The first picture of Prince George, taken in July 2013 by his grandfather Michael Middleton.
The first picture of Prince George, taken by his grandfather Michael Middleton.
Long hair remains the preserve of little girls, youth, a maidenhood just beginning to spell sex. It is the stuff of fairy tale; the accessory that every heroine must boast. She will unleash it to ensnare her prince a la Rapunzel, or use it to bewitch in the manner of Keats's Belle Dame Sans Merci. When Pelleas caresses Melisande's luxuriant locks in Debussy's opera, it is the transgression that marks their undoing; Renaissance brides let their hair fall untrammelled, a symbol of youth, sex and fertility.
The Duchess's royal ambitions began in girlhood, with a poster of her prince on her wall. (She denies this, but the story lingers.) She yearned to be a princess and a princess needs princess hair. Kate may have been merely middle-class, but in this respect she was qualified for the job.
At first there were the tangled tresses of your average Sloane, sexed up for that moment when she appeared on the St Andrews catwalk in the transparent frock that propelled her from girl next door to official love interest. As their commitment grew, so did the scale of her do, until it reached its current proportions: big, bouncy and bizarrely out of proportion with her slender frame.
Diana "banished her helmet hair in favour of shorter, sexier styles".
Diana "banished her helmet hair in favour of shorter, sexier styles". Photo: AP
Hairdressers notoriously detest it, longing to take their scissors to it. "It's awful," carps one prominent London coiffeur, on condition that he remain anonymous. "A schoolgirl affectation – no wonder Vogue covered it with a hat." The Queen is also rumoured to favour a pruning.
Princess Diana also started public life with a too-formidable do. Sam McKnight, the man who banished her helmet hair in favour of shorter, sexier styles, recently told the Telegraph: "She was a bit nervous about the slicked-back appearance. Like many women, she used to hide behind her hair. But she looked her best when she didn't do anything to it. She knew that – but she also knew that the public wanted to see her do the princess thing."
Her daughter-in-law may lack Diana's patrician pedigree, but this makes her only more committed to doing the "princess thing". Kate's hair is her badge-of-pride-cum-security-blanket. And she controls it as she controls her body – with an iron will – enslaving herself to it as a symbol of royal duty.
The Duke and Duchess have done much to modernise our perception of royalty, be it with their frozen pizzas or displays of familial love. Curious, then, for Kate to cling so doggedly to this one prominent anachronism. If she really wants to reconcile monarchy with modernity, she has nothing to lose but those rollers