Some people think being a royal wife is a fairytale, but the reality is much darker. After all, Princess Diana was once quoted in 1995 saying, “There were three of us in the marriage.” History has a way of repeating itself, and unhappy royal marriages are surprisingly common worldwide. Over the years, royal wives have often been held back by the decorative nature of their role. They were meant to stand by their husband’s side and look pretty, rather than have real opinions or happiness. From infidelity to humiliation in the public eye, here are all the ways that being a royal wife might not be a dream come true.
Royal wives should embody purity
The expectation of purity comes high on the list of qualities that a royal wife must have. Per history, royal marriages are about alliances and creating heirs rather than true love or attraction to one another. A more “pure” woman was thought to be less likely to cheat on the king and hence pollute the bloodline with somebody else’s child.
The pressure is on to produce heirs
As soon as a woman becomes a royal wife, she is expected to become an instant babymaker. When William got engaged to Kate, she also gave birth to Prince George. However, only some royal brides are so lucky. Princess Charlene, who married Prince Albert of Monaco in 2011, had many issues with getting pregnant, so much so that she issued a palace-wide ban on discussing having babies.
They have to give up careers
Throughout history, women have had to give up their careers for their husbands, and the same goes for royal women. When she married Prince Rainier of Monaco, Grace Kelly had to say goodbye to Hollywood. Queen Letizia of Spain was a renowned reporter but gave it all up to marry King Felipe. Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, attempted to start her own personal PR firm but quit two years later due to an apparent conflict of interest between her role and her profession.
Protocol comes first
Rules are everything when you’re a royal wife. You must say and do everything properly. In Meghan and Harry’s Netflix documentary, Markle revealed her surprise when she learned about mandatory curtsying to the late queen. These rules also include when it’s appropriate to travel. In short, all independence and freedom over when and what you want to do must be relinquished.
Royal wives have to dress the part
Looking their best comes with the job, and Princess Catherine experienced a complete fashion makeover when she became part of the royal family. Royal wives must dress with restraint but, at the same time, look regal and sophisticated. While Kate succeeded, not everyone did. Princess Charlene admitted that she was used to “living in a swimsuit” and was mocked for her fashion choices at her first society event.
If they’re cheated on, they should turn a blind eye
Infidelity is just a day in the life of being a royal wife. While things might look perfect on the outside, husbands belonging to royalty often cheat, as was the case with Princess Diana and King Charles III. Diana knew about his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles before they were even married! Queen Paola of Belgium was in a similar situation when her hubby, King Albert II, had a love child with baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps.
Divorce is a no-no
Breaking up with your philandering husband is rarely on the cards for a royal wife. For instance, Princess Grace of Monaco felt like she was forced to stay in her marriage to keep custody of her children. A divorce might put the monarchy at risk, so women are highly discouraged from it. When King Charles III and Princess Diana divorced, Charles’s approval ratings dropped significantly.
The media constantly criticizes them
The most obvious case is with Meghan Markle, but this tradition started long before her. For years, highly-ranked women have dealt with their reputations being tarnished by the cameras and the media. Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, was accused of being a Princess Diana wannabe when she started dating Prince Edward. The media was also critical of Princess Charlene of Monaco — so much so that she began crying at the end of her wedding ceremony, and it wasn’t with happy tears. The tabloids love to make women the villains, don’t they?
The ghosts of ex-boyfriends’ pasts can come crawling back
The media aren’t the only ones coming to ruin a royal bride’s reputation. These wives have often been humiliated by past lovers and ex-boyfriends once they have the spotlight on them. Both Queen Letizia of Spain and Princess Diana had their exes write books on their relationships. James Hewitt, a former lover of Diana, wrote the tell-all “Princess in Love” and even revealed her experience with bulimia.
Royal wives must always put their husbands first
Husbands come #1, as does the monarchy. This is part of why being a royal wife isn’t all it’s chalked up to be. The needs of the monarchy and the king are prioritized over all else. This might seem like an outdated notion, but it’s still in practice by many wives belonging to royalty. In 2011, Princess Charlene of Monaco was forced to plan her honeymoon around Prince Albert’s chaotic work schedule. Although they were supposed to have a romantic getaway in South Africa, Albert spent most of his time in meetings with the Olympic Committee.