Last week, two young British undergraduates, one of them studying at London university and the other at Newcastle, had an enviable opportunity. They appeared on TV at an event where they could have impressed thousands of potential employers around the globe. But instead of showing their poise and maturity, they behaved in such a fashion that now most of the world just thinks they are insane.
I'm talking, of course, about poor Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and their bizarre outfits at Prince William's wedding. Their mother certainly had a reputation as a fashion victim, (a reputation she no longer deserves as she is always very soberly dressed nowadays) but this was in a different class. If Beatrice and Eugenie had been acting the Ugly Sisters in a pantomime, their choice of garb could hardly have been worse. Beatrice appeared with what looked like a giant TV aerial strapped to her head. Her eyes were so heavily ringed with black she was compared to a racoon. Eugenie's hat looked like a dead bird fixed to a pineapple stuck on top of a bedroom slipper. She can't help being a bit overweight, but her tight, corsetted blue dress was the most unflattering thing she could have chosen, and the skirt was badly made, with a rumply uneven hem. She also was over-made-up and had a sulky expression. They looked comical, uncomfortable and much older than they are. Unfortunately, they were seated just behind the Queen in Westminster Abbey so that every time the camera focussed on Her Majesty, it got Beatrice and Eugenie as well.
Rarely seen before in public, this was their chance to convince the world that they were worthy members of the royal family and competent to carry out official engagements. But now they have annoyed the Queen so much that they have had their police protection withdrawn and they are banished to obscurity. The two girls seem to have inherited all the genes of sartorial dyslexia from both sides of their family. They made Princess Anne look almost elegant by comparison. As the national and international hilarity grew, a Facebook page sprang up called "Princess Beatrice's Ridiculous Royal Wedding Hat". It got 135,000 followers in one week. The Hat has been compared to a toilet seat, a giant pretzel, a stag's antlers and a mass of writhing serpents. One Facebook site even claims "Princess Beatrice's Ridiculous Hat Killed Osama Bin Laden." Why didn't these girls get the advice of someone like Trinny and Susannah? Have they never heard of What Not to Wear?
It's not a matter of whether the girls are good-looking (both could look very nice if they didn't have such appalling taste). People are worried that the entire York clan is an embarrassment to the Royal Family and nothing but a standing joke. Both girls spent a fortune on their ghastly outfits and both have stubbornly announced that they will go back to the same designer next time. As mad as a hatter? It looks like it.
Beatrice will now forever be known as Batty Hatty, and her sister as Eugenie the Zanie. Copies of their hats are being sold at joke shops and on E-bay for fancy-dress parties and innumerable mock-ups of them continue to appear on the web. All this does have one positive outcome: while the world's press attention is focussed on the battier members of the Windsor dynasty, the happy couple William and Kate, (who looked fabulous on their wedding day) might be able to get a little bit of privacy!