Fairy tale romance or fauxmance?

knight-in-shining-armor (2)We’ve all seen the personal ads, heard the familiar phrases. Brainy blonde looking for my knight in shining armor. Investment banker in search of his queen. Prince or Princess Charming, where the hell are you?

From televised tripe like The Bachelor to essays in The New York Times (where a writer recently lamented that she “would love to experience life as a pampered princess, at least once”), you’ll find some single people clinging to dreams of royal romance as desperately as some folks hang onto their bad high-school-hair.

I’ve got a new piece out on Singularcity.com (the same folks who publish the slick, sensational Singular Magazine) that discusses the pyrite-like allure of fairy tale romance and what life was really like for kings, queens, princesses and those handsome knights in shining armor.

According to social historian Stephanie Coontz, most royal unions were nasty, brutish and short – especially on love.

“Princess Diana’s situation is typical as far as the historic tradition goes,” says Coontz, author of Marriage: A History and director of education at the Council on Contemporary Families. “Once they got the woman to give them their heir, the king or prince went back to whomever they really liked.”

Princesses were usually pampered by their sycophantic servants rather than suitors and those dashing knights weren’t exactly handsome heroes (or all that hygienic).

For the full story behind the “happily ever after” stuff we’ve been reared on all these years, click here.  Warning: reading this story may be hazardous to your Disneyesque  ideals of  romance.

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2 Responses to “Fairy tale romance or fauxmance?”


  1. 1 Jalapeno Bob November 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    It was not just the women who were pawns at the game of highborn marriage. Most kings and knights were married off while they were still heir to their title by either their father, their liege or the king. In many cases, just as in arranged marriages today, the couple did not know each other well – in many cases, they met on their wedding day. Of course it was rare that a marriage was anything to do with love!

    As for giving birth “in public”, have you been in a modern labor and delivery room? There is no privacy there, either!

    As for romance? I cannot talk. I walked into a church on a Sunday in 1982 and saw a tall blonde in the choir. The following Thursday, I asked her to marry me – she turned me down. Ten months later, we got married in that same church and are still married today, twenty-seven years later. I still love her.

    • 2 Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles November 12, 2009 at 11:01 pm

      Wonderful article! I love the historical angle. Since I’ve been doing extensive genealogy research lately, it’s been interesting to see some of these machinations in my own family history on larger and smaller scales.

      When I hear someone whining about how she wants to find Prince Charming and be treated like a queen, I always think it represents a dangerous conflation of love and ego. Although love is supposed to be the foundation of all selflessness, most of the time, romance seems to be about ego stroking. After all, isn’t that why we become infatuated with people? Because they make us feel so good about ourselves? Infatuation can grow into mature love (the kind you can feel for friends and family, too, not just romantic partners), but when people talk about how they want the fairytale, I tend to think what they want is infatuation.


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What’s the story?

Meet Diane Mapes, your friendly neighborhood freelance writer. My beats include health (with an emphasis on cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship) and lifestyle and singles issues, but I also love writing about history, natural history, pop culture and TV/film. On this site, you'll find links to stories, praise for my writing (*blush*) and the odd bit of social commentary about the single life. Also here, a few shameless plugs for my books (hint: see links below). Have fun, glad you're here and hope to hear from you soon.

Oh! And if you're looking for my breast cancer blog, go to Double_Whammied

Check out my books!

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

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