Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The son is shining

I can recall nothing much at all of the events some 31 years ago when the Prince and Princess of Wales celebrated the birth of their first son.  Even though my memory of that day is so dim, I am certain that there was nothing like the general euphoria, the media frenzy that has accompanied the birth of Britain's latest future king.  Even the Royal Navy got in on the act this time round with all Naval ships flying the white ensign from the main mast as well as at the stern.

The company aboard HMS Kent mark the royal birth. Credit: MoD
Perhaps you are thinking that, if I wanted to blog about the birth of Prince Whatsisname of Cambridge I should have had something prepared, ready for me just to cut and paste before clicking on the "publish" button, similar to the way newspapers keep obituaries of famous people on hand just in case.  Or, given that the new Prince was born on Monday, you are thinking that I have left it a little late to add my twopennyworth to all that has been said and written in the past 36 (or 48) hours or so.  But there was no thought in my mind that I would so much as mention the matter.

What changed my mind was my astonishment at the interest shown all round the world in what is, when all said and done, a fairly insignificant event.  Just look (in the photo on the left) at the crowds of news people outside the London hospital where Kate gave birth.  And some of them have been in place for a week or more.  But why all this interest?  Granted, the new arrival will one day be King not just of the United Kingdom, but also of Australia, Canada and New Zealand (among others) - always assuming that those countries do not transform themselves into republics during the intervening years.  That, however, does not explain the interest shown in such counties as Germany and the United States.  It's not as if ours is the world's only Royal Family.  There are others in Spain, Monaco, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.  And that's just Europe.

There is a certain something about our Royal Family, a mystique, a je ne sais quoi.  I suspect that much of the Family's current popularity is a result of example shown by the Queen who has served the country so steadfastly for 60 years.  Prince Philip has done his bit as well.  But this young couple, William and Kate, have really captured people's hearts.  Perhaps it stems from the late Diana, Princess of Wales, the Duke's mother.  The mass hysteria exhibited after her death has, I suggest, never before been seen in England - and never since.  So many people watched as the young Prince William walked in the funeral possession, many was the woman who so wanted to mother him.  Some of his mother's charisma can been seen in William and he seems to instinctively gel with "ordinary" people.

As for Kate, well, she is the quintessential girl next door.  It helps that she is good-looking and elegant, but, despite having been educated at Marlborough and having parents who own a house worth seven figures in 18 acres of grounds, she is down-to-earth and among her ancestors not so very far back are coal miners and navvies.  Ordinary people feel comfortable in her presence; she is "one of us".  But Kate is a fairy tale come to life: a village girl who married a prince.  Her background helps, as do the facts that she asked for no servants in the Welsh farmhouse she and William have been living in and she has been seen doing her shopping in the local supermarket.  And William is known to like a drink in the village pub when he and Kate are staying with her parents.

On the other hand, British people don't want "cycling Royals" like there are in, say, the Netherlands.  We want our Royals to approachable but distant, we want them to have the common touch but to be special as well.  William and Kate have that in spades, which goes some way to explaining how so many British people regard her as "our" Kate and have taken such an interest in her baby.  Some of that feeling must have rubbed off on the rest of the world.

For many people, the fairy tale continues.


It occurs to me that when the new Prince reaches my age, the Second World War will be as far back in history fo him as are the Crimean War and the American Civil War for me.  Now there's a thought.

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