Friday, June 27, 2014

Stéphanie vs. Claire

During the past few days and weeks the German media, Bunte and Gala in particular, felt called upon themselves to publish articles comparing Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie and Princess Claire to each other with (unsurprisingly) mostly favourable outcomes for the German wife of Prince Félix. (German and commoner simply trumps Belgian-born and aristocrat, you know.)

Usually we try to refrain from commentary about what others publish but this time around I felt like I also wanted to give my two cents. First of all, get your facts straight. Gala's article mentions "Claire immediately stroke the eye of Prince Félix while attending the Swiss boarding school Beau Soleil. They fell in love." Um, no. Prince Félix and Princess Claire didn't start dating until several years after leaving school. Prince Félix has had at least two serious girlfriends between finishing school and dating his wife. 

In difference, the very same article states that all that is known about the first meeting of the Hereditary Grand Ducal Couple is that it was at a party. "They kept their relationship a secret. Romance? No chance!" Honestly, I have no idea from what they are drawing that conclusion. Also, I wouldn't exactly call Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie's pre-engagement relationship a secret. Yes, they mostly tried to fly under the radar but they did attend events together. They simply did not pose for photographers together like Prince Félix and Princess Claire chose to. However, the Hereditary Grand Duke did acknowledge having a girlfriend in interviews for his 30th birthday.

The same Gala article also declares the birth of Princess Amalia and the lack of a birth on the Hereditary Grand Ducal Couple's part a race. I, however, fail to see how the birth of a child is an Olympic discipline. Every couple has to decide for themselves when they feel ready to have a baby. Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie has stated prior to her wedding that she would like to wait a little, even up to three years. Who knows whether they have even been trying. Gala apparently does, as they also claim to know that Princess Claire was already pregnant at the time of her wedding. So I guess they have their correspondents stationed right in the Grand Ducal bedrooms.

Yes I know, I shouldn't get worked up about this and magazines always fabricate headlines in order to attract readers but if find it especially sad that even in the 21th century the success of a princess is still measured by the fact whether she has given birth to a child or not. I thought we have long moved past the times during which a woman's uterus was the most important part of her body and giving birth to as many children as possible was a merit. No woman is a failure because she hasn't been able to give birth (yet). If you are indeed trying to conceive and it isn't working, you don't need the outside world to give comments about it what a failure you are. You don't need to look further in the royal world than Princess Charlène of Monaco to see what the pressure of needing to give birth to an heir does. If the whole thing would indeed be a race, Princess Tessy would have won anyway. Oh right, she isn't German and hardly known so she wouldn't attract readership. My bad.

Another part of the article that seems questionable is the statement that Princess Claire simply melts the hearts of all the Luxembourgers and (as an implication) Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie does not. See, even though I have been following every single event of both of them since their respective weddings, I have a hard time judging that considering that Princess Claire has done what? Four - five if you count Prince Gabriel's communion - official appearances in Luxembourg since her wedding?! She watched a tennis match together with her husband, she attended the international bazaar together with her mother- and sister-in-law, she waved from the balcony during the Octave celebrations, and she visited a charity. Plus, there was also a trip to Japan and a few wine business related things but there weren't too many regular Luxembourgers present for that.

I am not trying to pass judgement on either Princess Claire, who doesn't have an official role in Luxembourg, or Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie but I fail to see what merits Gala's opinion. All I can say is that from the videos I have seen of people meeting the Hereditary Grand Duchess, from interviews I have heard of people having met the Hereditary Grand Duchess and from people I personally know who have met the Hereditary Grand Duchess, she does seem pretty popular with all of them. (And yes, I'm sure there are people who she is not popular with but that's life. Not everyone is universally loved. Not even chocolate.) Curiously enough, beneath an article by Tageblatt about Gala's article, there seems to be more support for Hereditary Grand Duchess.

Bunte basically takes the same line though they always backtrack a little towards the end of the articles. They'd also like us to believe that the Hereditary Grand Duchess is jealous of her sister-in-law due to her giving birth to a child as that's clearly the only merit in a woman's life, and that she is trying to diminish the commoner origins of Princess Claire cause of her statement about the job of a princess not being something you can learn but something that comes from the heart. (No, I don't get the correlation either.)

Lastly, to those banging on about Princess Claire being a commoner and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie being an aristocrat... You know that in the good ol' days of equal marriages, both of them would have been considered a mésalliance? A mere countess, no matter how old her family, certainly wasn't considered the suitable bride of an heir to the throne. Look no further than the most famous example, Countess Sophie Chotek.

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