Playing by the rules

Kate won William by following some age-old theories that promise a marriage proposal, says Rachel Walsh.

CATHERINE Elizabeth Middleton is getting married. The groom is a real-life ‘prince charming’ but Friday (or K-day, as the UK press dubs it) belongs to the bride. She holds the world’s media in thrall. Everything from her lineage to her jean size has been reported in the search for an answer to the nine-year-old question: What is it about this woman that captured a future king’s heart? Even before she slipped on the Queen of Hearts diamond, millions of women understood what confounds the press. By action if not design, Kate Middleton is a ‘rules girl.’

The Rules is a bestselling 1950s-style guide to modern dating, published in 1995. Authors Sherrie Schneider and Ellen Fein’s 35 rules originate from a grandmother that got “more marriage proposals than shoes” in her day. They council that because men are hunters and like to be challenged, women looking for love must be challenging.

The book is packed with what Sex and the City fans might call Charlotte-isms: “Don’t call him”; “Don’t ask him out”; “Wear your hair long.”

Oprah Winfrey calls the guide “a movement” and its followers, known as ‘rules girls,’ are legion. The Rules is available in 27 languages, and together with a sequel, The Rules II, and The Rules for Marriage, has sold three million copies.

The philosophy has spawned a sub-genre of “tough love” dating guides, including He’s Just Not That into You. The Rules has reached a fourth generation. Beyoncé Knowles, who celebrates her third wedding anniversary this month, is a fan. Kate Middleton’s Rules-like behaviour also got William to put a ring on it.

Rule #1 — Be a Creature Unlike Any Other

Kate is the epitome of what Fein and Schneider call a ‘creature unlike any other.’ This has nothing to do with being the prettiest, richest or most successful woman in the room. The authors say a CUAO is “all about attitude, a sense of confidence and radiance that permeates her being from head to toe.” Kate isn’t a model, an heiress or titled, as many of the girls vying for William’s attention were. Apparently, this bothered no one but mean-spirited commentators. Katie Nicholl, author of Kate and William: A Royal Romance, writes that while Kate was seeing William at St Andrew’s University, a classmate told her she was lucky. “He’s lucky to be going out with me,” was her reply. Kate also carries herself like a princess.

Her style is conservative and feminine. She’s dignified and independent. Princess Diana’s former private secretary, Patrick Jephson, says Kate has “natural nobility. Some might say this is the best kind.”

Rule #2 — Don’t Talk to a Man First

“How else will you know if he’s attracted to you or just being polite? Men know what they want. Let him approach you,” says Fein. Kate kept this rule, too, telling ITV News that she “turned red and scuttled off” when the couple was first introduced.

According to Katie Nicholl, Prince William liked that she was quieter than the other girls. She brushed passed him in the university dining hall for weeks before he plucked up the courage to ask her to join him for breakfast.

Rule #3 — Don’t Stare at Men

“Let him look at you,” say Fein and Schneider. This rule apparently works best if you model a transparent dress in front of him at a charity fashion show, as Kate did in 2002. Prince William reportedly paid £200 for a front-row seat and made his first move at the after-show party. She was dating cricketer, Rupert Finch, at the time and loyally rebuffed Britain’s most eligible bachelor. This is exactly how Fein and Schneider recommend women behave when dealing with a man used to having anyone he wants. “The easier he thinks he has it, the more challenging you must become.”

Rule #16 — Don’t tell Him What to Do

“If you don’t like a guy’s behaviour, just act like you don’t need him. Get busy and he’ll come after you,” says Schneider. In 2007, the couple broke up amid rumours that Kate sought a commitment William wasn’t prepared to make. Rather than plead with him, she gave him a taste of life without her. Ex-Tatler features editor, Ticky Hedley-Dent, says: “Kate handled the royal break-up like a pro. She kept her cool the whole way through and made sure that she always looked immaculate and like she was having fun. When she went out on the town as a single woman to [Prince William’s favourite] nightspots Boujis and Mahiki, Kate made sure she looked desirable. She never got drunk or lost control. She behaved in a dignified fashion, which no doubt impressed William and made him realise what a mistake he had made,” she says.

Rule #4 — Don’t Meet Him Halfway

“If you break up and he wants to get back together, the worst thing you can do is make it easy for him. Men like a challenge. Why deny them that?” ask The Rules’ authors. Within three months of the break-up, reports surfaced that William wanted to get back together. Kate, who was photographed with a string of eligible men during their separation, was given assurances about their future. “I believe they have had an understanding [that they would eventually marry] since they got back together again,” says Claudia Joseph, author of Kate Middleton — Princess in Waiting and Kate: The Making of a Princess.

Rule #18 — Don’t Expect a Man to Change or Try to Change Him

“You don’t own him. Accept the things you don’t like about being with him or walk away,” says Fein. Kate will have a fairytale wedding but being a prince’s wife is a difficult, full-time occupation. Kate won’t promise to “obey” William as part of her vows but royal and military commitments mean she’ll need to adapt to suit his life for the rest of hers. One of the benefits of their lengthy engagement is the time she’s had to prove she can deal with this. Claudia Joseph thinks she’s well-prepared.

“So far, Kate has acquitted herself admirably at royal weddings, military graduation ceremonies and public engagements. She has not put a foot wrong. She is naturally private, discreet and very dignified in public so I am sure she has the ability to cope with the role.”

Rule #33 — Do The Rules and You’ll Live Happily Ever After!

“When you do The Rules, there are no eight-year courtships. In our experience, you can expect a proposal within two years,” say Fein and Schneider, who also hold individual consultations with Rules followers. Clearly Kate and William, who met at 19, were too young to marry so soon. The authors also believe her future in-laws’ experience further lengthened a courtship that earned Kate the moniker Waity Katie. Andrew Morton, author of William and Catherine — Their Lives, Their Wedding, says “certainly, the legacy that Diana gave William was time — time to choose when and who he wanted to marry from whatever tier of society he wanted. “Ironically, while Prince Charles sowed his wild oats around Europe, William chose virtually his first girlfriend.”

The Rules is frequently criticised as anachronistic and sexist. Instructions like “be honest but mysterious” (Rule #20) are certainly difficult to follow while Facebook and Twitter publicise streams of consciousness. You may find the advice to “wear black sheer stockings and a short skirt (not too short)” a little retro. However, on Friday a commoner will marry a future British King for the first time since 1660, having behaved like a Rules girl.

Maybe the old rules aren’t made to be broken, especially if you believe in happily ever after.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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