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What Is the Most Boring Thing a Royal Can Do?

From walkabouts to wardrobe malfunctions, the British aristocracy are not just like us

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Let me guess the one complaint you have about Netflix’s sumptuous, $130 million royal drama The Crown: It’s sort of boring. As The Ringer’s Alison Herman has already pointed out, the show might focus on the British aristocracy but it lacks the sordid, soapy plot twists and turns that make other shows about the British aristocracy (Downton Abbey, Wolf Hall, The Tudors) so tantalizing. Instead, it’s about government, and also redecorating.

So The Crown, which follows the ascent of Queen Elizabeth II, is not exciting. It’s many other things: meticulous, and gray-washed, and as slow-moving as the RMS Queen Mary. It delights in the very small details, like a visual encyclopedia of all the boring stuff royal people do. It is restrained. It is deliberate. It’s like watching a British candle slowly burn itself out into a wax puddle for 10 hours.

This, my friends, is also its secret superpower. Because truly, what’s more soothing than royals being so damn boring? Feeling stressed? Look at this picture of Queen Elizabeth going to the grocery store and surveying all the peanut butters like, “Wow, how did this get here?!” Had a hard day at work? Voila, here are pictures of Kate Middleton staring at a bicycle to make it all go away. As People’s Royals vertical and Vanity Fair and the Daily Mail and your mother-in-law have known for decades, royal inanity is a time-honored source of mindless distraction. It is a natural SSRI. It is obscenely expensive comfort food.

This isn’t to say that everything royals do is boring. They’re human beings, after all. Sometimes they get spicy, too: They party too hard, they have affairs, get divorces, date stars of USA’s Suits. Sometimes they shade Canadian dignitaries, or give too-revealing interviews to Martin Bashir about the time they had an affair with a riding instructor. And on the flip side, not every boring thing that happens in a royal’s life is actually soothing. For example: death, war, planning war, lung surgery, or the lethal smog that is prominently featured in Episode 4 of The Crown.

But buying baby clothes and duck hunting? Those are boring and comforting as hell. So, in honor of The Crown — perhaps the most comprehensive chronicle of British royal dullness to date — here’s a ranking of the most dull things British royals do, from least dull (i.e. slightly exciting) to most boring (basically Klonopin). Try not to get too excited.

Duchess Camilla and Prince Charles (Getty Images)
Duchess Camilla and Prince Charles (Getty Images)

Walking

Royals Walking is a highly documented genre of Royals Doing Stuff. There are recessionals and processionals. There are walking tours of foreign lands, walkthroughs of new buildings before ribbon-cutting ceremonies, walking down large hallways of castles. Walking to planes, from planes, down stairs, up stairs. They also invented a new word, “walkabout,” for the activity that involves going out and greeting commoners. You know who doesn’t struggle to get their 10,000 steps in? Royals.

How boring is it? Honestly, it’s just walking — but sometimes things get unexpectedly interesting: It’s difficult to walk in a gown, sometimes your sister (Princess Margaret) forgets she’s supposed to walk two steps behind you, and sometimes your husband (Prince Philip) gets all huffy because he can’t get over having to walk behind the queen in front of paparazzi because she’s “his wife.” Also sometimes you do walk to very cool things.

Changing Your Name

When Queen Elizabeth got married, she wanted to change her name, because it was the ’50s and her husband was kind of chauvinist and insisted on this kind of thing. The catch: As the queen, she wasn’t allowed to take anyone else’s name, because the whole damn country is in her name.

How boring is it? This weirdly had a lot of drama for an argument about an activity that typically takes place at the DMV. Her husband was so mad, and he glared at her so rudely during the press conference! It almost made me care about this consequence-less argument about a last name.

Losing Control of Your Skirt

Queen Elizabeth II puts weights in the hems of her dresses and skirts to ensure they won’t flip up in a gust of wind. Duchess Kate doesn’t seem to do that. In fact, Google “Kate Middleton Wardrobe Malfunction,” and you’ll get more hits than any other wardrobe malfunction. In fact, I found a slideshow of “10 Times Kate Middleton Suffered a Wardrobe Malfunction,” which means this has definitely happened to her more than 10 times. Documented occurrences include: when her Alexander McQueen dress lost a battle with a strong wind in Singapore, when a yellow Jenny Packham dress couldn’t withstand the breeze created by a helicopter at the Calgary International Airport, and once at a children’s anti-bullying rally in London.

How boring is it? You would assume that an almost bum-reveal would be more exciting than walking — but here’s the trick. Kate Middleton only toes the line of full wardrobe malfunction, it’s never full malfunction. Take for example, her April trip to India. Her white dress flapped up in a totally respectable way. It wasn’t even that embarrassing! The skirt floated up and came back down around her legs gently and picturesquely, as if she had a fan trained on her for effect. Sure, these moments are a little bit exciting, but that excitement is quickly counteracted by a Beyoncé-like calm and control, so it remains blissfully, soothingly dull.

