so sabrina guinness is largely famous in my world for being one of the inappropriate girlfriends of prince charles in the immortal amazing made-for-television classic CHARLES & CAMILLA: WHATEVER LOVE MEANS, which you all should’ve watched because, omg, it is totally the greatest movie our time. (for reals. do not be deterred by the brevity of its wikipedia page.)
she’s also famous outside of this movie for having been one of the inappropriate girlfriends of prince charles, having tried to sit in a chair at balmoral only reserved for the ass of the ghost of victoria, and having dated a rolling stone.
in little known other facts, she has one of the smallest internet footprints of all time. seriously. the google image search brings up photos of russell brand, lulu and daphne guinness, the cast of duck dynasty, and this photograph of maggie thatcher:
what it does not bring up is scores of photos of sabrina guinness, thus, for help in illustrating our story, we once again turn to The Queen of Emotions All Over the Face Face, miss britney…
… rather than to images of guinness herself, who only seems to feature in images with prince charles, half of which are actually images of prince charles with his other girlfriends. (the prep involved in illustrating this post has revealed an encyclopedic personal knowledge of the ex-girlfriends of prince charles that i had not known i possess.)
so here’s where we are… sabrina guinness, “the most eligible woman in Britain” (a curse if ever there was one!) has gotten engaged to tom stoppard, and the daily mail has celebrated their engagement by writing maybe the grossest engagement announcement of all time. starting with the headline:
the impression i get from this is that all of britain has been holding its breath waiting for this woman to wed, non? is that the take-away? that no one could resist her but no one would marry her and, finally, at long last, she’s being married off… [OMINOUS DRUMS]… to a villain.
WOULD THAT THIS WERE MADE INTO A DISNEY MOVIE. omg, can you see it?!
but this is not a disney movie… it’s real life. and, in real life, women’s lives are still narrated this way in the press:
‘The question is why it’s taken all these years for Sabrina Guinness to have a diamond engagement ring on her finger for the first time in her life…’
really?? is that the question we should be asking? might it not be more interesting to discuss what she’s been doing during “all these years”? how she established a charity that helps disadvantaged youth learn television production? how she was apparently blackmailed by romanian criminals? alas, no.
the DM boils down the 30+ years since guinness dated prince charles to a record of everyone else she dated:
“There certainly wasn’t a shortage of men. She was seen out (again) with Jagger, and dated actor Michael Douglas, who was reported as saying: ‘I love Sabrina.’ Singer Bryan Ferry came and went, as did Morgan Mason, politician son of the actor James Mason. Her male friends were an eclectic bunch. On Millennium Eve, she was the partner of Labour politician Peter Mandelson at the Dome to join the Queen and the Blairs et al.”
srsly. heaven help us all if our lives were reduced to a catalog of failed relationships.
the DM is careful to note that “the ‘Charles’s ex’ label has always stuck to her,” a statement that is both true and terribly disingenuous, as the label sticks because that is how she is billed in the press. the telegraph‘s report on the blackmailing, for instance, positions her in relation to the prince in both the sub-headline and the introductory sentence of its report.
so the label has stuck because that is how she is referenced. rather than calling her a “philanthropist” or a “socialite” or “[insert anything here]” (and i don’t know what to insert because they’ve not told me enough about her in this article), she is known as charles’s ex-girlfriend, and because she is always called “charles’s ex-girlfriend” the label sticks. it’s the way that historically, for better or worse, women’s lives have been typically framed.
for instance, there’s a reason i wanted to this to be a disney movie. both because discussion of women and their lives often co-opts the language of fairy tales (a “male admirer” of guinness characterizes her as “a cross between Goldilocks and Alice in Wonderland”) and because the DM is blatantly framing this story as such: a fairy tale where the woman waits and waits (like rapunzel or snow white or sleeping beauty) to be rescued and finally is.
however, here the formula is perverted, because guinness’s rescuer is depicted as a rather bad man. stoppard’s many marriages and “reckless private life” are discussed at length, so that it becomes clear that guinness has waited all these years only to tie herself to a diabolical ne’er do well (sabrina guinness as a 21st century isabel archer, if you will).
as if that isn’t enough, the article concludes with a moralization that predicts imminent doom for the couple whose engagement it is announcing:
“The synopsis is all there. Ex-love of the heir to the world’s most glamorous throne loses him thanks to a combination of protocol and tradition, and avoids marriage for 34 years — before marrying a distinguished author whom she knows has a dangerously poor record as a husband. Someone should write it, shouldn’t they, Sir Tom?”
the bother is that buried in the midst of this pile of shite is a story that could be quite interesting:
“One friend says: ‘Sabrina has never displayed any real need to get married or desire to do so. She’s always been so very independent, with a full life, on the invitation list of practically everyone who matters in London, and she’s never been short of male admirers. None of her boyfriends ever looked like serious propositions.'”
“She’s always been so very independent, with a full life…” how innovative it would be to tell that story instead.