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Before she was even a glimmer in her parents’ eye, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge was destined to be special.
Unlike her predecessors (i.e. issue of the reigning Prince of Wales), Charlotte had the title of princess in store for her—a change in a nearly 100-year-old law that finally went into effect after Dec. 31, 2012.
The queen’s grandfather, King George V, had in 1917 restricted the titles of His or Her Royal Highness to the children of the reigning king or queen (in present day terms, Prince Charles and his siblings), the children of the sovereign’s sons (Princes William and Harry and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie), and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (Prince George).
Which seems like a lot of people, but it would have excluded Charlotte from being a princess, to be addressed as HRH. (The law wasn’t retroactive, meaning none of the queen’s grandkids were then given titles they weren’t born with; meanwhile, the only exception to all the rules is now decade-old decree that made the children of the queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, lords and ladies because that’s what Edward and his wife preferred.)
And that monarchial update was followed by the 2013 Succession to the Crown Act, a change in the law years in the making (hundreds, really) that paved the way for Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s firstborn child to assume his or her rightful place in the line of succession—emphasis on the her, because until then a male heir, even if he was younger, would have been in line ahead of any sister.
So Princess Charlotte, born one year ago today (happy birthday to her little royal highness!) and fourth in line for the throne, already had a place in the history books upon arrival.
But we expect greatness from this one regardless (no pressure though, Char, promise), considering her lineage on both sides, patri- and matri-, and the strength that has blossomed from her particular branch of the family tree over the years.
So many inspiring female role models within a stone’s throw (or a carriage ride), where to begin?! First the obvious: Mum. Kate Middleton is an international icon of style and class, the sports-loving commoner turned wife of a future King of England only endearing herself more to the world over the years that she’s been in the public eye. She’s a hands-on mother, a tireless servant of her country and the queen of her castle, no matter the official order of ascension.
© Mario Testino / Art Partne
Then there are the grandmums: Carole Middleton is a successful business owner, wife and mother of three who remains close to Kate and her young family. And on William’s side…well, Princess Diana is no less than a legend, the erstwhile Miss Spencer having broken the mold in nearly every way and proving long before Kate came along that the royal family’s thunder could be stolen right out from under them by the right magnetic presence.
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And where to even being with Charlotte’s great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II? Somehow inconspicuous yet entirely visible at the same time, the 90-year-old matriarch has subtly reshaped the monarchy for modern times. She hasn’t necessarily made all the reformative decisions all by herself, but they don’t come into being without her approval. (Those historical changes that took effect before Charlotte was born? Fascinators off to QE2.)
The queen has become a feminist hero for the ages, rewriting the book on what it means to be a woman in power while becoming the longest-reigning British monarch of all time.
2016 Annie Leibovitz / PA Wire
Look at Those Parents of Hers
While obviously divorce (and a litany of other things) happens and absolutely does not preclude having a stable, happy life, the fact that Charlotte’s parents are the most amazing couple can’t hurt! Charlotte will grow up watching soul mates in action, so here’s hoping she’s also secure in the knowledge that there’s no need to settle nor rush into anything, Kate and William dating for years before tying the knot five years ago.
Of course that can all backfire and set the bar so impossibly high that no romance could ever possibly compare and Charlotte won’t ever feel that anyone is good enough (they won’t be, so a little settling will be required)… But the royal family can just cross that bridge when they come to it. Best the princess master nursery school first.
It Never Hurts to Have a Nation Rooting For You
Charlotte and George are like Olympic athletes, only their Games are year-round. They’ve got a whole country rooting for them, other countries are likely to jump on the bandwagon due to how cute they look in pictures and anyone who doesn’t root for them is just a stingy misanthrope.
Style Icon in the Making
Everything that Charlotte wears or plays with in any picture taken of her will sell out. That’s just a fact.
Press Association via AP Images/HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
Ultimately, as a millennia-old institution continues to adjust to existence in the 21st century, Princess Charlotte will enjoy more freedoms than ever when it comes to choosing her path in life—and more options will be open to her than ever before. She is already starting out in a family where women have held the utmost power (off and on for centuries!), and is of the generation where the parents are more mindful than ever of the importance of maintaining balance when the spotlight is always on.
Kate, in the vein of Diana, is determined to have her children grow up in the most “normal” manner possible, and William is more of a hands-on dad than any British male royal who’s come before. The equalization of the sexes in all walks of life—professional, political, economic, social and beyond—is an ongoing process, the royal family simultaneously playing catch-up and setting an example. The urgency to preserve tradition no longer takes the place of the opportunity to live the fullest life possible.
Charlotte may forever be a member of the world’s most famous family, but she’ll have every opportunity to be her own woman and further the modernization of the monarchy.
Though she’s still Her Royal Highness to the rest of us.