Wednesday 18 October 2017

Can you really juggle changing nappies with being a royal?

Becoming a new parent is tough enough – imagine having to do it as a Windsor, says Robert Colvile

Every choice made by Kate and William for their young son will be analysed by the media.
Every choice made by Kate and William for their young son will be analysed by the media.

London Daily Telegraph

The convulsive shocks of Babygeddon have calmed to a few small tremors. The hordes of reporters camped outside the Lindo wing have packed up their microphones and moved on, with the media maintaining only a token, almost ceremonial, presence outside the Middleton complex in Bucklebury.

And in the calm after the storm, it's possible to say one thing quite clearly: that whatever the Brits are paying the royal family, it isn't anywhere near enough.

Just imagine what it's like to be William and Kate. They want to give their new son as normal a childhood as possible. Good for them. But the whole business of monarchy makes being a new parent – already a pretty tricky chore – the closest thing to impossible.

Take the vexed question of the name. On the plus side, being a Windsor does simplify things. It's the difference between ordering your dinner from the prix fixe menu or the a la carte: instead of having to make an agonising choice between near-infinite options, running the gamut from Agamemnon to Zoroaster, they could rule out the more esoteric or proletarian options from the off.

After all, great-granny wouldn't exactly have been pleased if the nation was lumbered with a Prince Pontius or King Kelvin.

Yet what if poor Kate had always had a secret hankering for Ludo, or Horace?

Tough luck. Needs of the many. Stiff upper lip. Plus, given the sheer sums that were being wagered, there must have been a dark suspicion about betting slips in the back pocket whenever their friends airily enquired as to whether the happy couple were keener on Philip or Alfred.

Then there's the issue of godparents. Earlier this week, one newspaper listed the hideous assortment of elderly worthies with whom poor William was lumbered, including a clutch of lords and ladies-in-waiting, King Constantine II of Greece and Laurens van der Post, then aged 76 and unlikely to play much of a long-term role.

William and Kate are apparently planning to pick from among their close friends, just like normal people. But again, there are complications. For most of us, the requirement that godparents actually be godly is something of a polite fiction – not least because friends of faith are so hard to come by in Britain.

When I was recently asked to be a godfather, it was partly on the grounds that I sang in a choir. I pointed out that we mostly did showtunes, but apparently it was the closest thing to churchgoing they could find.

Now imagine the pressure on William and Kate – not just to find godparents of suitable probity, but individuals so morally upright that they can stand as spiritual guardians to a future Fidei Defensor. For those chosen, it'll be even worse: take the lad out drinking to further his education in the ways of the world, and you've endangered not only his liver, but the integrity of the Established Church. Not that it'll stop Uncle Harry, but it might give others pause.

Of course, the Duke and Duchess will be supported by a small army of nannies, carers and flunkies, to ensure that not a hint of baby vomit speckles their shoulders on public outings. But their sheer celebrity means they won't be able to call on an even more vital network of helpers – the members of the postnatal class, who for most of my friends became as close as family as they bonded over their shared terror in advance of the great event, then traded war stories and babysitting shifts in the aftermath.

Then there are all the other decisions parents have to make. Most people I know agonised for hours about their choice of baby buggy, or what clothes to buy their newborn.

Imagine having to do the same when you can't have a poke round the shop without causing a frenzy, and when every decision you make is weighed, judged and found wanting by a panel of stylists.

That's before you even get to the army of paparazzi – or bystanders with cameraphones – who'll be doing their best to make this poor mum and baby the most snapped creatures on earth.

William and Harry came of age in the modern media environment, but not the social media environment, in which the pressures on privacy are even worse.

They were also fortunate to be shielded within institutions – Eton and the army – that were large enough and courteous enough to offer them relative anonymity, even a sense of normality (albeit of a distinctly upper-crust kind).

Whether William and Kate can find a playgroup or kindergarten of equivalent discretion, which can winnow out the parvenus desperately trying to engineer a royal playdate, Lord only knows. And will they have to station security guards by the bins, to stop souvenir-hunters rummaging for young George's finger-paintings?

Thus far, the signs are that the family are coping with this rather hideous business about as well as they can. But there must have been a few qualms – not about whether they would be good parents, but simply over what they were letting themselves, and their unborn child, in for.

The British monarchy is a wonderful thing, and they do a wonderful job of it. But if my goddaughter happens to strike up a friendship with the future King George, and is tempted to pursue a dalliance, I think the only advice I could give her, in terms of her emotional and spiritual health, would be to steer well clear. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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