start out all fawning and complementary in the early seasons, get buy-in, grow the audience, and then slowly pivot to let the audience to see what monsters they've become.

It's the finest piece of anti-royalist propaganda I've ever seen.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:34 AM on November 20 [15 favorites]


It's the finest piece of anti-royalist propaganda I've ever seen.

Just like Philip's film production from last season, transparency should rightly be poison to these folks, because it highlights both how ordinary they are (there's no magic there), and how unordinary they are (lacking in anything resembling basic human compassion).
posted by leotrotsky at 7:43 AM on November 20


There are some visceral reactions to the judgement cast on a 30-something royal marrying a 20-year-old sheltered virgin. If you have shown up here to point out you and your spouse are similarly distanced in age, have been happily married for (10+) years, etc., chances are:
a) you are not a royal
b) the circumstances of your relationship differ from the situation depicted

In general terms, a significant age spread does not point to favorable outcomes.

The fact that an age spread of that nature is not a *universally problematic* issue goes without saying. Speaking personally I did get involved with a much younger person, I did not pursue the relationship but certainly invested myself in it, and I look back with a lot of regret and misgivings. I too am no royal but I suppose my experience is much closer to a norm.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:44 AM on November 20 [19 favorites]


We've only seen one episode of the show. It was about Aberfan - my wife's Welsh, so this was one that meant a lot to her.

We're also both fiercely anti-monarchy, and avoided the show, because we heard so many positive review from royalty fans. This thread makes me wonder if it's worth watching, given "It's the finest piece of anti-royalist propaganda I've ever seen."
posted by doctornemo at 7:51 AM on November 20 [3 favorites]


Don't worry I haven't even seen an episode myself, but season 4 discourse is where I've perked up to be a bit nosey since it's finally in the era I've been alive in, and i wanted to get a temperature check if the fascinated adoration from previous seasons still held.
posted by cendawanita at 8:06 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]


And yt algorithms certainly made my rubbernecking easier, since they kept pushing netflix's behind the crown videos, and this one about Charles & Diana certainly had a comments section that was very entertaining to someone who, even with the wisdom and maturity of age, can see the humanity of these people but remain utterly disinterested in them as an institution... let's say.
posted by cendawanita at 8:12 AM on November 20


I've heard "N/2+7" as a good set of guard rails for relationship age gaps (where N is the age of the older person). I certainly know folks in relationships that fall outside of that where they've been happy and healthy, but I think anything outside of that guideline deserves a bit more scrutiny. For a 32 year old man, N/2+7 is 23. Sure, a 19 or 20 year old is old enough to make adult decisions and could plausibly be in a lower NCO rank in the military, but for someone who's sheltered and facing into a centuries-old power structure? There's no contest.

I was thinking of this rule while everyone was discussing age gaps, because I've always found it freakishly on-point. Amusingly, wikipedia suggests that it wasn't originally meant to establish the far boundary of an acceptable age gap but to find the "correct" age for a man selecting young bride. As for Diana -- yeah, look, ultimately I think this is more a matter of being too young to deal with the royal family and obsessive public interest than being too young to deal with Charles. Plenty of marriages involve power- and age- gaps, and plenty of them break apart. There's a big difference between getting your heartbroken, losing your friends, having to reinvent yourself in your 20s/30s -- and doing all that with the hostile attention of the monarchy and the invasive eyes of the public.

I think one reason Charles never "fought" for Camilla -- other than being lazy, entitled, unimaginative, etc -- is that Camilla had no interest in marrying Charles. Camilla had her own money, her own life, and her own understanding that there was nothing particularly rewarding about being the public pet of an ambivalent nation. If anyone has "bent" toward the monarchy with time, surely it is she.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:15 AM on November 20 [12 favorites]


no doubt, diana was railroaded into an impossible situation.

the other discussion here...this idea actually seems honest and to me, as long as everyone has the story: Older men...are...really saying "I'm actually immature at this stage in my life's development and my maturity matches yours, much younger person."
posted by j_curiouser at 8:16 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]


One of the things that's interesting about Diana's age at marriage in 1981 is that it wasn't so uncommon then, but things were definitely starting to change. For example, from 1947 to 1972 the median age at first marriage for women in the US was between 20 and 21, and the average age in the UK was about 23 in 1981. But it has steadily increased since then. Average age of first marriage in the UK now is over 30.

And the postwar years are actually somewhat anomalous, in that people got married much younger than they had previously; prior to that working-class people waited to save some money before getting married in their mid 20s, but post-war prosperity made it easier to set up a household. Witness the Western European Marriage Pattern and some census data. Aristocrats could get married sooner, of course, because their families were setting them up with money.
posted by Hypatia at 8:23 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]


When Diana and Charles married, I was 18. This is relevant because people keep on saying that is how things were then. Nope. Diana was a ridiculous figure whose calculated identity was "innocence" and ignorance. As an 18-year-old woman believing in human rights, I saw her as an emblem of Thatcherism. The stupid frumpy clothes, the suburban hairstyle, the downcast eyes, the studied idiocy. Yuck. And it didn't get better as she matured. She shifted from being merely calculating into being manipulative and vindictive and obviously had no interest in educating herself. My perception of her humanitarian work was that she had discovered there was a great tactical advantage to it, in her grand scheme against the House of Windsor. Not that I cared for them, either: they deserved Diana. Charles was indeed creepy as hell. Yuck all around.
And I'm a royalist.

