I don’t want to alarm anyone but I have big news.
At least it’s big news for my part of the world, that strange, shadowy realm inhabited by royalists, ritualists, Roman Catholics and the odd gremlin or two.
The privilege du blanc has been extended to the HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco.
I know, right!? Who saw that coming!?
Ok, let me fill you in.
At all official audiences with the pope, all women are expected to wear black.
The privilege du blanc, which means “privilege of white” is – believe it or not – the privilege to wear white instead. According to Vatican tradition, it is only granted to Catholic queens and grand duchesses.
You are supposed to wear black even if you are a monarch, like Queen Elizabeth II.
Even if you are the daughter of Catholic monarch, like Infanta Cristina of Spain.
And even if you are the wife of the most powerful man in the world.
Those who don’t wear black, those with the privilege du blanc, form a very exclusive club. There used to be more royal women who were eligible, like the princesses of Italy and and grand duchess of Austria-Hungary and the queens of former Catholic monarchies like Portugal, France, Bavaria etc)
Nowadays, there only four women with the privilege: Queen Sofia of Spain, Queen Paola of Belgium, Queen Fabiola of Belgium, and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg. (Since writing this, Belgium has another queen with the privilege: Queen Mathilde!)
And now, Princess Charlene has rocked up to the Vatican in white.
The privilege never belonged to Monaco in the past. When Charlene’s mother-in-law, the always elegant Princess Grace went to the Vatican, she wore black. (And oh, did she wear it well!)
The Vatican has confirmed that the privilege has been granted to Princess Charlene. According to the Vatican Press Office, ”… in accordance with prescribed ceremonial of the Vatican for Catholic sovereigns, the princess was allowed to dress in white…”
I wonder whose initiative it was. Did Charlene have her heart set on a white dress? Did some Vatican functionary decide to “democratise” the privilege?
Either way, it will give our Catholic queens (and Grand Duchess) something to chat about at the next Vatican do!