Royal marriage challenged traditional gender roles
A week ago, the world lost two icons.
The first was a man so revered that social media turned, in the days following the news of his death, into a tribute page befitting a community elder. He had lived a full life, that man, and the reaction to his death was proof enough that he had made a lot of lives better, more joyous, and that he had touched people around the world. If that gentleman was from my tribe (and who are we to say he wasn’t, really?) his funeral would have gone on for at least a month. Entire generations of chicken would have been wiped out. We would have found out, once and for all, if the human body can run on alcohol.
But that very day, the world also lost another gentleman, a royal one, and this lad had the great distinction of being married to an actual queen.
I say ‘actual queen’ to shame those idiots who go around throwing the title willy nilly, using it as a petname and as a calculated way to endear themselves to women they are trying to or have already slept with. Never mind that the people being called ‘my queen’ typically know nothing about the monarchy, and would not be able to locate the most versatile piece on a chess board if their lives depended on it. Your baby mama is not a queen, sir. Just call her ‘babe’ like everyone else and be done with it. Or, if there is an anniversary looming, call her by the second name on her kipande; there’s nothing more intimate.
Anyway, the Prince. A strapping lad with Greek and Danish roots, and with an actual line to both thrones at one time, the Duke of Edinburgh became the Consort of the Queen following their marriage, and his death marks the longest reign as a royal consort.
In the tributes and think-pieces I have found myself reading in the past week, it has occured to me that Prince Phillip, and his entire marriage, serves as a good indicator that our traditional perception of marriage can be flexible.
You see, a marriage requires concession. First and foremost, the parties have to come to an agreement on who is the head of the household, and who then defers to the other. In days gone, this was automatic. The person with the pants was inherently the head. Or the one who stole the other from a river bank and ferried them across villages, eventually depositing them in their simba.
But then women started wearing pants, and we shifted goalposts. Then it became about breadwinning, but those sneaky devils figured out a way to make more than their husbands, and the whole debate is up in the air now.
Still, even with the aggressively feminist bent our society is taking, the essential fact of marriage remains the same; two bulls cannot graze within the same paddock. One person has to come down and, for lack of a better word, submit to the other.
Imagine marrying into the behemoth that is the British royal family. Imagine first laying eyes on your fetching third cousin, flirting vigorously in her direction and managing to secure her hand in marriage. Now imagine that fetching third cousin ascending to the throne, and finding out you were essentially going to be known for the rest of time as the queen’s husband.
I have so many questions. Did he call her by a nickname behind closed doors? Could he give her bedroom eyes in public, or that would be disrespectful? Would it constitute treason to say no when sent for a glass of water in the middle of the night? What about birthdays? What do you get the woman who has everything? Did the duke have an automated response when asked if that gown made her highness look like the baddest?
Fights must have been ridiculously one-sided, I imagine. No matter how well-constructed your arguments are, I doubt there is any comeback for “Yeah, but I’m the Queen.”
He must have been one hell of a man, that Prince Phillip. To know that your surname does not bear the same weight as your missus’. To accept that you are going to play second fiddle for the duration of your matrimony, and to grin and bear it.
I am encouraged by the example set by this man. I will also hold out hope that I marry into an obscenely wealthy and powerful family, and that my designation will simply be ‘arm candy’. I will not mind at all letting the wife win bread while I set tables and change diapers. If a man born in 1921 can do it, then damn it, so can I.