Listen, you couldn't live in London as a 20-year old in 1981 and know nothing about the surrounding society. You could pretend. It's a bit like that fantasy about Ivanka being a better Trump with liberal values. Or the "free Melania" meme.

There, I finally said it after all those years of not speaking badly of the deceased. I needed to get that out.

Also, I got involved with and eventually married a guy 7 years older than me when I was 19, and to put it simply: he couldn't handle it when I matured a few years later. It wan't a pretty ending. Did that make me feel more sympathy for Diana? Maybe a tiny bit.
posted by mumimor at 8:26 AM on November 20 [45 favorites]


At what point later on is it 'acceptable' to people who feel the need to judge? ... Where does it begin or end?

18, in America. (With a few exceptions). Generally 18-21 worldwide, often with exceptions for younger people with parental or judicial consent. A lot of these laws have been recently revised; a century ago I suspect the average was more like 16.

But most people worldwide wait a few years after legal age before marrying. The average age of first marriage in the US now is about 29, up from 21 in the 1950s. With a remarkably consistent two year difference between men and women.

I'm the one who complained first about the ageism because the title of this post and the article are both inflammatory. I've appreciated all the more subtle and nuanced discussion since then. Particularly the information that Diana herself has said, later, that she was not mature enough to handle the pressure her situation created. There's no doubt her situation was uniquely awful, being pulled into this hugely powerful and wealthy celebrity family in Great Britain. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

My own experience has been as a young gay man who's always had relationships with older men. Even at age 17 I was with much older men in a bunch of experiences that were mostly great for me. But then relationships between two men are different and I wasn't doing anything permanent like getting married.

Also I never dated any Princes, except this one guy who told me he was an heir to the Luxembourg crown while he was microwaving me dinner in his run down trailer home in New Mexico. Alas, my prince turned into a frog when I started speaking German to him.
posted by Nelson at 8:27 AM on November 20 [10 favorites]


(Even aristocratic classes sometimes had massively deferred marriages for structural reasons. The French monarchy increased noble dowries by so much under LXIII that aristocratic fertility dropped significantly, according to The Prospect Before Her - daughters got left in convents.)
posted by clew at 8:32 AM on November 20


Interesting to take a trip back to October 1981 and see how the wedding was perceived at the time by the feminist magazine Spare Rib. One has to remember that by the standards of early 80s Britain this was a far-out extreme radical position:
In February, when The Engagement was announced, Spare Rib produced its comment .. 'Don't Do It, Di!' badges were sold and sold and sold. We have done coast to coast North American television interviews, Japanese television interviews, been written up in the New York Times and even been given pride of place here in the Sunday Times rundown of wedding souvenirs. People who don't usually blink an eye if you sit opposite them in a bus wearing a lesbian, pro-abortion or women's liberation badge frothed and foamed and moaned and questioned the sanity of even such a slight message. At the same time, we have been pooh-poohed and dismissed by many on the left for bothering to even recognise such an event .. surely everybody knows that royalty is a bad thing by now? We did wonder, though, if they disliked the badge so because it spoke too directly to women about marriage.

"But," the others on the bus continued to argue, "it will bring money into the country, what about tourism, and anyway, it's a public holiday so why be such spoilsports? .. it will make us forget our troubles, raise our morales." But can it do that? Won't it just be used to dominate the papers and push to the back pages all that other unpleasant stuff .. issues like Black people fighting back against oppression, political prisoners on hunger strike in Ireland and nearly three million people unemployed.

Despite the boom in sales of Royal look-alike kits and Lady Di wigs most women can't really identify with Diana Spencer very closely; she's more privileges and money than most of us can possibly imagine even before she marries the future King. But this wedding will send many into raptures as the Happy Couple float down the aisle in a flurry of fanfares and fairy floss. Pretty, romantic, and above all else young and virginal fashion styles are re-established and the white nuclear family returns to popularity .. not that it's been all that much out of fashion anyway. There have been some changes in attitudes to marriage in recent years but now this wedding is being held up to us all as 'the ideal'. With its rogueish prince ("kiss the girls on the beach, Charlie") and his young, ever so inexperienced bride ("I can assure you," said Di's uncle, "she's absolutely pure") the double standards of the story-book wedding have been reinforced .. before our millions of television-watching eyes.
By the way, if you want to browse the Spare Rib archives, now is the time to do it, as the digital archive may have to be taken offline at the end of this year when the Brexit transition period ends.
posted by verstegan at 8:41 AM on November 20 [30 favorites]


My own experience has been as a young gay man who's always had relationships with older men.

A critical piece here that maybe you're not getting: older men in our society are valued. Older women are not. There is no straight-world version of daddies/older bears/etc where women are the older figures. There is no messaging for straight people that says "it's normal and common to be attracted to mature, maybe even kind of old women because older bodies can be hot plus age and experience are attractive".

