Mystery shrouds the royal family. In terms of power, the family is more ceremonial than political. Yet, its history and rituals have kept us common folk intrigued for centuries.
We love fairy tales. Therefore, we love the royal family. But princesses or not, there are more than a few age-old customs that could stand to be tossed in the bin.
The new Pablo Larraín film, Spencer, brings one such tradition to light. And if it’s true, it makes spending holidays with the royals sound more than a little bleak.
Greeted With Vintage Scales
In the film, Princess Di (played by Kristen Stewart) visits the Queen’s Sandringham estate for Christmas in the early ‘90s. When she arrives, she is asked to weigh herself on a pair of antique scales.
The film depicts this tradition within the context of Diana’s struggle with bulimia. According to the late princess herself, “[the Queen] indicated to me that the reason why our marriage had gone downhill was that Prince Charles was having such a difficult time with my bulimia.”
Having to publicly weigh oneself when struggling with an eating disorder is equally traumatic and triggering. Add the pressure of being a commoner at a royal event, and it’s plain overwhelming.
Unsurprisingly, Stewart’s Diana negatively reacts to this odd custom. She purges in the film and receives no comfort from her husband, Prince Charles.
And it left the audience with two questions. One, why was life so unfair to Princess Di? Two, there’s no way this custom could be real—right?
A 120-Year-Old Tradition
According to the royal expert and EIC of Majesty Ingrid Seward, yes, it is. In a 2018 Grazia article, Seward explains that the ritual dates back to King Edward VII (r. 1901-1910).
“As the festive period revolves around eating, the Queen ensures that guests ‘weigh themselves’ on a pair of antique scales,” Seward says. “This happens before and after the visit.”
Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandfather Edward VII started the tradition to “ensure his guests ate well.” In the film, Stewart mentions that the family expects attendees to gain at least three pounds during their stay.
This exact number is still hearsay. However, the tradition itself doesn’t seem to be. To the family’s credit, Seward’s quotes around ‘weigh themselves’ imply the scales don’t work.
So, the tradition might have varied slightly over the last century. But keeping it around at all seems ridiculous and unnecessary. Moreover, it can be downright cruel for those struggling with their weight (which is a lot of us).
Could you imagine your in-laws asking you to weigh yourself before eating Thanksgiving dinner at their house? Apparently, being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.