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Soon after their engagement, Kate Middleton and Prince William announced they would break with tradition and forgo traditional wedding presents in lieu of charitable donations, revealing a list of organizations with "particular resonance" to the prince and princess-to-be. Among the chosen: an army widows' association, a London zoo project, and Beatbullying, a children's charity that provides tools to families and schools to help combat bullying.
The choice was largely believed to be the result of Kate suffering at the hands of bullies at Downe House, a boarding school she attend for just two terms as a young teen. In a new book, a friend of Kate's acknowledges the bullying occurred, and denies that the alleged tactics are as gruesome as smearing feces on the future queen's school bed. But now, the headmistress of the school is speaking out, saying that she "honestly think[s] the bullying issue has all been blown up to fit the fact that [Kate's] chosen this charity. Hand on heart, I can almost swear nothing terrible happened to her at Downe House," Susan Cameron tells the Daily Mail.
"On the whole, the girls were all fairly straightforward," she continues. "They could be nasty to each other but if someone was unhappy they'd all rally round and cheer people up. It may be that because Kate didn't settle, some of the pupils took that as implicit criticism or rejection of them and in return innocently mocked her about not being happy and wanting to go home instead."
If I had to guess, I'd say that this woman is a little out of touch with just how cruel girls can be. Miss Middleton and I are about the same age -- she, 30; I, 31 -- and I can attest to the great lengths mean girls will go to make sure your days are pure hell, even before the dawn of cyberbullying, an unfortunate trend that's proving how the torment doesn't end when the school day does.
The stance this woman seems to be taking -- that "girls will be girls" -- is a cop out. Bullying is bullying, and is not simply unfortunate but unacceptable. Even if what Kate endured wasn't the worst of what happened at the school, or even at the level of what girls today must withstand, there are no excuses. The fact that Kate chose to support an anti-bullying charity some 15 years after her alleged anguish occurred only proves how long-lasting the effects of bullying can be.
Even so, it's nice to see that Kate is taking that negative experience and turning it into something positive. In fact, Will's and Kate's choice to ask for charitable donations over the latest Keurig coffeemaker is one trend we're happy to see growing.
"Over the last five years, we've seen a tripling in this category," says David Wood, president of the Association of Bridal Consultations, a professional organization for wedding planners. Websites like the I Do Foundation and The Wedding Channel help couples set up methods for their guests to donate to charities and wedding planners also are adept at facilitating the process.
In addition to having a generous spirit, another reason brides and grooms choose to ask for donations instead of gifts is to set their wedding apart. "We've seen a move toward people wanting to brand their own wedding," Wood says. "There's a huge surge toward individualized weddings and having something memorable about them."
No doubt Kate and William's wedding already has the "memorable" thing going for it. Looks like they've got a head-start on the generosity thing too.