Royal baby fever grips planet Earth (again)

Hey, baby: The Queen and other members of the royal family said they were “delighted”. © Getty

How much should we care about a future minor royal? After months of speculation, yesterday the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry and Meghan to most) announced that they are having a baby.

The pregnancy rumours started the moment Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement last year. In the five months since their wedding, everything from Harry selling his car to Meghan getting a new hairstyle has been taken as evidence that a new royal baby was on its way.

The speculation reached fever pitch on Friday when she wore a loose coat to Princess Eugenie’s wedding. Yesterday, Kensington Palace confirmed it: the couple are expecting their first child in spring 2019. The announcement came on the first day of a 16-day tour of Australia.

As with William and Kate’s pregnancies, the world reacted to the news with a mixture of joy and cynicism. #RoyalBaby trended worldwide on Twitter, and bookmakers say they are already receiving bets on the child’s name. (Diana, Victoria and Alexander are the frontrunners.)

The baby will be seventh in line for the throne. Unlike George, Charlotte and Louis, they will not automatically be a prince or princess; it will be up to the Queen to give them that title. They will be the first biracial royal baby, and the first who is eligible to be US president.

They will also live life under an intense spotlight. Last year, their father described royal life as “a goldfish bowl”, admitting that he once “wanted out”.

In 2013, when Kate was expecting her first child, the novelist Hilary Mantel compared the royals to pandas.

They are “expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment,” she wrote. “But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at?”

She argued that royal births have been national obsessions since the time of Henry VIII, when the “reproductive capacities” of his wives were “central to the story.” Now, 500 years later, the royals are “persons but they are supra-personal, carriers of a blood line: at the most basic, they are breeding stock, collections of organs.”

The feverish speculation leading up to Meghan’s pregnancy will have done nothing to dissuade her. Does the world care too much about a baby who will probably never rule?

Baby love

Absolutely, say some. A woman is pregnant — that is nice for her and her husband, but it is not news. The creepy obsession with Meghan’s stomach these past few months was an insult to her achievements. We should focus on the real issues facing Britain, and leave the royals to live in peace.

There is nothing wrong with being excited, argue others. That is the point of the royals: they offer stability in difficult times. (Many have pointed out that this baby will be born around the same time as Brexit.) At their best, royals reflect and act as role models for the country. A mixed-race baby with dual citizenship is the perfect symbol of modern Britain.

You Decide

  1. Are you excited for Meghan and Harry’s baby?
  2. Does Britain still need a royal family?

Activities

  1. The Day chose to put the royal baby news at the top of today’s edition. Was that the right choice? Create your own newspaper front page, featuring what you believe to be today’s biggest news story.
  2. Hilary Mantel’s essay was extremely controversial when it was first published five years ago. You can find it in full under Become An Expert. Read it for yourself, and then write a response. Do you agree or disagree with her arguments?

Some People Say...

“However airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage.”

Hilary Mantel on the royals (and pandas)

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The official announcement was understandably thin on details: it said the couple was expecting a baby in “the spring of 2019” and wanted to thank the public for its support. We know that a lot of people are excited about the news; Google searches for “when is spring?” spiked after the news broke. (For the record: it’s between March and June in the northern hemisphere.)
What do we not know?
Anything else about the baby. It is unlikely that we will learn any more until they arrive; although parents can find out the sex of their baby at around 18 weeks, traditionally the sex of royal babies is kept a secret until they are born. We also do not know whether Harry and Meghan will want their child to be a prince or princess.

Word Watch

Up to the Queen
In 1917, King George V decided that all royal children would be dukes or duchesses, except for the “eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales” (Prince George). However, the Queen has often given the title to other children and great-grandchildren.
Biracial
Meghan Markle herself is Britain’s biracial royal: her father is white and her mother is black.
Eligible
US presidents must have American citizenship to be president. Although the baby is unlikely to be born in America, children born in Britain with an American parent can apply for dual citizenship. However, it is unclear whether Meghan and Harry will decide to do this.
Expensive
The royal family’s Sovereign Grant (the public money spent on official duties) was £76.1 million in the year between 2017-18. Around £28 million of this has been put aside for renovations of Buckingham Palace.
Supra-personal
The prefix “supra-” means above, or beyond the limits of.