x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Princess what's-her-title

What's in a name? And what will Kate Middleton be called after she marries the future king of England?

Tomorrow Miss Middleton-as-was will gain many things. A husband for starters, two billion people passing judgement on her dress sense to be going along with, some seriously good wedding presents and a new title to boot.

We don't know what it is yet, although anyone hoping for Mrs Windsor is likely to be disappointed. The bestowing of a title is an honour conveyed by the Queen, who can, as is only right and proper, make it up as she goes along.

Front-runners include Princess Catherine of Wales, although this goes against protocol given that Britain's future queen is - gasp - a commoner. Apparently, Princess Catherine may be acceptable so long as nobody is tempted to doodle HRH in front of her name. Those crucial three little letters, however, could work if the title is Princess William of Wales. But surely, that's not worth it - even the glossiest-of-blow-dried Boujis lovely would struggle to carry off William, or, as is far more likely to suit headline-writers the world over, Wills. And therein lies the rub: the tyranny of the shortened name. Catherine Middleton was, by all accounts, known as Catherine until the tabloids and their space-saving sub-editors came into her life and she became Kate. Catherine, aside from being misspelt (clearly, the correct version is Katherine with a K), is a perfectly serviceable, mercifully neutral, name. As I well know, it's resolutely vague, comfortably dull.

The various shortenings, though, are as loaded with social stereotypes as they come. In the same way that Wills is acceptably princely and Billy most definitely isn't, Kate or Katie were (at least until Katie Price lent the latter a tinge of Tango-tan and an Essex twang) the upper-middle-accepted contractions. Kat, Kit and Kitty all seem to be trying a bit too hard for anyone, and then there's the dreaded, ultimately non-U, Cath. It's as hard to imagine, after all, a Princess Cath as it is a Duchess Melanie or Queen Consort Lorraine. Having been Kath, Kate and Katy to various people at various times, while remaining Katherine to my family all along, I'd like to bet that Miss Middleton is quietly hoping that her new title might herald a return to her full name. It probably won't happen, but once the new title is in place, perhaps she might take comfort from the fact that anything has to be better than Waity Katie. Even Princess Bill.