Not only am I the mother of a princess-obsessed daughter, I am the daughter of a princess-obsessed mother. I’ve been "royal-watching" since toddlerhood, with a VHS tape my mom had recorded of Princess Diana’s wedding just a few years before I was born. I have had images of royal wedding commemorative china etched on my commoner soul since childhood.
As a teen, I had my wall covered with pictures of Prince William (who knew that Harry would grow up to be the catch, though?). I remember hearing that the brothers would be somewhere near my home for a PR event, and daydreaming about catching their eye. Princesshood (or duchesshood, which would be fine with me, too) was within my grasp! I am sure thousands of other teens had the same dream. Alas, the closest I’ve been to royalty was visiting Montreal at the same time as some obscure earl on a royal tour.
Then, I grew up and got married to an ordinary-but-extraordinary American commoner like myself, added a couple kids to our family, and went on with my very ordinary-but-extraordinary lifestyle. I ended up with a daughter who chose “cessa” as one of her first words, in reference to her Princess Tiana doll. Being the good feminist that I am, I also made sure to educate her about the many types of princesses in the world, beyond those that wear a crown and a frilly dress or tailored suit. From Zulu warrior princesses to the first woman on the Supreme Court, I have worked hard to broaden her definition of princesses.
And yet, now, I find myself once again sucked into the royal wedding. I’ve talked with my kids about how the future duchess, Meghan Markle, is from a mixed-race family just like we are, and how she is the first person of African descent to join the British royal family. Which, by the way, try explaining lines of succession and royal titles to a preschooler.
We have talked about how she has a career, and things she is good at, and is so much more than just a lady in a designer gown. My kiddos get all this. But still, daydreaming is fun. What is our American obsession with the royals? We fought to be free of them, but here we are planning to set our alarm clocks for 5 a.m. on Saturday to tune into the royal procession in our Union Jack hats.
One thing the royals love to do come wedding time is put their faces, initials, or coat of arms on china. Sipping your tea, pinky up, with Queen Elizabeth staring back at you is a favorite British pastime (I think). And it only costs 25 quid to participate.
Royal china, to commemorate the monarchy, has a long-standing history in the UK. Harry and Megan’s set is a beautiful pale blue with their initials intertwined (a missed opportunity for a good soft-focus border around their faces, but we must trust the Royal Collection's vision). The border of each plate mimics the scrollwork on St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle where the couple will be married May 19 (to think someone us gave away bags of M&Ms as our wedding favors!).
In the past, royal china has depicted the faces of the monarchs during different important events, such as weddings and coronations. Queen Elizabeth just commissioned a new set of her own royal china to celebrate becoming the longest reigning British monarch, after 63 years on the throne. A
s Americans, our colonial and revolutionary roots seem to have curbed our enthusiasm for "presidential china" collections.
But it's not entirely out of the question.
Of the belief that every family is worth a bagpipe procession, barge parade, and branded merchandise, I headed over to the finest china-making website America has to offer, Walmart.com, and printed my gorgeous babies onto some gold-rimmed ceramic plates.
At $12 a pop, you too can have some store-bought cake slices on your own royal china.
Usually, you just sit commemorative china in your antique hutch for all time, but we couldn't see the fun in having our faces on a china set and not eating off them.
So how did our fancy evening of St-Esprit-themed dining decor progress? About as well as one would expect from two preschoolers and a kindergartener who usually eat off Aldi paper plates. I fretted the whole time that they plates would break and the dog would eat plate shards AND chocolate, but they enjoyed eating off plates featuring their own adorable little faces. Adding a little pomp and circumstance to our mostly-mundane lifestyle was fun, and felt a bit decadent.
As I walk the path of trying to raise a strong, confident daughter in a world that will continually push her down based on her gender, her race, her background, and so much more, I often over-think things. I might have spent a bit too much time worrying about her love of princesses, as well as mine. Worrying about the narrative I help to create where a woman is a photo-op or a face on a gold-rimmed plate, representing a monarchy that is truthfully nothing but figureheads anymore.
At the same time, I tell myself to take a deep breath and relax. Remember that a girl can dream of tiaras holding power and still grow up to hold a gavel instead. That she can cling to some vestiges of femininity past, while also chasing after modern feminist ideals. That she can eat her cake off of gold-rimmed royal china, and still run the world.