Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Touch of Duchess

I have a confession to make. I hope it doesn't sound too cheesy. I hope it doesn't sound too silly. And I hope it doesn't sound too frivolous. Okay, enough disclaimers already. I'll just come right out and say it:

I want a replica of Kate Middleton's engagement ring -- the one with the large oval sapphire (appropriately, my birthstone) surrounded by tiny diamonds. You know the one!

Prince Charles gave it to Princess Diana for their engagement. They were married on July 29, 1981. I got up before 4 a.m. that day to ride my bicycle to the house in Southampton, Long Island, where a friend worked as a mother's helper for the family of a coffee-machine mogul. Starry-eyed girls in our late teens, Sue and I watched the ceremony on TV together. I was a summer lifeguard in the uber-rich town. Only two months younger than Diana, I fancied I looked like her on a good hair day when my hair was very short. We both were blond, blue-eyed, and broad-shouldered.

Our personalities were also similar. Both of us were shy introverts who came out of our shells -- she out of necessity and me out of expediency. Both of us were highly sensitive and perceptive about other people to the point at which their inconsiderate actions caused us a lot of pain. And both of us were not good at hiding our emotions. Hello, Sourpuss Face!

But she had me beat hands down in the height and curvaceousness departments. And, duh!, in the clothing, jewelry, title, social calendar, and everything else departments as well.

Nevermind. A girl can dream, can't she?

The blue stunner graced the left hand of The People's Princess until her death in a horrific car accident in a Parisian tunnel on August 31, 1997. Years went by, and I don't recall hearing about the ring. Meanwhile, her dashing first-born son Prince William grew up and fell in love with a sporty college classmate, Kate Middleton. Except for one breakup lasting only a few months, the relationship between the royal and commoner lasted nine years. Speculation spread that Kate was The One for William, and that he would make it official. Sure enough, they got hitched on April 29, 2011.

Happy-go-lucky spare to the heir Prince Harry, it turned out, had been in possession of his mother's ring since her death. Very generously, he gave it to his brother to give to Kate. The public first glimpsed it adorning her hand following the photo shoot marking the couple's engagement. The then-future Duchess of Cambridge wore a simple, yet fashionable navy blue wraparound dress for the occasion that perfectly matched the ring.

It is gorgeous, of course. But that's not why I would like a copy. To be honest, I am not terribly attracted to conservative, classic-style jewelry -- or clothing, for that matter. I prefer a more outdoorsy/bohemian look.

Rather, it is a touch of duchess I seek.

While Kate has been favorably compared to Diana in beauty, stature, and style, it is her grace I would like to emulate. She is poised on every occasion and, unlike Diana, seems to genuinely enjoy each one. She is fresh (in the good sense, like a daisy), grounded, friendly to everyone she meets, and always appears relaxed. Granted, she is off to a much better start than Diana because she has married into her role for real love. She is nearly a decade older than Diana when she married, and that makes a big difference in terms of maturity. And, being a brand new royal, she has not been tested the way Diana was, especially when it comes to dealing with a husband's blatant infidelity.

Kate and William's bond appears to be a love and partnership for the ages.

Following damage done during the Diana years and the finger-pointing aftermath, there was much talk about the decline or impending demise of the British royal family. Then Kate arrived on the scene and singlehandedly rehabilitated the monarchy with her bright and down-to-earth demeanor, calm willingness to take on a sometimes grueling schedule in a job not of her choosing, and unflappable steadiness of character.

My life is challenging on a daily basis. So sometimes it would be nice just to be sprinkled with a little duchess dust. The closest I can come to that, I figure, is by wearing a copy of the royal engagement ring . . . at least once in a while. I don't anticipate putting it on every day. Instead, I would save it for special occasions or when I need a pick-me-up. Gazing at the ring, I would become embued with the Essence of Kate -- the next best thing to a Kate Middleton fragrance, of which there is none and will likely never be one because that would be too commercial and tacky.

Given the popularity of these replicas, it may be surprising to learn that I have only actually seen one in the flesh. It was on the hand of an attendee at a writing conference in Seattle I went to last summer. It looked lovely, not cheap like from a Cracker Jack box.

Back home I saw a photo in a magazine of one being sold on Kohls.com. I cut out the tiny picture and have been looking at it now for many, many months. Only recently did I Google the ring to see a wide assortment being sold by multiple vendors online. I'm considering making a purchase. It very well may happen because I've been interested long enough.

Who can't use a touch of duchess from time to time?

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