My latest essay for Island magazine is out now. In 'Are Princesses Real?', I give my daughter's youthful question a grown up answer. A sample:
Princesses are real, but not in the same way as primates are real. Princesses require institutions, which have to be invented. And then princesses are celebrated or mocked, served or harassed, in light of the broader cultures within which these institutions flourish (or flail), and the stories they tell.
So the fictions that embellish princess lore—from Disney and DC Comics to the myth of ‘royal blood’—go on to alter the reception and treatment of these individuals and their families. It is impossible to disentangle the childhood fantasy of princesses, for example, from their current popularity and influence. To speak of Princess Mary is to discuss a figure of artifice, fancy and longing (to say nothing of historical inequality, deceit and avarice), which is no less real for this. Her reality as a public figure is mediated by fiction.
In other words, the question of whether or not princesses are real becomes about the ways in which they are real.Island #144 is available in bookshops and newsagents now. Or subscribe for home-delivered literary goodness.