Published in the International Herald Tribune: written by Suzy Menkes
There they are, in all their glory: the new European princesses. The sad departure of the future Queen Diana suggested that it was all over for monarchical glamour and that the Hollywood Princesses Nicole and Gwyneth had filled the vacant slot. .
But now that celebrity has become commonplace, the commoners turned royal are fighting back. .
Is there anyone more regal than the future Queen of Denmark? Mary Donaldson, who is Australian, has slid effortlessly into the royal role since she met her destiny, named Fred, in a bar in Sydney during the 2000 Olympic Games. Their wedding last summer, when the adoring Prince Frederick shed tears of joy, was the best Danish fairy tale that Hans Christian Andersen never wrote. .
The same royal crowd showed up for the Spanish wedding of the television newscaster Letizia Ortiz and Prince Felipe. This was a wet blanket event, not just because Madrid was uncharacteristically pouring rain, but because the parents glowered and the public did not rate it as a romantic match. .
France and Italy came up with a joint union between the French actress Clotilde Coureau and Prince Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy (no relation to the hotel chain), who is the grandson of the last king of Italy. Clotilde was heavily pregnant when they married in September, so it was Valentino to the rescue! The court couturier to European princesses (think Marie Chantal of Greece) produced a delicately shaped dress; add a large bouquet clutched to the stomach and the wedding photos will never embarrass Vittoria Cristina Adelaide Chiara Maria, born three months later. .
By July, Valentino had garnered for a dinner in his French chateau a blond royal duo: Princess Mette-Marit of Norway (with Crown Prince Haakon) and Maxima of Holland, the Argentine wife of Prince Willem-Alexander. Both have done what princesses should do: produce an heir, who, in these egalitarian days, can be of either sex. Mette-Marit, whose son by a previous relationship had sent shock waves through Scandinavia, produced a mini-princess in August. Maxima, who had ducked a scandal by disinviting her father (with his connections to the Argentine junta of old) to the royal wedding, also produced a daughter. .
The new crop of royals are creating plenty more princesses destined for the throne. The role model is Victoria of Sweden, who battled anorexia and is now fulfilling royal duties while having a relaxed private life. Her sister Madeleine has the glamour, but not the future title. The sad story of Princess Masako of Japan, who has been overwhelmed by the royal court, may still have a happy ending for her daughter, Princess Aiko - if her husband, Prince Naruhito, can win the nation over to the idea of a woman on the Chrysanthemum throne. .
For Valentino, the new blood introduces a contemporary glamour. "They are modern royalty, not stiff princesses that we saw years ago," he says. "I know a lot of them very well. I think they are fresh and very modern and monarchy in the future has to be like this." .
For Colombe Pringle, editor of the French magazine Point de Vue, there are pitfalls as well as joys for the new princesses. She cites the Asian-born Alexandra of Denmark, who is divorcing Prince Joachim. Pringle says that smart professional women do not find it easy to integrate into an insular royal court, where the job description is to produce an heir and a "spare," smile and do charity work. .
Mathilde of Belgium fills that role to perfection and was voted as top princess by Point de Vue's readers. .
"She is very classic, a blond between Grace Kelly and Claudia Schiffer and very sweet-natured," Pringle says of Mathilde, who married Crown Prince Philip in 1999. Elizabeth, born in 2001, is the first female heir to the throne under the new gender equality laws that leave her brother, Gabriel, second in line. .
Pringle also says she believes that the princess factor comes from the element of mystery that ordinary young women acquire when they "enter the parlors and start to dream." And that restraint is the allure of the new young royals. .
Flora Fraser, the author of "Princesses," about the six daughters of George III, believes that those who marry into a royal family have a clearly defined role. .
"It's a very orderly process - what princesses are meant to do is to produce little princes who become big kings," Fraser says. "If you look at Europe, Caroline of Monaco" (married to Ernst of Hanover) "is the best global princess. She really cares about what charities she supports and uses her intelligence." .
Fraser makes her biography of the 18th-century princesses into a powerful feminist tale. Left in a social limbo by their father's fits of madness, they mostly remained unmarried and chose their own partners, one even producing an illegitimate son, although that scandal was buried. .
Like those princesses driven by circumstances to be independent women, Fraser finds an energy in those now entering the monarchy without a drop of royal blood. .
"They are energetic when you look at the languid Edwardian princesses," Fraser says, citing the new breed of "working" princesses who have made careers in banking. .
"Queen Charlotte educated herself and her daughters," Fraser says of George III's wife. "Now, rather than just thinking frocks and castles, these are women who can really bring something to the fairy tale -– their intelligence." .
All of which does not stop people from believing that a marriage between the handsome Prince William and the gorgeous Charlotte Casiraghi, daughter of Princess Caroline, would be made in heaven. And that a tiara can turn even Paris Hilton into a princess. .