‘Vanity Fair’
‘Vanity Fair’

Caring for Corgis

Queen Elizabeth II loves two things: corgis, and another thing I can’t think of. When she agreed to be on the cover of Vanity Fair for her 90th birthday, she posed with four corgis, but she barely smiled, and that is because she wanted a corgi for every year she was alive. Here is a related 7,000-word article about how Queen Elizabeth breeds her corgis.

How boring is it? Corgis are hardly the most exciting dogs (they’re no labradoodles, you know?) — resembling bolster pillows with legs. If one was curled up on a couch, you could easily sit on it because you thought it was a shaggy little decorative pillow instead of a dog. Also, royal corgis have boring, appropriate names like “Willow” or “Emma,” and you have to feed them every day, even if you are the queen. On the flip side, they’re very popular on the internet.

Getting Bangs

On September 13, 2015, Kate Middleton debuted bangs. Bangs. It probably took about four scissor snips, a little bit of a ruffle, and a tiny bit of extra styling cream, but it made headlines. It made the nightly news. I’m sure the event was discussed on morning talk shows like “Kathie Lee and Hoda” on Today. Kate Middleton’s bangs launched a wave of ill-advised bang-getting amongst non-royals who don’t have her bone structure.

How boring is it? I know “bangs” made headlines but it’s just a few inches of hair followed by endless fussing with bobby pins on gym days. Bangs are a safe sort of exciting for people who really aren’t allowed to alter their perfect, long, glossy brown hair. For example, Rory Gilmore got bangs.

Wearing a Bathrobe

Here is a picture of a tiny child in a “dressing gown.” (That is British for bathrobe.) It made it into multiple international magazines.

How boring is it? It’s stupid. Bathrobes are the dullest of all bedclothes, but also: Look at the tiny monarch in the tiny bathrobe!

Disembarking Airplanes

A royal can’t just schlep a bag off of a Southwest flight, into Terminal 2, and grab some honey mustard pretzel nibs and wait for an Uber. No. A royal must put on a nice outfit, hold hands, and descend little stairs directly onto the runway.

Getty Images
Getty Images

How boring is it? It’s the art of descending stairs onto concrete.

Meeting Other Dignitaries

Another key part of being a royal is traveling around and meeting different royals from different nations. It’s important to foster good international relations and also an excuse to take a trip. How pleasant!

How boring is it? There’s a reason little Prince George refused to high-five Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. All the pomp and circumstance of meeting other dignitaries is not exciting enough to hold a toddler’s attention. Meeting new people requires things like shaking hands, smiling, making small talk, exposing yourself to cold germs, and learning lots of details about someone’s life ahead of time (so you have something to talk about, but only the kind of details that couldn’t ever possibly offend them). Sometimes you get a bilby exhibit named after you, but only if you behave.

Wearing Knee Socks

Little Prince George wears so many pairs of knee socks. He’s worn navy ones and white ones. He wears them with shorts — are his thighs cold? Who knows. The point is socks.

How boring is it? Socks are not as exciting as bathrobes.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (Getty Images)

Waving

If you’re a member of a royal family, your arm muscles must get so sculpted from all the waving you have to do at all the events where you’re required to “greet” your “subjects” or engage with the paparazzi. I wonder if royals just have horribly uneven arm muscles, though, from waving with one hand all the time.

How boring is it? Elbow wrist hand smile elbow wrist hand smile elbow wrist hand smile elbow wrist hand smile.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (Getty Images)

Breeding Horses

The queen loves her corgis. But not as much as Prince Philip fucking loves his horses. The man is 95 and still rides them and watches people play polo on them. But he maybe really loves making horses bone (or, you know, simulating the effects of horses boning) for the purpose of creating other beautiful horses to ride and watch people play polo on.

How boring is it? I don’t know much about breeding, but I bet there are lots of schedules and pre-planning and oversized syringes and all sorts of unsexy and dull things. Scheduled insemination sounds so dull, it makes that whole “lie back and think of England” philosophy sound downright scintillating.

Writing a Party Planning Book

In 2012, Pippa Middleton wrote a book. She’s not an ordained royal, but her sister is a duchess and being royal-adjacent means you have a reputation to protect and uphold. You can’t just write the next Fifty Shades of Grey or a Devil Wears Prada–style tell-all about how much it sucks being a non-princess sister, or pen an unauthorized biography of Queen Elizabeth’s corgis. No, you have to write a harmless book about something that you’re very familiar with: having and attending parties.

Pippa Middleton (Getty Images)
Pippa Middleton (Getty Images)

How boring is it? Here’s an example of a riveting piece of advice: “Don’t forget to put a pitcher of water and glasses on the table or a nearby side table if there’s no room.”

And there we have it, the dullest thing a royal can do: write a guide for non-royals detailing how us commoners can do all of the boring, mundane things that they do. Even though we know the truth — royals are not just like us; they’re better at being boring.