Your experience as a young gay man is one of going from (valued) youth to (still valued in many circles) age, not going from (valued) youth to (valueless, popularly mocked and hated) maturity.

In a society where older men are valued, younger men are seen as potentially valuable older men - they can look ahead to getting the age and experience that they value in older partners. In a society where older women are hated and mocked, young women can only look forward to being devalued. They can't think to themselves, "when I'm forty, I'll be just like Older Partner - I'll have a great career, my wrinkles will be sexy and I'll have a lot of dating potential".

There is a commonality of interest between men, because a young man becomes an old man. There isn't the same commonality between straight men and straight women, because a young man can look forward to increased respect and power while a young woman can only look forward to a lifetime of "you are too wrinkly now, also it's gross to think that you might be sexually attracted to a man because now you are forty, and ALSO I hate my mother".
posted by Frowner at 8:41 AM on November 20 [89 favorites]


Thanks for the unasked for lecture in response to me sharing my experience, Frowner. You write all that like I have no idea, or that I didn't say "But then relationships between two men are different". FWIW I think I do understand the dynamic you are talking about.

Also you're optimistic about the perceived sexual value of older gay men. The "daddy" and "older bear" discourse is a relatively recent phenomenon. And when I was dating in the 90s most of the older gay men were dead or dying.
posted by Nelson at 8:45 AM on November 20 [12 favorites]


I, thankfully, spent that summer in Switzerland and from the outside the UK news looked like some too-on-the-nose movie montage - riots of desperation everywhere, intercut with preparations for a ceremony that was equal parts Lovecraft and monetarism.
The summer had the perfect soundtrack anyway.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:53 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]


You write all that like I have no idea

It was frustrating to me to see you come into this discussion with both a lot of skepticism and a radically different experience of youth and gender. It felt very much like you were saying, "I don't share this experience but I am also reluctant to believe what women and AFAB people say about gendered experiences of aging".
posted by Frowner at 8:55 AM on November 20 [40 favorites]


Even when a grown woman gets married to a much older man with eyes wide open, the power dynamics can be inescapable: previously.
posted by airmail at 8:58 AM on November 20 [4 favorites]


Everything warriorqueen said.
posted by thivaia at 9:01 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]


You write all that like I have no idea

But I am sorry I made you feel bad. I was frustrated but I could have written differently and did not need to lecture. It wouldn't have felt good if someone had lectured me in the same tone about something else and I'm sorry that I didn't write in a more generous way.
posted by Frowner at 9:02 AM on November 20 [23 favorites]


The 1970s/early 1980s was like, Peak Social Acceptability of Sexualizing Young Girls. Remember all those Love’s Baby Soft ads and Brooke Shields and Nastassja KInski movies and pictures, etc.

And as far as the whole general question of whether a relationship between a very young woman and an older man can work? Sure, there can be exceptions, but they don’t disprove the damn rule.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:17 AM on November 20 [21 favorites]


For those in the thread debating whether to watch The Crown, or choosing not to watch it because of strong feelings one way or the other about the royals, I would say that it is worth watching because it is a well-written, sumptuously shot, beautifully acted drama about complicated people witnessing history through their exceedingly unique position.

Virtually every character has complexities that make them sometimes sympathetic and sometimes loathsome (I think this is why it has been said to be both pro-royal and anti-royal propaganda). It's impossible to know how much truth is in the more private moments of the show, but I find it completely gripping, even in episodes where virtually nothing happens.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:23 AM on November 20 [9 favorites]


Also, Charles could have chosen not to marry Diana even if marrying Camilla was off the table. It’s not like there aren’t provisions for the succession in the case of a childless monarch.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:25 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]


This post and thread sent me down a bit of an unsettling rabbit hole about the Balmoral Test stuff and at this point my main take-away is that most of the royal family is super creepy and toothy looking when they're smiling and they all started looking like Aphex Twin / Richard D. James from the Come to Daddy and Windowlicker era and now I'm questioning if lizard people are real and furthermore help I need an adult.
posted by loquacious at 9:47 AM on November 20 [12 favorites]


I'd like to read these interviews, can you recall which ones you're thinking of?

Diana's interviews for the Morton book are the focus of the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words. It's currently streaming on Netflix but I've also seen it on cable (check Nat Geo, PBS or Smithsonian). She's far from a reliable narrator, but it's striking how alone and unsupported she was, particularly in the run-up to the wedding.

Contrast that with Kate, who had ten years as girlfriend, more formal training and protection, and her own family to rely on. Lots of parallels with Meghan, though.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:56 AM on November 20 [7 favorites]


When I was born, my Dad was 30, and my Mom was 19.

Mom was definitely the more mature person in the relationship.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:02 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Back to the original post...
"If this was a soap opera, the two most interesting characters have just been written out of the show and the ratings are about to plummet..."
Boy, I thought this was the case when I was in the US, but now that I've been in New Zealand for a while, I am not sure. The naked seething hatred of Megan Markle in the press is absolutely sickening. And now that she and Harry have decided to leave the monarchy, it seems like they're getting covered more rather than less – and in direct opposition to the "good" Will and Kate.
posted by rednikki at 11:29 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]


It's probably 7+ hours of audio, but I really want to encourage people to listen to the five "You're Wrong About" podcast episodes that jenfullmoon links to, above.

