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Opinion: Every so often it’s nice to see royals lean into the fantasy of royalty


Photo Kate Gabor, The Royal Court, Sweden

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s tour of Pakistan has been full of many highlights and memorable moments. One such moment was when William and Catherine visited Shaukat Khanum Hospital today. They met with many children battling serious illnesses including Wafia Rehmani, a seven-year-old girl battling a kidney tumour. Wafia had set up a fun tea party complete with tiaras. William and Catherine joyfully participated, and Catherine even donned a toy tiara. It was a reminder to me of something I’ve always felt: sometimes it’s good for royals to lean into royal stereotypes.

Oftentimes, we see modern royals eschew the glamourous stereotypes of royals that come from a bygone era. That is a logical and necessary thing to do. Because so much of a royal’s work centres around serious charitable endeavours and other such work, many engagements don’t call for a tiara and floor-length gown, much to my chagrin. I think royals shying away from too many galas and stereotypical “royal” moments is a critical component of maintaining a modern monarchy. It shows that the royals are in tune with the realities of the modern world.

All that said, sometimes it’s nice and even necessary for royals to lean into those stereotypes. There are the events that call for the royal pomp and circumstance. Weddings, enthronements/coronations, annual galas or tiara events, and so on. While those events evolve with time, it certainly makes sense that the ritual and ceremony that people have come to expect is maintained.

But the moments where it’s especially heartening to see a royal embrace the glamourous stereotypes of royalty are moments like today’s, where a child who is going through a hard time gets to meet a princess who gives the child a little bit of the fantasy and magic of royalty. There’s a worthy conversation to be had about the dreams that princess movies put in young people’s minds, but I think in moments like today’s that conversation can wait for a better time.

Imagine the story that young girl will tell forever about having a tea party with a princess. Through the battle Wafia has in front of her, I bet that that moment of wearing matching tiaras and having a tea party with a royal will be a source of joy.

Then, of course, there is one of my favourite royal engagements of all time, the party Princess Madeleine of Sweden hosted in 2016. She hosted children age five through 8 from Min Stora Dag, a patronage of Madeleine’s that aims to give children with critical illnesses a “special day”. And oh was it special. Hosted at the Royal Palace, the setting was a luxurious one that children and adults alike would be jealous of.

Photo Kate Gabor, The Royal Court, Sweden

Madeleine went all out, too, donning a glamorous gown by Fadi el Khoury, Order of the Seraphim, and of course a stunning aquamarine tiara. She was the picture of a princess fantasy. The children also participated in the grandiosity. Many gorgeous dresses, including a lovely pink one on Madeleine’s daughter, Princess Leonore, were worn.  It was exactly the kind of event children think of when they think of a royal ball which is why I loved it so much. Of course, Madeleine could’ve worn a more daytime look, and I’m sure the kids would’ve enjoyed it. However, doing everything she could to ensure the event lived up to the children’s fantasies was that extra touch that Madeleine added. Again, these children who are going through intense battles have an escape for a day and lifetime memories of when fantasy became reality.

I still think that most of the times it is very logical for royals to shy away from the more grandiose perceptions of royalty. In today’s climate, it appears completely out of touch. But every now and again, the appropriate thing to do is to lean into those fantasies and give deserving people that moment of escape and fantastically royal experience they’re craving.