FOR a woman whose job amounts to little more than shaking a few hands and cutting the occasional ribbon, people sure got touchy when Kate Middleton was described as a "mannequin with no personality" earlier this year.
British author Hilary Mantel was roundly condemned for suggesting the Duchess of Cambridge was "entirely defined by what she wore" and has won public approval by appearing "without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character".
Critics denounced Mantel's brutally candid assessment of the traits prized in a modern royal, with everyone from the British Prime Minister down quick to declare Middleton to be "bright", "engaging" and a woman of genuine substance.
But are these qualities we really look for in a queen, or even a queen-to-be?
Certainly the reaction to Governor-General Quentin Bryce's Boyer lecture last Friday would suggest we prefer it when the Queen's Australian representative resembles a well-dressed and suitably mute mannequin rather than a grown woman with the ability to express an opinion.
After daring to ponder a future Australia where "one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation's first head of state", the Governor-General has been rebuked for speaking out of turn.
"There are a number of people who are now going to wonder about her," claimed Australians for Constitutional Monarchy national convenor David Flint, who has a reputation for getting anxious whenever the dreaded R-word (republic) comes up.
"There's this sense of division that she's created and the position is not intended to be divisive - it's intended to unite and be above politics."
Oh please Professor Flint, how about a little perspective? It's not as if the Governor-General is inciting the public to tear up the constitution and storm the barricades.
She merely wondered if - one yet to be decided day in the possibly still very distant future - Australians might actually see one of our own become our head of state.
Is that really such a dangerous proposition? Surely in an independent and democratic country it would be a worry if we weren't capable of at least contemplating the idea.
Equally absurd are the accusations Bryce's comments are in conflict with her vice-regal role, given the Queen herself has previously given her blessing to Australia eventually cutting ties with the monarchy.
Rather than insisting the Governor-General be excluded from this particular debate, her willingness to speak out should be applauded. Who is better placed than the incumbent in acknowledging hers is a job destined for redundancy?
Short of the Queen admitting the notion of a monarchy is obsolete and dispatching Charles to the unemployment line, Bryce's admission is the best we can hope for.
With a bio that includes working as a lawyer, academic and human rights advocate, it would be a waste of the Governor-General's talents to demand she remain confined to hosting tea parties.
If Bryce were to comply with the wishes of those determined she be seen (impeccably dressed, of course) but not heard, then we would be stuck with the Governor-General only rusted-on monarchists believe we deserve - a mannequin with no personality.