Start with #1 here.

Make sure to click through and look at the photos that they use to divide up the episodes, because they're well-chosen to illustrate her arc from naive, sheltered, empathetic girl to finally-on-her-own woman (who maybe attaches to men too easily and too quickly).
posted by wenestvedt at 12:45 PM on November 20 [7 favorites]


One thing that should have been telling to the worldwide audience is that Diana's wedding dress didn't fit. Obviously she got into it all right, but that dress would not fit anyone. It completely swallowed her up, as it would anyone, and made her look like a toilet paper cozy doll. It was an edifice she was trapped inside.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:06 PM on November 20 [9 favorites]


... It’s not like there aren’t provisions for the succession in the case of a childless monarch.

If I'm correct, the next in line after Charles would then have been Andrew. Can you imagine?
posted by Countess Elena at 1:08 PM on November 20


One thing that should have been telling to the worldwide audience is that Diana's wedding dress didn't fit. Obviously she got into it all right, but that dress would not fit anyone.
I remember noticing that, and always thinking about it some years later, when I entered my own dysfunctional marriage. Recently, I read that the reason it didn't fit was because she lost weight. But so did I, probably for the same reasons, and my dress was just fitted by the seamstress, on the morning of the wedding. Don't tell me that this couldn't be arranged for some of the richest people in the world! You are right that the dress couldn't have fitted any human.
posted by mumimor at 1:13 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]


Somehow he has retained his title as a Baron as granted by Queen Elizabeth to Denis Thatcher, the husband of the Prime Minister.

Baronet.
posted by grouse at 1:51 PM on November 20


I've watched the entire series and this most recent season has shown the royals in the most despicable light, mostly because the royal kids - covered extensively here including Andrew - show themselves to be entirely despicable human beings (with the exception of Anne in some ways, but I'm not sure if that's true) with a bizarrely despicable set of parents. And I've wondered - where were Diana's parents? The clip from the wedding mentioned above with the dad clearly enjoying the limelight and not paying much attention to his daughter (and having a very difficult time walking himself?) was really telling.
posted by bluesky43 at 4:36 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Just out of interest, the Crown spent $47000 and 14 weeks working with the original designers on the wedding dress that had so little airtime, it's almost like the dress was a character in it's own right. Also, while I was finding that out, Diana had lost 3 or 4 inches round her waist to be 23 (?) I think inches when she wed. My thigh is larger than that.
posted by b33j at 5:58 PM on November 20


Somehow he has retained his title as a Baron as granted by Queen Elizabeth to Denis Thatcher, the husband of the Prime Minister.

Baronet.


He’s a filthy commoner, then?


It’s not a peerage, you see.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:40 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


One thing that should have been telling to the worldwide audience is that Diana's wedding dress didn't fit. Obviously she got into it all right, but that dress would not fit anyone. It completely swallowed her up, as it would anyone, and made her look like a toilet paper cozy doll. It was an edifice she was trapped inside.

Hmmm, while I understand this point, I'm not sure I agree. Diana chose the designers of her dress, David and Elizabeth Emanuel. She had worn a pink blouse of theirs for a Vogue shoot (it actually has a similar design as her wedding dress) and asked about them. They were fairly new designers, not much older than Diana. They designed several dresses for her before the wedding gown and she was an active participant in the design process. Yes, they played up her princess-y innocence (because honestly, that's what she was and it wouldn't have made sense to make her look extremely mature and sophisticated), but they really wanted her to be the center of attention in a huge, vast space. Both the designers and Diana wanted the drama and the spectacle; the dress was a physical response to the vastness of St Paul's Cathedral and her place in it as something new, fresh and romantic amidst stodgy decorum and dusty centuries of ritual. Remember, this was the period when the New Romantics were the cutting edge in style and music, and this dress was very, very new and unconventional. It's not a dress I particularly care for, but seems to me that she loved wearing it. I don't think she was swamped by it, I think she owned it. I understand why people might feel otherwise though.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:02 PM on November 20 [17 favorites]


TIL that while son William inherited the 12-carat sapphire engagement ring (which he gave to the Duchess of Cambridge), Harry received that meringue of a dress.

Also, in the second article, as we've been blaming Diana Spencer's friends and then her sisters for the tea-towels remark (but who knows, maybe several people said it to her, those tea towels were really quite something) [*strenuously limiting myself to five Etsy collectibles links*]: In Charles: Heart of a King, author Catherine Mayer claims Charles didn't want to marry then-Diana Spencer. The night before his wedding, the Prince of Wales reportedly told an aide, "I can't go through with it." The biography also claims that Diana was suspicious of her husband before they tied the knot, believing that he had developed feelings for Camilla Parker Bowles. Mayer also writes that Diana had told her own biographer, Andrew Morton, that she didn't think she could marry Charles either, but that the prince told her it was too late because "your face is [already] on the tea towels."
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:57 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


The story now is that William chose Diana's watch. Harry chose the ring. Harry gave William the ring when he was going to propose to Catherine.
posted by kimberussell at 9:19 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


Ultimately Diana was unhappy and was emotionally harmed by the relationship. The power dynamics played into that. I'd say Emotional harm vs. happiness/contentment is best metric for a healthy relationship, in my personal experience. Certainly much better than age, which is at best a second or third order metric for the potentially harmful power differential, a power differential that can easily manifest in other ways.

