Harriet Walker: I don't want to be a princess any more

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The Independent Online

The day I learnt how Anne Boleyn met her grisly end, I shrugged my shoulders and continued to hope against hope that one day I'd be a princess. When Diana died, I was young enough to be bemused by all the caterwauling and old enough to realise that she would have been better off had she not got caught up in the wheels of the Great Pumpkin Carriage of State. But I still secretly wished I could be a princess.

Watching Kate Middleton this week simpering and pancake-tossing her way through crowds of other people's children and hordes of proles that she probably has no interest in talking to, the scales finally fell. I do not want to be a princess any more – it looks like a load of boring faceache. And people hate the monarchy even more than they do journalists.

The cynical marketing of Kate as Diana 2.0 is no longer just annoying and wearisome, it's also pretty sickening. The king-maker Machiavellis had to keep their distance while she and William were courting, in case they just ruined some poor commoner's life – but now she's his betrothed, they've weighed in like Henry V at Agincourt. This week alone, we've had childhood photos disseminated and wardrobe choices scrutinised; Middleton's choice of wedding-dress designer remains unconfirmed but has made front-page news in almost every country. Apart from France of course.

At the shows during London Fashion Week last month, I found myself sitting next to an American journalist who was rattling off a concise but precise biography of Middleton to one of her colleagues. "Isn't it exciting," came the rejoinder, "to be in the actual same city as her?" Next, their conversation touched on the relative merits of Tesco versus Waitrose, before they both decided Waitrose was the clear winner because it was "more Kate".

This insanity marks a return to the rabid royalism of the era before Diana's death; when the car accident in Paris triggered PR meltdown at the House of Windsor, the royals retreated to the safer and more sanitised territory of passing-out parades at Sandhurst, photocalls at Klosters and Prince Harry dressed as a brownshirt. But now they're unleashed once more, like George III during one of his lucid periods, because there's another perky, pretty, public face to plaster across the otherwise mind-numbingly dull trips to colonial outposts or hospital openings.

As I was watching BBC News 24 one night this week, the presenter brought some "breaking news": Prince William had been asked by the Queen to visit New Zealand. As far as I'm concerned, this is as interesting as being asked by your own granny to pop out to the shops for some milk. We've come so far since Earl Spencer's rabble-rousing funeral oration; must we really undo all the good work by caving in to the next puppet princess?

But it begs the question, if not Middleton then who else? In the absence of any suitably photogenic figures at Buckingham Palace, we've spent a good decade making totems of soapstars and X-Factor competitors (one of whom, Leona Lewis, was declared "London's most influential woman of the past 100 years" in a poll conducted by Metro on Tuesday). Is our new worship of Kate Middleton a woeful regression to medieval fealty or a welcome return to idolising God's representatives on earth rather than the man in the street?

Either way, we need not fear the imminent cuts to the NHS; we can just queue up to be touched by Queen Catherine, the monarchy's new cure-all for everything from scrofula to social policy.

Lifting the veil would be in everyone's interests

In just over a month's time, protesters will take to the streets to challenge the banning of the veil in public by the French government. Men, women, children and non-Muslims alike are urged to veil up in a gesture of solidarity against France's anti-religious tyranny. What they forget is that the French government has also banned other religious iconography – such as crucifixes - from everyday life, too, and that French political and social culture is based on a model that completely separates God from state. And what dividends it pays: no homophobic bishops weighing in to counteract age-of-consent laws, civil partnerships or saying who should be allowed to adopt; no secular schools rows; no Creationist biology teachers spinning science from folklore.

Taking the decision – or choice – to wear a veil out of the equation is beneficial for all, be they women who want to wear it but can't or women who don't want to but are forced to. If it simply isn't allowed, then that's that.

Sure, it's an infringement in some ways – some critics compare the law against wearing the veil in public to a hypothetical outlawing of miniskirts. I think it's more like the ban on hoodies at Bluewater. My argument is this: I save my bum-skimming, thigh-exposing pelvis pelmets for the tiny number of places they'll be appreciated, like nightclubs and Gay Pride, lest I offend anyone's sensibilities. So why shouldn't veils be restricted to places of worship?

A big step forward in male grooming

The close of Paris Fashion Week yesterday rounded off the month of seasonal collections that sees the fashion pack jetting around the world en masse like a travelling circus of impossibly chic clowns. There have been tears and dismissals, dresses supposedly designed by royal appointment, and the rumour mill has been spitting out names for industry top jobs left, right and centre.

But the real revelation is that Andrej Pejic, supermodel of the moment – who models womenswear even though he is a man, keep up – has announced that he would contemplate having a boob job in order to get a (notoriously lucrative) contract with lingerie brand Victoria's Secret.

I predict sighs all round at how perverse fashion is – at its unachievable aesthetic strictures. But it's something of a step forward for male grooming isn't it? If Pejic is willing to go under the knife for his art, the least you blokes could do is brush your hair before a date.