Belfast Telegraph

The modern royal fairytale ending? It's not about a prince easing a glass slipper onto a girl's foot, it's whether he'll sit beside her

By Lindy McDowell

Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl who fell in love with a handsome prince. She'd been over to his palace to visit the Queen. He'd been over to meet her folks.

Everything then seemed set for happy-ever-after. Only one issue niggled the beautiful girl.

How come her prince never wanted to be seen out with her?

"How come you never want to be seen out with me?" she asked one night.

"Don't be ridiculous," he replied. "I do want to be seen out with you. Aren't we going out together at the weekend? You shall go to the ball game. Or at least the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games."

Meghan was thrilled. "Oh, you and I together," she cried. "Side by side."

"Umm," said the Prince, "When I said 'going out together' I didn't actually mean sitting together."

"So who will you be sitting beside?" asked Meghan.

"Melania."

"And where's Melania's husband?" demanded Meghan. "How come he can't sit beside her?"

"He's got his own sports fixture to attend to," said the prince. "He's taken on the entire NFL."

"So where will I be sitting?" asked Meghan. "Close by?"

"Sort of," explained the prince. "Only about 18 rows over and five rows down."

Our north American cousins really must wonder at the Royal way of courtship in the 21st century.

Apparently the handsome prince no longer signals his intentions by easing a glass slipper onto the lucky girl's foot - or even a stonking great ring onto her finger.

First sign he's serious these days is when he details a bodyguard onto the stairwell to keep an eye on her.

You could forgive Meghan Markle (I love that name) for feeling this Royal way of romance is just a wee bit convoluted and frankly, daft.

Apparently the seating arrangements at the Invictus opening ceremony were intended to ensure attention would not be diverted from the action in the arena.

But once Meghan made her appearance that's exactly what happened. Why would anyone have imagined otherwise?

And while, yes, the Melanias and the Trudeaus obviously had to be in prime position, surely they could have squeezed poor Meghan into the VIP seating area too.

As a Very Important Partner?

I'm not saying all this fuddy duddy formality necessarily bodes ill for Meghan as she now sashays forward to join the House of Windsor, hand-in-hand at last with her prince.

But since we're repeatedly being told how the younger royals are attempting to shake things up a bit and make the monarchy appear more relevant and down-to-earth, you would think the weekend photocall protocol could have been relaxed just a little.

To me this didn't exactly look like a modern prince going out on a limb to make his girl feel comfortable.

In fact, most of us, on a night out with a partner who'd explained they be sitting in the VIP section while we'd be stuck half a mile away, would be unlikely to master the same radiant smile and good grace as Meghan.

There might well be recrimination over the post-show champers. As a first joint outing for a new royal couple it was awkward. And unnecessary.

For, barring cataclysm in the House of Windsor, Harry's role will always be decorative as opposed to historical. He's the celeb prince, not the one who will be king.

So where he and Miss Markle are concerned there's really no need for this silly standing on ceremony stuff.

And now that the pair have finally managed to secure seats in the same row, we must assume that Meghan will no longer be relegated to a lesser pew.

A prince conscious of the way his mother was treated as an outsider would surely see that as a priority.

Empty words ... and an empty spare room

When the Syrian refugee crisis was at its height, actor Benedict Cumberbatch made something of a drama out of it, ending his West End theatre performance nightly with a loud, luvvie denunciation of politicians and government policy. So would he be taking in a refugee himself? Turns out, (inevitably) no. Benedict has admitted in an interview that he couldn't do it. Because he and his wife had just had a new baby. Which seems like an odd excuse.

So much then, for putting your spare room where your mouth is.

Bringing a little sparkle to everyday life

As Oscar Wilde said, we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars. And some sweet soul in Belfast city centre can, apparently, see sparkle where most of the rest of us can see only rubbish.

That would be the person who has been going round adding an extra G to the waste bins close to the City Hall and transforming the signs on them from Litter to GLitter.

I love it. It almost makes the oul' things look a little bit magical. A small gee-up. But it made me smile.

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