Also when people speak universally about age gaps, which are more common in adult LGBTQ+ relationships in part because of vastly smaller dating pools, it is problematic on several levels. I don't want to distract from the conversation, and I don't want to silence anyone, but I would suggest people not make assumptions or broad statements, or assume that LGBTQ+ people, of any gender, have the same experience.

Not that most young cis het women seem to have the Princess Diana experience.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 11:01 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]


kimberussell, thanks!

Last month, Vanity Fair had How Meghan Markle Wound Up With Princess Diana’s Favorite Watch [a gold Cartier Tank Française watch]: In 2003, Vanity Fair reported that about four months after Diana’s death, her butler Paul Burrell walked the brothers through the Kensington Palace apartment they shared with their mother one last time, after which William took the gold Cartier Tank Française and Harry took her diamond-and-sapphire engagement ring. According to biographer Anne Edwards, Diana’s will included a clause that said Harry and William were to have the first pick of her belongings, “including her stuffed animals.” William reportedly also took a stuffed hippo from the apartment that day.

[...] the Tank Française became emotionally significant to William in the years that followed. He was reportedly seen wearing the watch himself, and in 2000, he took it with him on a trip to Chile where he did work for a sustainable development organization. But when he was preparing to propose to Kate Middleton, he decided he might actually want Harry to have the watch instead. In 2009, William reportedly asked Harry if he would be willing to trade the sapphire engagement ring for the watch. Then, the Burrell quote from Marie Claire.

And bluesky43's where were Diana's parents? earlier in the thread twigged, because I thought 'divorced' and then remembered their marriage featured an 18-year-old bride, a 30-year-old groom, and infidelity. Diana was 6 when her mother left her father, and after "a bitter custody battle" all five surviving kids (18 months before Diana was born, the Spencers lost a 10-hour-old baby boy) stayed with their father.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:19 PM on November 20 [7 favorites]


This series has really made me wonder what valid purpose the royals serve anymore. I mean, the Queen serves as a sort of human brooch, pinning together the fabric of the history of three or four or five generations. That, to me, is a valid purpose. But the rest of them? Charles as King? When she passes (hopefully not for a few years yet) I foresee the whole lot vanishing into the same kind of twilight obscurity other royals from other countries experience. Beatrix who?
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 11:58 PM on November 20 [4 favorites]


Beatrix who?
They have new royals in The Netherlands, who seem to be quite popular.

I for one look at the American presidency with horror and think it is cheaper and saner to have some figureheads who can't vote or in any way act politically.
posted by mumimor at 12:39 AM on November 21 [5 favorites]


...
There is a commonality of interest between men, because a young man becomes an old man. There isn't the same commonality between straight men and straight women, because a young man can look forward to increased respect and power while a young woman can only look forward to a lifetime of "you are too wrinkly now, also it's gross to think that you might be sexually attracted to a man because now you are forty, and ALSO I hate my mother".
posted by Frowner at 8:41 AM on November 20 [61 favorites +] [!]
I am that young man. My partner is an accomplished professional in multiple fields. Oddly/frustratingly/infuriatingly/flatteringly (I just don't think the required adjective exists) enough she as a Lifetime Achievement Award named for her, and she's not done yet. Oh and 25 years older than I am.

Now that I'm in my mid 40s and we're juggling plans for managing my career issues with her (eventual) retirement planning in context of grown children (one with significant special needs) and a grandchild ho could really use more support than is readily available.

On top of everything we (always we, you don't get the whole picture without 'we') everything Frowner said about cultural expectations and the reasons why you don't expect to see us has been thrust upon us in ways that make one despair for humanity. And more.

I didn't come here to complain though but to point out that yes this is difficult and people are (in general) assholes but hen we started dating we'd been friends, colleagues and I was 30 years old. I'd done some things, been around a bit, collected some life experience and together we've made some choices and weathered many storms. I had all of the benefits that a 19yo simply couldn't have, and I didn't have to live in the public eye, and we have had infinitely more freedom to grow than anyone spitting distance from royalty (let alone heir to the modest widely regarded throne in the world) could ever dream of.

This shit is hard - there's no way the relationship in question shouldn't be viewed as creepy-and-dysfunctional-until-proven-therwise. And, in the end, that proof never/couldn't be materialize.
posted by mce at 7:42 AM on November 21 [11 favorites]


Diana’s step-grandmother was prolific romance author Barbara Cartland. “ According to Tina Brown's book on the Princess, Cartland once remarked, "The only books Diana ever read were mine, and they weren't awfully good for her."”
posted by bq at 9:24 AM on November 21 [4 favorites]


