Britain's Prince Harry gestures during a visit to Bacon's college to launch the Coach core sports programme, which is a partnership between the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Greenhouse charity, a day before the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony in Rotherhithe, London July 26, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
In Kate Middleton, Britain has a future queen who descends on her mother's side from coalminers in England's north.
Such a thing would have been unheard of three decades ago, when Prince Charles unenthusiastically married Prince William and Prince Harry's mother, Lady Diana Spencer, because she was an earl's daughter and he had to marry somebody.
Like Us on Facebook
But we all know how that marriage turned out, and the House of Windsor has since learned to relax and let love find a way.
It could be seen as a surprise, then, that Prince Harry - the more mischief-prone of the royal brothers - might just be reverting to tradition and dating a woman whose ancestors were lords, not laborers.
The prince's unconfirmed girlfriend is Cressida Bonas, a willowy blond model who is also said to be an aspiring actress, and whose mother is Lady Mary-Gaye Georgiana Lorna Curzon.
Lady Mary-Gaye, a bright young thing in the London of the late sixties, is the daughter of the 5th Earl of Howe and consequently has a very long and grand family tree. Her great-grandmother was a daughter of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, and her great-great-grandmother a daughter of the 3rd Marquess of Queensberry. She is also a direct descendent of the 1st Duke of Beaufort, the 8th Earl of Galloway, and the 3rd Duke of Grafton (grandson of the 1st Duke, the illegitimate son of King Charles II).
Cressida's father, businessman Jeffrey Bonas, alas has no title. His family made its money in textiles, putting him on par with Kate's father Michael Middleton in coming from Britain's moneyed middle class. But while Michael Middleton grew up in the city of Leeds and prepped at the merely-respectable Clifton College, Jeffrey Bonas grew up in country houses in Nottinghamshire and boarded at the much more aristocratic Harrow School. He then continued on to Oxford.
The difference in upbringing may go some way to explain why Bonas married an earl's daughter and Middleton married a builder's daughter who grew up in what the British call a council flat and Americans call a housing project.
Further adding to the aristocratic aura surrounding Cressida's family are their numerous scandals, infidelities, and divorces. Her parents married amid her father's splashy split from his first wife (the marriage didn't last), and her mother has five children by three of her four ex-husbands (a half-sibling is Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe , a one-time crush of Prince William's who is now engaged to Sir Richard Branson's son).
This is another striking difference between Cressida and Kate's backgrounds: Kate's parents have been so gauche as to maintain an apparently solid marriage for more than three decades.
Given the Windsors' own history with scandal and divorce, they can't very well raise any objection to Cressida based on her parents' behavior. Whether Harry's future in-laws are lowborn and well-behaved or highborn reprobates, his family will surely show up and smile on his wedding day.