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Stories about the Royal Family splashed across the front pages of Britain’s newspapers are nothing new, but when those stories are about royal girlfriends, I start to get mildly irritated.  Is this really headline news?  Apparently so.  Last week the front page of The Sun screamed Her Royal Highcress spends the weekend at Sandringham in reference to Harry’s latest flame, Cressida Bonas, visiting the Queen’s estate.  Clearly, we were a country all the better for knowing what Cressida did two weekends prior, but, continued The Sun, although neither the Queen nor Prince Charles were in residence, such an invitation could mean only one thing: Cressida had been “Approved” by the family.  Hurrah!  Time to start shopping for fascinators and submitting our orders for commemorative teapots and Knit Cressida Kits.  Alert the bookies, raise the flags, and secure the bunting; another royal wedding is on the horizon!  Eventually…one day…far into the future…and maybe with a different pretty blonde altogether.

Royal weddings are big business, and there’s nothing like a royal romance when it comes to selling newspapers, but they are perhaps jumping the gun on this one. The UK is coming off a stellar two years.  2011’s Royal Wedding created an altogether excitable, patriotic, and fervent British public.  After worldwide reviews to the tune of “No-one does it like the Brits,” royalist pride rolled over into the Diamond Jubilee celebrations followed by the hugely successful Summer Olympics.  Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, news of the royal pregnancy broke.  Seven months whizzed by; Andy Murray won Wimbledon; England clinched the Ashes over Australia; Chris Froome won the Tour de France, and Prince George was born.  Kate left the hospital with residual baby bump on full display, and the country collapsed in a pool of pride after an epic two years in the glare of the global spotlight.  I’m breathless just thinking about it.  But now what?

With no significant royal events on the calendar, the Olympic flame en route to Brazil, and headlines reverting back to emergency room negligence and horse meat in beef burgers, there’s only one thing for it.  Harry has to get married.  Or does he?

Being a royal girlfriend really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Former actress Koo Stark, who dated Prince Andrew in 1981, was widely tipped to become his wife, even meeting the Queen at Balmoral before it surfaced that she’d starred in a saucy film called Emily.   While Emily may have killed it for the Queen, Andrew’s insistence on his girlfriends (along with the rest of the planet) calling him “Sir” may have killed it for Koo.  Another well-known actress, who has asked to remain nameless, loves to share her tale of spending the night with another of the Queen’s sons at Buckingham Palace.  Much to her shock, the young prince was audacious enough to demand that she get out of bed to stand for the National Anthem as it played during the Changing of the Guard in the forecourt below.  He continued to lounge beneath the covers while she stood in the nuddy looking down The Mall as the Grenadiers trumpeted their resounding salute…at which point she knew it probably wasn’t going to work out.

Cruel monikers are often bestowed by the rags (although “Waity Katie” of “Wisteria Sisters” fame clinched the last laugh on that one).  Legions of photographers set up camp outside girlfriends’ homes, eager to pounce.  Her Royal Hotness – Pippa to you and me – isn’t even a royal girlfriend, and yet we’re bombarded with images of her buying coffee, drinking coffee, getting in car, driving car.  Who’d have thought such mundane tasks could be so riveting?  Phone tapping leads to sordid conversations printed word for cringe-inducing word.  Magazines run the ex-girlfriend fashion face-off:  “Who Wore it Best, Mollie or Flo?”  There are the endless comparisons to those who have gone before:  “Is Cressida Harry’s Fergie?  Is Chelsy his Camilla?”  The social media haters are particularly vicious.  Kate doesn’t read any of it. Harry is known for reading all of it.  It’s exhausting just thinking about it, which means that any girl mad enough to date a prince has to be made of some pretty stern stuff.

So far the press has been relatively kind to Miss Bonas, her biggest sin to date being her bird’s nest hair and rather over-zealous attachment to her scrunchies.  But at twenty-four she’s simply too young to get royally hitched with all that would be expected of her.  There’s a reason William waited so long before proposing to Kate.  Of course it is an enormously privileged life, but as glamorous as it may appear, being a royal wife can be a thankless task filled with tremendous pressures, constant scrutiny, and harsh criticism.  For the time being Prince Harry is married to the army.  He’s obviously crazy about Cressida and there have been bold hints to indicate as much, but it doesn’t mean that either of them are ready to take the ultimate plunge…and why the rush?

The country should be grateful to William for waiting to marry.  It gave the couple time to enjoy a long courtship and really get to know each other. It also gave Kate a chance to see if she was prepared to be a part of The Firm for the long haul.  No one wants a return to the marital disasters of the nineties.  We can only hope that Harry is as cautious when it comes to taking a bride.  After all, if we’re going to dole out comparisons, we want Harry’s first and only wife to be his Camilla.