About that dress. 1981 was not a high point in fashion history, everyone knows that. But that's not to say there weren't any elegant and flattering clothes or innovative designers. The shoulders were insane, and so were the colors, but some designers made that work, and there were alternatives as well. I fell into a bit of an internet rabbit hole while trying to remember what actually stylish people wore.
To start with, British fashion was very interesting at the time. Vivienne Westwood had her first cat-walk collection that year, inspired by pirates. Jean Muir and Katharine Hamnett were at the heights of their careers. British Vogue was far more of a style leader than French Vogue, with exception of the Diana coverage. The Face (magazine) was studied in detail all over the world.
Looking outside the UK, just to give a view of the range of elegant styles, there were Kenzo, Alaïa and Sonia Rykiel in Paris, and Armani and Valentino in Italy.
Both here in Denmark and in the UK, high street fashion was not really fashionable yet. Today it seems so obvious that you can just buy knock-offs of whatever is cool at H&M or M&S, but that hadn't happened yet. Even a very stylish 18- or 20-year-old would wear jeans and t-shirts/sweaters a lot with Adidas or Puma sneakers, and then perhaps have some items that were a bit expensive for formal situations or party wear that you would wear again and again. The solution was often to buy second-hand, like today. Not only styled as punk or New Romantics or Madonna (a bit later), sometimes it was just the best way to get a good coat or some heels, even if you preferred a minimalist aesthetic.
Personally, I wished I could look like Patti Smith on the Horses cover, which was definitely still relevant in 1981, but even during the periods of my life where I have been very skinny, I was still short and round-seeming with curly hair.
For an English princess, Vivienne Westwood would have been the stylish choice, I think. She can do couture and scale down the avantgarde elements enough for a royal wedding. But there were several options.
Diana was a Sloane Ranger (link to a questionable wiki page). She didn't discover fashion till years after the wedding.
posted by mumimor at 10:52 AM on November 21 [5 favorites]


I have a copy of the Sloan Ranger Handbook. It's really, really racist and classist - like, I also have The Preppy Handbook, which is a precursor and obvious influence in terms of format, and it at least gestures at inclusivity. I collect books of that general type and had expected the SRH to be more of the same, but wow, it's shocking. It's not just vaguely snobby in the "of course we only buy the best because we're the best people who have the best jobs"; it actively and specifically insults working class people, people of color, immigrants and foreigners. Like, there are actually a couple of racist one-liners in it.

Now, you might say "well what do you expect", but no, based on my familiarity with analogous books from around that time, I didn't expect the open racial hatred.
posted by Frowner at 11:26 AM on November 21 [6 favorites]


”The only reason the Queen and her kin play the role of figureheads to the nation more plausibly than a president created by election or lot is that, as a clan riven by estrangement, multiple divorce, adultery, alcoholism and sporadic psychosis, they exemplify actual family values”

- Glen Newey writing about the Windsors in The London Review of Books on 23rd of January 2003 titled
About as Useful a String Condom. A Bum Decade for the Royals

A grand tirade of provocative lines like:

“.... after the death of Diana, the main charge against the Royals was ‘aloofness’. All this really amounted to was that they had shown themselves indifferent to the fate of a drama queen whose early death spared us all a lot of tedium”

One can get a taste of his angry fireworks here though one needs to be a LRB subscriber to access the whole article.
Or buy the book Royal Bodies

That said it is worth beaering in mind that the TV series The Crown is TV.
Entertainment primarily and not history. Or anyway not History.
posted by jan murray at 12:23 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


Years after the Royal Wedding the Emanuels divorced and their business failed. David Emanuel, presumably needing the money, became in-house designer for a UK fashion chain called Bon Marche. The nearest US equivalent I can think of is Fashion Bug. Clothes for middle-aged women, generously cut, mostly in synthetic fabrics. Lots of 'sensible' clothes and always just missing the mark, the wrong styles and shades for anyone other than old ladies. Most of the Bon Marche range is hideous, although their jeans fit me better than any I've ever tried and only cost £15.

Anyway, when David Emanuel was their designer, I needed a dress for a very fancy wedding I was attending in the USA. I'm not really a 'dress' person, but I found a really pretty Emanuel Bon Marche dress, with a twist under the bust, and in a very pretty paisley pattern. It was £25 (including matching bracelet, necklace and earrings), it fit me like a glove (I'm short, so it was full length on me) and it made me feel like a million dollars. I got lots of compliments on it at the wedding and a few women asked me where it was from and I just smiled and said "actually, it's a David Emanuel...", leading to a few gasps, thinking it was a massively expensive designer frock.
posted by essexjan at 2:28 PM on November 21 [20 favorites]


Now that we're on Di's fashion sense, that black sheep sweater was a fucking statement and since the original designers just reissued it, I went ahead and bought myself one for Hanukkah.
posted by Ruki at 6:42 PM on November 21 [10 favorites]


Charles, born in 1948, was raised to be King, with a lot of old-fashioned ideas along the lines of droit du seigneur. He seems gobsmacked by modern times, the idea that Royals are not anointed by God, with Divine Rights. I suspect the Church of England sort of support Divine Rights, maybe some people are down with it, but it doesn't work well in ordinary life. I think he'd be crap at being King, he seems stunted and spoiled, taking literal entitlement for granted. Not sure how William might do in a ceremonial position with huge emotional power.

