The story doing the rounds this weekend that Princess Beatrice accidentally cut the singer Ed Sheeran’s cheek whilst attempting to mock-ennoble another songwriting pal, James Blunt, at a party at her dad’s house, has cast a rare shaft of light on the lifestyle of the hitherto undercover good-time girl of the royal family.
The accident happened after a dinner party for about 20 of Beatrice’s friends at Royal Lodge in Windsor, the home of the princess’s father, Prince Andrew. Andrew was away but mom Fergie was a guest at the event.
Blunt is reported by The Sun to have joked that he would love to become Sir James, so Bea, for a joke, grabbed a ceremonial sword (which happened to be lying around, as such things are in all ancestral royal abodes) but while swinging it back, accidentally caught Sheeran on the cheek.
Sheeran reportedly zipped off to a nearby hospital for a few stitches before, in true rock ’n’ roll style, returning to the party.
The incident will serve to bring to a wider public what many of the inner circle have known for a long time: that Beatrice, 28, is the most fun-loving female member of the royal family by a long shot.
Although she is not wild and hard-boozing in the way that Prince Harry can be on occasion, she shares with him a complete disdain for grandness and ceremony in favor of a good night out.
Sources say that Beatrice, who split from long-term boyfriend Dave Clark over the summer, is notably less paranoid about privacy than Harry, Kate, and William are.
“If she meets someone interesting at a party or at Loulou’s [a private members London nightclub beloved of the royal set] she will start chatting to them, she won’t immediately assume they are trying to set her up or sell her out,” says one acquaintance, “She is quite open that way.”
Partly this is because, as a less important royal than Harry, Kate, and William, she attracts less attention and scrutiny. But also it is said by acquaintances that she is simply a trusting person, despite the various disasters that have befallen her mother at the hands of the press (including offering to take a bribe to provide access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew).
She is not, however, at ease with her own position in the family; unsurprisingly, perhaps, as it has been repeatedly redefined over the years.
In her childhood and teenage years, Beatrice—and everyone else—assumed that she would live the life of a full-time working minor royal, along the lines of the existence endured by the queen’s cousin the Duke of Gloucester. It would have been a life devoted to duty; charity, fundraising, and royal PR. If all had gone according to plan, Beatrice and her sister, Eugenie, would have been acting, essentially, as stand-ins for her more senior cousins.
But Andrew and Fergie’s appalling abuses of their positions led Prince Charles to wisely but harshly cut Beatrice and her sister Eugenie out of the royal fold, and from about 2010 onward the sisters were informed their duty now was to get proper jobs (or marry), but not to expect their lives to be financed by the taxpayer.
Beatrice has found this particularly hard to accept: She is said to enjoy the limelight and lobbied furiously but unsuccessfully to be allowed to accompany her father on a tour of India in 2012.
Her professional working life has been little short of a disaster. She has had at least five jobs in four years. She is not academically gifted, and has been doubly hampered by the sniping that her high profile attracts.
Beatrice has been widely portrayed as a dilettante in the British press. Between December 2014 and December 2015, the princess racked up 18 foreign jaunts including a trip on Roman Abramovich’s £1.5 billion super-yacht in Ibiza.
Beatrice gets on particularly well with Camilla and is great pals with Harry (indeed it was she who introduced him to Cressida Bonas), but is not close to William or Kate Middleton. Partly this is because Beatrice perceives William and Kate to be part of the establishment that has blocked her royal career, and, when it comes to Kate in particular, the two young women are very different characters.
The differences extend even to their dress sense—Kate plays it safe while Beatrice is always keen to try more avant-garde fashions (witness the “pretzel” hat Bea famously wore to the royal wedding).
While Kate and William prefer to hang out with the Norfolk “Turnip Toffs,” as the local gentry around Anmer Hall jokingly refer to themselves, Beatrice—as the sword-swinging story with its smattering of boldface names makes clear—has more of a taste for celebrity. She still lives part of the time in New York, where friends include Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.
In that way, Beatrice is very like her mother, Sarah, and there is a whiff of danger around going down the same path as her parents, who found the perks of their positions impossible to resist and are seen by many in the U.K. as corrupt.
It’s hard to see Sarah offering to take money for access to Andrew any other way, and Andrew selling his house for many millions above its market price to a shady Kazakh billionaire left a bad smell.
Beatrice certainly does like to make the most of the perks her position delivers. But for now, the British public are on Beatrice’s side. The latest tale has served to humanize her and may be helpful to the Beatrice narrative in the longer run too.