UNDERSTATEMENT: A baby was born here in England recently.
Well actually, as media coverage at the time insisted on highlighting, many babies were born on the 22nd July 2013. While all of them shared the same qualifications – none – it was a little boy named George who was to be awarded the title “Prince” and furthermore secure the third spot in line to our throne. The parents of the other children, instead of being offered condolences by the visiting reporters, were encouraged to speak of their gratitude for this coincidence – their big day joyfully overshadowed on television.
Where did this republican (please note: small ‘r’) find himself at the time? Quite appropriately, at the pub, and in Cambridge as well, the Prince’s very domain. My friends and I had only just finished celebrating Great Britain for the right reasons, or rather watching a Shakespeare performance, when the “news” reached me via a text from my Mum. It read with enthusiasm: “Baby boy born.” I only wish that more of the media had taken to a similar delivery, in order to have reigned reined in the hype. It was nicely alliterative after all.
I never did bother to reply, part of me thinking: why should I care? Only the very next day did The Guardian inform me, based on life-expectancy trends, that I am actually due to die the year before George will most likely be coronated anyway (a doubly bleak prospect).
I am of course as pleased for William and Kate as I am for any parents. But this event for me portrayed the principle of monarchy at its most ridiculous. For example, the phrase “His Royal Highness” – with its connotations of an individual who looks down on his subjects – is laughable when the Prince in his current state would need a rather tall royal highchair to do so.
Many Royalists take great joy from the fact our future King is, at least biologically, just like the rest of us. George is a baby whose royal nappies fill no more pleasantly for his parents than any other (although allow me some scepticism over who changes them). The Royal Family and its swooning right-wing media have been trying to paint this humble and ‘down to earth’ picture for years. It didn’t take long for the Daily Mail to declare George the “People’s Prince”. They are all of course primarily trying to win the support of the younger generation, people who were sat down by their parents or grandparents, like I was, to watch the Royal Wedding.
But not all of us are buying into it. I know I cannot be the only one bewildered by the idea that one child is starting life with an entitlement to power over, and wealth at the expense of, another child born only in the opposite ward. If I told you that the members of one family have historically enjoyed lives 15 years longer than that of the national average, you would assume I was describing somewhere in the Third World or at least in the past – not 21st century Britain. This crossed my mind last week when I read in The Times the list of gifts sent to this particular family from political leaders across the world: a ‘needy’ home I am sure you will all agree…
On the other hand, I must offer my sympathy to Baby George. A mother who gave birth in the opposite ward chose her occupation, and her child will enjoy the same freedom. But while Baby George’s mother opted to enter the Royal Family: he did not. Perhaps aspiring to be a fireman or a football-player growing up, a different kind of life in the public eye, with its countless trivial duties, awaits him.
Other teenagers will be taking their bathroom ‘selfies’ – he might have a stamp to pose for.