Diana didn't have the wherewithal to deal with being a stick figure; it's a shame for a Mom to be killed so soon and so publicly, one has to have feelings for her kids. I enjoy the drama of the netflix show, but am more aligned with the French when it comes to monarchy.
posted by theora55 at 8:57 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]




Brilliant!
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:17 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]



When I was born, my Dad was 30, and my Mom was 19.

Mom was definitely the more mature person in the relationship.


This is a brutal if common (and, I don't doubt, true) thing to say about a husband and a father, but a grown child is every parent's final judge and there is no appeal. I know very well that men with a deep personal interest in securing a foothold in a very young woman's affections don't care what women of any age have to say about that behavior, but maybe it will give them pause if they imagine their own child saying this about them. Has to be said about them, not to them. to them? hell, they'll say it their own selves with a grin and expect people to find it charming and cute.

but said about them? decades later, when it's no use getting huffy in a comments section along with their peers about how sure they are that their collective wives agree on the happiness of their very happy, very successful marriages, and loved, just loved being premature sole heads of household every bit as much as their husbands loved being postmature pretend-children? that's a grim thought
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:55 PM on November 22 [12 favorites]


When Diana and Charles married, I was 18. This is relevant because people keep on saying that is how things were then. Nope. Diana was a ridiculous figure whose calculated identity was "innocence" and ignorance. As an 18-year-old woman believing in human rights, I saw her as an emblem of Thatcherism. The stupid frumpy clothes, the suburban hairstyle, the downcast eyes, the studied idiocy. Yuck. And it didn't get better as she matured. She shifted from being merely calculating into being manipulative and vindictive and obviously had no interest in educating herself. My perception of her humanitarian work was that she had discovered there was a great tactical advantage to it, in her grand scheme against the House of Windsor. Not that I cared for them, either: they deserved Diana. Charles was indeed creepy as hell. Yuck all around.

My sentiments exactly and I'm so happy to see someone else express them! I did not get up early to watch that wedding. I hated that stupid dress and I hated her stupid hairdo. Yes, she looked like a 5 year old's idea of a princess, but she was not 5 years old. I was baffled by the idea of a girl my age being so privileged and yet so completely uneducated and unsophisticated.

Ironically, I had just come around to thinking that she might actually be an interesting person a few months before her death. I did get up early to watch her funeral and was wrenched by the image of her two sons walking behind the casket.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:40 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


I do think this season is really great at showing the ways every member of the royal family manipulates their press and cheerfully throws each other under the bus to do so, and how much they use it as a weapon against each other. With definite echoes to Clarence House and Kensington Palace selling out the Sussexes in the past couple of years whenever Charles or Will were facing negative press. Will caught having an affair and Kate freezing the former friend out? Time for a story to leak about how selfish Meghan is and how she eats avocados like an entitled American!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:18 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


jacquilynne's tl;dr version of season 4 twitter link is a Kieran Hodgson comedy bit also on YouTube (the Helena Bonham Carter impression is delightful)
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:54 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


with a lot of old-fashioned ideas along the lines of droit du seigneur.
The Wikipedia article linked in the original comment doesn’t support this wild claim.
posted by Bwithh at 1:16 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


If anyone else is Over It, I highly recommend The Windsors (also on Netflix) for a decidedly irreverent take on the royals. No Diana and no QE2, but there is a storyline where Charles gets possessed by Satan and has to be exorcized, while the B plot features Wills taking on home renovations and getting scammed by the builder. It's a nice palate cleanser after the Very Serious Drama that is The Crown.
posted by basalganglia at 4:01 AM on November 23


I married a much older guy right out of college. I can't even imagine what it would have been like when I was four years younger. I've known several women in marriages with similar differentials. The thing is, if the marriage succeeds everyone will say it was meant to be and it was just fine and she was really mature and so on. If it fails in a way that's bad enough for anyone to notice, it is almost invariably much, much more expensive for the young woman-- not necessarily in money but in the way it deforms your life and career, especially if you have moved into a circle where your older spouse has power. I did hard time in academia so I saw a shitload of this.

When I see those scenes in The Crown where Charles is frustrated with Diana, it brings back memories of my husband getting frustrated with me for things I did because, for Pete's sake, they are things young people do! And at the same time, not really wanting me to grow up or develop a life that would not piggyback onto his. It makes me furious.
posted by BibiRose at 5:59 AM on November 23 [17 favorites]


But are we robbing her of her agency now?

Isn't there a term for when people misuse the language of "empowerment" as an upside-down justification for older men exploiting teenage girls, sexually or otherwise? It's on the tip of my tongue. Something reddity, I'm sure of it.

