Leslie Ann Horgan: 'Baby gift shopping is a minefield, so what do you get a royal newborn?'
With all of the countdown fuss for the birth of the royal baby, it's easy to forget that it's only been a year since the last imperial infant came along. Poor Prince Louis of Cambridge, whose first birthday has been thoroughly overshadowed by the impending arrival of Harry and Meghan's first born. Cousins, eh?
As the third of William and Kate's brood, Louis will no doubt grow up with that youngest child chip on his shoulder; one surely made all the worse by the constant reminders of his place in the waiting line for succession to the throne. At least, unlike a youngest child of my acquaintance - who was furious to discover that while every precious minute of his older siblings' lives had been thoroughly documented by his parents, there was scarcely a childhood snap of him in existence, never mind a baby book or first curl - Louis' mother has had time to take photos of him.
To mark the little prince turning one on Tuesday of this week, Kate released three portraits of Louis, taken at the family's home in Norfolk. In two of the shots, we see Louis' adorable baby smile as he plays in a mossy corner of the garden. He's dressed in a red wool jumper with white collared top underneath and navy cords. A third photo has a more serious expression but oodles of cute factor thanks to his blue jumper with a picture of a puppy on it.
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Though the clothes are obviously new (that jumper is £44 from Trotters Childrenswear if you're interested), they have a timeless look that means that photo could have been taken at any point in the past 100 years. It's a traditional manner of dress that Kate and William have also chosen for their elder children: wool jumpers, shorts, smocked shirts and knee socks for Prince George, and smocked cotton dresses with pie-crust collars and Fair Isle cardigans for Princess Charlotte.
It's not a style to everyone's taste, but it's certainly a distinctive one, which will have been of help to any poor soul who had to buy a baby present when Louis was born. Meghan and Harry's baby, on the other hand, is an unknown quantity, so buyer beware.
Over the past year, there's been something of a baby boom among my friends and family. As a result, I've probably spent more money on baby clothes than on outfits for myself. Buying the right gift is a minefield. Not only do you have to find something that's not cheap, yet not over the top, and practical yet also special, but you also have to guess at the style that the new parents will choose for their child.
Do they want a newborn onesie or a mini hoodie and jeans? Would a 'mummy's little princess' slogan cause them to smile or to scoff? Do they like blue or pink or gender neutral? Does it have to be organic cotton? Are they open to tiny bow ties and hair bands? Do they want instant satisfaction or a 6-9 months outfit to put away? Would they, like Kate and William, put a one-year-old in a cashmere jumper? What is Amal Clooney buying them?
You can usually tell when you've gotten a present right or fallen wide of the mark. Some outfits are excitedly held up against the baba in question, others are shoved disinterestedly back into their gift bag. You'll get sent lots of photos of the baby wearing the former, the latter will never be mentioned again.
Now, you're probably thinking that the birth of a royal baby will illicit presents more substantial in value than a babygro (diamond-encrusted soother or a country estate perhaps?), but that doesn't appear to be the case. According to figures released by Buckingham Palace, Megan and Harry already received 236 baby gifts during their travels over the past few months. That's 236 brave guesses at what their parenting style might be. Among the items are baby milestone cards, rattles, soft toys, 18 pairs of booties, 15 baby vests, seven swaddle blankets, six bibs, four matinee jackets and a pair of dungarees.
In the coming months, we'll see which of those have made the grade, and whether this latest royal baby is dressed in up-to-the-minute designs or classic choices like his or her cousins. Then, we'll be able to add one more question to the baby gift buying checklist: do these parents see themselves as more Sussex or Cambridge?