Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why Princesses Matter

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed." - G. K. Chesterton

Marlena, Princess of Emerson NJ (1976)

It's a strange phenomenon. We encourage little girls to grow up to become doctors and lawyers, yet we dress them up as miniature princesses every Halloween, and relentlessly play Disney DVDs over and over again, until they become obsessed with pink tulle dresses with matching sparkly tiaras. (Go to Toys 'R Us and just try to find the "high powered business executive" themed birthday party paper-plates, streamers, and napkins... not happening.) As we grow older, our fascination with princesses doesn't go away - it simply morphs into an "adult version" of a fairy tale: the wedding.

Diana, Princess of Whales (1981)

On July 29, 1981, my mother and I watched a beautiful 20-year old girl emerge from a horse drawn carriage and walk into St. Paul's Cathedral - with her 25-foot train, trailing behind her. I was seven years old at the time, and Princess Diana's wedding is one of the first clear memories of my childhood that I have. Last weekend, I once again watched a simple girl become a breathtaking princess ...

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (2011)

Catherine ("Kate") Middleton married her prince in Westminster Abbey, with 2.5-3 billion people watching; four years ago, about the same number of people watched another royal gathering at Westminster Abbey: Princess Diana's funeral.

Touchingly, the last hymn sung at Diana's funeral - "Guide me, O thou great Redeemer" - was the first hymn sung at her son's, Prince William's, wedding. As I watched Kate standing at the alter in her laced bodice gown, I was immediately reminded of Grace Kelly's wedding to Prince Rainer of Monaco.

Grace, Princess of Monaco (1956)

On April 16, 1956, American movie star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier (who proposed three days after they met) and became Princess of Monaco. Life as a princess for Grace Kelly, however, was no fairy tale. Prior to her marriage, she was a very accomplished actress, starring in three Hitchcock films, and even won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1955. After her wedding, however, Prince Rainier banned all screenings of Kelly's films in the country, and refused to allow her to act in any future projects.

Sadly, Grace Kelly died at the age of 52 in a car accident. Ironically, Princess Diana was the representative for the British royal family at Princess Grace's funeral in September of 1982. (Diana, of course, was also tragically killed in a car crash - she was only 36 years old.)

No life is filled with only happiness, but as the expression goes, if we did not feel the cold of the rain, we would never appreciate the warmth of the sun. The divorce rate in America is about 50% - but that does not stop us from spending over a thousand dollars on a single beautiful dress that we will wear for just one day, and posing for hours for an overpriced photographer - hoping he will capture our own storybook promise of "happily ever after" on film.

These moments of celebration, of joy, of beauty are absolutely necessary; whether it's a wedding, prom, or quinceanera... we all need to see flashes of fables come to life - even if only for an instant - to remind us that sometimes the dragons really do get slain, and love really can conquer all.