"But the teenage girl was begging me to exploit her, Your Honor! How could I say no? Would you have me deny her agency? Gasp shock sexist!"
posted by MiraK at 7:30 AM on November 23 [13 favorites]


There may be a better term, but this seems a subset of (or maybe adjacent to?) a tactic many abusers use, "DARVO" - Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:36 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


Captain Awkward recently had a great piece about an (admittedly extreme) example of the kind of adult men who feel entitled to teenage partners, and the kind of men who always rise to defend those relationships. CA's reply touches on "#NotAllAgeGaps" and cries of "AGEISM!" far more diplomatically than I ever could.
Anecdotally, of course, I accept that some people who end up with much younger partners, some professors who find love with their students, and some bosses who lust after their employees, may in fact get lucky and live happily ever after, the same way some people who have a couple more drinks than they should sometimes manage to make it home safely without getting pulled over or dying in a fiery crash. Okay? If this describes you, I don’t want to see you on fire, punished, or less happy, but also, stand down, Dershowitz! Let happy-endings-against-all-odds be their own reward, ’cause this isn’t just like when your great-great-Granny married her much-older piano teacher in eighteen-seventy-who-cares and they made their way to the New World with minus 10 florins in their pockets and went on to have eleventy strapping children.
I'll add that the smirking explanation that the female half of such a couple was "definitely the more mature person in the relationship" misses the point entirely. Society always holds teenage girls to higher standards of maturity than it does grown men, and grown men who prefer much-younger women aren't noted for their maturity.
posted by armeowda at 12:53 PM on November 23 [18 favorites]


the smirking explanation that the female half of such a couple was "definitely the more mature person in the relationship"

Righht? As if older man-children exploiting teenage girls' maturity to their advantage is any less abhorrent than the sexual exploitation happening alongside. Ugh.
posted by MiraK at 1:05 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


I watched In Her Own Words yesterday and this was the impression that I got: Charles and Camilla and the other royals thought Diana knew what she was getting into. That's what I took from Charles saying "whatever love is" and bringing photos of Camilla on their honeymoon and wearing cufflinks given to him by Camilla (according to Diana). And why Camilla had lunch with her and seemed to have some kind of friendship. They find it pathetic and objectionable when they realize she isn't in on it.

The royal family seems to have some combination of forgetting that other people have to learn the rules of their lifestyle and considering it beneath them to teach about it at all.

What I am especially struck by is how they are the opposite of hospitable in every way. They never try to make a newcomer feel comfortable. They assume you'll learn the rules on your own and are ruthless if you make a mistake. Diana says again and again how no one ever said "good job, good work" when she did things well (no thanks to them). But mistakes were pounced on.

If your whole deal is that you operate on a system of complicated rules, then you have to give people the opportunity to learn those rules. If you don't, you're an asshole. I think they're assholes.
posted by Emmy Rae at 3:48 PM on November 23 [10 favorites]


Well, I'm glad that some queer men had good experiences with older men when they were teenagers! I, on the other hand, was manipulated and groomed, and if you want to call consensual sex before the age of consent rape, I was raped. It shocked me then and it shocks me now how often a queer boy's first time is with some middle-aged skeever from the Internet. TBH I don't really think it's that different to a male-female age gap, but we're told--even from within the community--that teenage boys are such horndogs it's impossible to rape them.
posted by zeusianfog at 5:05 PM on November 23 [16 favorites]


If your whole deal is that you operate on a system of complicated rules, then you have to give people the opportunity to learn those rules. If you don't, you're an asshole. I think they're assholes.

FWIW they certainly present themselves nowadays as having learned from this experience. Both Sophie Wessex and Kate Middleton are said to have had a lot of support before they married and for some time afterwards. Both have been absolutely pilloried by the tabloid press although this settled down after a few years, particularly after they have had children. I think it genuinely has helped that they were in relationships and (allegedly) lived together privately before they were married, and I can believe, although do not know, that their respective husbands are more supportive about their Royal roles than either Charles or Andrew were with their wives.

Meghan Markle's experience suggests to me that adapting to Royal life is a major change, and one that most people would be unwilling to accept. I think that it was difficult for Meghan to go in with eyes wide open because she had never lived in Britain or experienced our tabloid press first hand. The racism she experienced was additional fuel to the fire, but they both may have made the same decision to leave even without it. The Royal Family is not willing to adapt to newcomers over anything other than a multi-decade timeframe, particularly not to people outside the main line of succession, and is very touchy about commercial exploitation of their brand.
posted by plonkee at 4:54 AM on November 24 [2 favorites]


In theory, the problem is that Diana married a Prince, with that set of expectations, and Meghan married Harry, with a different set of expectations.
In reality, it's all media hype, we can't really know. What a weird world royals inhabit.
posted by theora55 at 1:59 PM on November 24 [1 favorite]


I suppose this is on topic but Megan Markle just wrote an op-ed for NYT, which is primarily about coming together in the face of all 2020 has done, but the framing is her reveal that she had suffered a miscarriage.
posted by cendawanita at 1:55 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Not much to say except that I LOVE Diana’s dress and it looks like a sculptural marvel to my eye in 2020. The recreation for The Crown looks dreadful, the sleeves are so drooping and bottom heavy which is the precise opposite of the original.

The original has that crinkled, creasy look that is so marvelously romantic, like a cross between royal cake topper and Wuthering Heights. It looks like it would be cool and crisp to the touch. Like my ideal bedsheets. Reminds me of one of those marble statues of women in garments that manage to look flowing and almost soft, but in reverse.

I don’t care much about Diana as a cultural phenomenon but photos of her look impossibly fresh and modern compared to the recreations for the show. Not sure why that is— a fear of volume? Maybe they just don’t suit the actress and need to be more tailored. But they manage to end up so symmetrical and stale looking, fussy, the opposite of that free and easy energy Diana had.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:28 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


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