I am in Washington DC this week for a conference, so it’s fortunate that the whole Privy Council is no longer required to attend a royal birth (as it still is to proclaim the succession).
I’ve been amused by the intense interest of the US media in ‘The Prince of Cambridge’. The story has led TV bulletins and CNN has even started to play ‘Rule Britannia’.
I told the conference that I had thought that the USA was a republic. I felt sure that The Queen was still available as head of state, should she be asked. 237 years of independence could be seen as a mere blip. We are a very forgiving nation, after all.
Barring misfortune, we now know who will be our head of state at the turn of the next century. I think this gets to the heart of why this birth is so exciting for our nation and for those around the world.
Our kings and queens define the times in which they live, sometimes literally. We talk about the Edwardian era, Victorian values and the golden Elizabethan age. A new birth marks the start of a generation to be.
There is no longer a need for an heir to secure power as there was in earlier times, when the whole stability of the country hinged on the royal family’s fertility (as the current BBC dramatisation of ‘The White Queen’ reminds us).
The monarchy’s unchecked power may have gone but the desire to secure its future lives on. Indeed, we have not had so many direct heirs living since the last few years of Queen Victoria’s reign.
Very few people are significant from their birth. The new prince will be scrutinised for the rest of his life. It is said that The Queen is the most photographed person who has ever lived. Her new great-grandchild will surely surpass her in this.
Politicians choose to enter public life, and we can also choose to leave it. Like his forebears, the new Prince will have no such choice. Some envy what they see as a life of royal privilege. I don’t.
I wish the new Prince a long and happy life. This is a joyous event, but he cannot know the very great burdens which will one day fall on his shoulders.
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