There aren’t many times that my life intersects with that of the Duchess of Cambridge, but last week it almost did in that (a) I was surrounded by people taking photos, and (b) I was wearing a pair of LK Bennett Sledge pumps and a jaunty hat.
That’s obviously where the similarities end – since the event in question was a wedding in Chelsea, I’d had my hair done in what the blowdry bar optimistically called ‘The Kate look’ although, let’s be realistic, I was giving off more of a Dougal from the Magic Roundabout vibe – but it did make me think what a total stress fest being Kate Middleton must be.
For a start, you can never ever stop imagining that people are going to take photos of you. Particularly if you do something embarrassing. Picture the scene: I arrived at this very elegant wedding with three girlfriends, the other halves of the ushers, in a black cab. As we pull up outside the church, where bells are a-pealing and crowds are a-gathering to see if it’s anyone famous getting married (no, sorry), there’s the usual, ‘No, let me… I insist… here’s three pounds fifty… No, put your purse away…’ business. Admittedly, Kate would have a driver and probably wouldn’t have to worry about who kept the receipt for expenses, etc. However, as honking traffic piles up behind us, I decide I should take the initiative and get out first, which I do, in good Finishing Touches style, by swinging my feet out, knees clamped together, ankles locked, grin fixed.
As my feet, in their D of C approved nude Sledges, hit the ground, there was a general gasp from the assembled crowd and several of the ushers dashed forward, grimacing. One of them (who shall remain nameless) let out a panicked roar and made gestures. Assuming they were merely astounded by the sight of me in a cocktail hat and London-wedding-compulsory nude tights, I smiled graciously and continued across the road to the church, whereupon the shocked usher made strange sweeping gestures around his crotchal area, and I looked down to see that the sarong-effect skirt of my wrap dress had got stuck between my knees while i was exiting the car, and now my entire left leg, from the waist down, was exposed to the elements. The only similarity between my legs and those of Kate Middleton is that they both have feet at the end of them.
People were totally taking photos. I totally was not ready for photos. I need warning for photos. If I were the D of C, I would have to have men with countdown boards following me around, indicating when photography was permitted.
I managed to compound this mortification by leaning over to adjust my skirt and garnering another round of nervous mumbles, at which point I put on my cardigan, buttoned it up, and slunk into the church. That is not how you want to make an entrance to someone else’s wedding. If you see photos of Kate Middleton at someone else’s wedding, she’s virtually sidling in with a handbag over her head to avoid any accusations of bridal upstage-al.
And then there’s the reception and the Significant Glass of Wine Issue. Much has been made of the Duchess’s drinking/not-drinking on the recent tour. For most thirty-something women, the Significant Glass of Wine can be a minefield, particularly at public events, where, ironically, you need your wits about you more than usual at exactly the same time that you could really do with a drink. And what’s a state banquet, if not a very scaled-up wedding? If Kate declines a glass of champagne in order to focus on which one of these men in identical morning suits is the groom’s step-brother, she must be pregnant. If she accepts one, she is ‘in danger of developing an embarrassing drinking problem’, according to the Daily Mail/gossipy relatives, and/or confusing the bride’s (divorced) father with the best man’s civil partner, or whatever the diplomatic equivalent is.
I quashed any press speculation about baby Hesters with my third glass of champagne. which was actually a medical requirement to numb the pain of my toes slowly dying in my Kate shoes. She probably has her toes injected with Botox or gets someone to walk around Kensington Gardens wearing them in for her beforehand.
Kate also has to come out with interesting, interested, original observations to everyone she meets on her royal tours. Again, you can get a glimpse of how exhausting that must be just by imagining that the wedding you’re at will go on for ten hours, and then be repeated every day for a fortnight, with slightly different but confusingly similar people. I’ve been at weddings where I’ve accidentally had the same conversation with the same person at different ends of the day. Thanks to the magic of alcohol and loud music, I think I got away with it. It also dawned on me how careful she has to be with her chit-chat as I almost let slip a few juicy details about the stag do to a very nice chap who I assumed was a friend of the groom but turned out to be a friend of the bride’s mother.
And dancing. You know those mortifying photos of Prince William gamely dancing like his dad? You never see Kate doing that. There’s a reason. Everyone photographed dancing at a wedding looks like they’re doing the moves to Agadoo. You think you look like Bianca Jagger; you actually look like Bianca from Eastenders. William has some kind of royal obligation to perform a few buttock-clenching ‘rolling up knitting wool’ moves; Kate is not so daft. The bride and groom at this wedding thoughtfully decided to spare everyone by not having any evening dancing. Just eating and drinking. Which meant that the photographer went round the tables, and I had to Think Kate, and put down my knife and fork to avoid any shots of me stuffing my face ending up in the wedding album.
And all this is without people making ‘amusing’ comments about my mother’s old job, or my sister’s bum, or my brother-in-law’s shenanigans, or my eyeliner. (To be honest, there were a couple of comments about my eyeliner but they were all completely complimentary.) There are some things that must be quite fun about being Kate – nice house, cute husband, unlimited access to Buckingham Palace state tours – but I’m not sure I’d swop them for the joy of staggering back to a friend’s flat afterwards to peel off my Sledges and gossip until the small hours, safe in the knowledge that I had personally deleted all the Accidental Spanx Flash Photos off every ‘paparazzo’ there, and that I could spend the whole of the following day in bed with some porridge, instead of getting an alarm call at 6am to get my hair done in time for a eco-reception at a wind farm.
PS I should probably say that this sort of mental ‘what would Catherine do?’ dilemma is pretty much the entire plot of The Runaway Princess, which is out on October 2nd. So if you want to give yourself warm thrills at the thought of meeting your own prince at a party, and then follow them with cold chills imagining what the press would make of your Auntie Pam and that business with the plumber, pre-order it now…