Right royal gossip

  • Books
  • Friday, 08 Apr 2011

An unauthorised look at the path that will culminate in the year’s biggest wedding later this month.

William and Kate: A Royal Love Story Author: Christopher Andersen Publisher: Gallery Books, 312 pages

Author: Christopher Andersen

THE April 29 nuptials between William Windsor, future King of Britain, and Kate Middleton, ordinary albeit stylish English rose, has been tipped as the wedding of the 21st century, a modern update of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s own wedding, which took place 20 years ago.

And with the forthcoming wedding comes a slew of unauthorised biographies and books on William and Kate, of course, including Christopher Andersen’s William And Kate: A Royal Love Story. However, for a supposedly unauthorised, gossip-laden book, William and Kate is a mixed bag. While it is wholly readable – and comes with coloured photographs – I feel that the content is debatable.

Andersen begins his tale of royal love by tracing the lives of William and Kate. Though they were born just six months apart in 1982, the worlds of these two eventual lovers were universes apart. Born into untold wealth and a life in the goldfish bowl of constant paparazzi attention, his destiny was to be the future king of England. While her family was not poor, being middle class, she was born as commoner with an ordinary life.

Kate’s mother was a former flight attendant while her father was a flight dispatcher before becoming an airline officer for British Airways while William’s ancestry can be traced back to 1066 when William the Conqueror became Britain’s first Norman king.

Andersen, however, does not go into the wealth of history that the House of Windsor is linked to; rather, he chooses to open his book with the one historical event that changed William’s life personally and, arguably, impacted much of the world, too: the death in 1997 in Paris of William’s mother, Princess Diana.

Andersen writes that years after losing his mother in a fatal car crash, William still has nightmares about the incident. And since meeting and falling for Kate, those nightmares turned from losing his mother to losing Kate to a similar fate in London.

Due to their wariness of the media – whom William and younger brother Harry blame for the crash – Buckingham Palace and the British Government made a deal with the British press to leave both boys alone to grieve and grow up away from the public eye until they finished schooling.

Andersen writes: “Thanks to this unusual arrangement with Britain’s notoriously insatiable press, William and Kate were free to meet, fall in love, and – under the guise of simply being college roommates – live together for three full years. By the time they received their degrees from St Andrews in June 2005 – his in geography and hers in art history – the couple had never even been photographed together.”

And that lack of media attention means that Andersen cannot indulge his readers in any sort of juicy details about William. Even Kate’s family background checks come up clean as a whistle. The future King of England and his bride-to-be do not have many skeletons in their closets, if any at all.

To remedy this, Andersen focuses on the headline-making soap opera that is William’s family history. The courtship between Charles and Diana, the fairytale wedding in July 1981, the births of William and Harry, Camilla’s presence in Charles’s life, the marital breakdown, the fights, the divorce, and the fatal car crash are all rehashed in the name of giving some sort of insider’s look into William’s psyche. It is unfortunate that Andersen does not provide any insight into or reasoning behind his subject’s psyche.

I have a problem with unauthorised biographies because their authors usually claim to know all the facts about the subject and, apart from “a close source” or “a friend of the family”, fail to identify sources. For instance, when William and Kate broke up in 2007, Andersen claims that William called Kate at her workplace in the morning and Kate left work at 3pm to “cry on Mum’s shoulders”. Andersen goes on to write that William and his friends then went on a drinking spree, and he details how much William spent on which particular brand of Champagne – but the cynical voice in my head demanded to know how Andersen got those details.

And since Andersen couldn’t seem to find evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) of any incipient alcoholism in William, he then focuses on Harry’s supposed problems with drink (and drug taking) and also looks into Harry’s parentage, which seems to be rather out of place in the context of this book and which seems to be a subject rehashed for the sake of filling pages.

Looking to inject some sense of scandal and gossip in his book, Andersen reveals that Kate used to keep a picture of William on her bedroom wall before their paths crossed; how Queen Elizabeth wanted Kate to get a job and how she wanted William to stop stringing her along; and how Camilla’s overtures of friendship towards Kate was looked upon as sabotage. Again, since Andersen doesn’t mention any sources, how he knows all this is anyone’s guess.

I do have to say, though, that the book is written in an easy to read manner. So if you aren’t as cynical as I am and don’t question the authenticity of the author’s sources and facts too much, William And Kate makes for an interesting glimpse into the privileged lives of these two young people, their aristocratic friends and their less fabulous hangers-on, especially if you’re a Brit royal family fan. I’m still looking for a biography that is more factual, though.

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