We’re facing a long gestation for this future monarch
Yesterday’s Royal announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant had Fleet Street’s finest scrambling for an angle. On the face of it you might have thought it was hard to do much with “Kate Pregnant”. It’s Kate. She’s pregnant. What more is there to say?
Day One of the yarn is a bit early yet for “Kate’s baby scare”, even for the British newspapers, and there’s nothing to suggest the Duke of Cambridge isn’t responsible for her condition, so no dice there either.
So congratulations to the London Daily Telegraph for being the first to grasp the implications of her hospitalisation with morning sickness, asking “Could it be twins for the Duchess?”
“Mothers-to-be who suffer from the condition,” the paper explained “are three times more likely to have a multiple birth than other women.”
Modern medicine being what it is, the expectant parents will soon know if twins are indeed in their future, if they don’t know already, though they might choose to keep the news to themselves.
There is of course no point in talking about fairness when it comes to monarchy. Nothing about the institution is fair. Indeed, you could argue its randomness is rather the point. But even so, there could be no better demonstration of the capricious nature of fate than to have one’s whole life mapped by whether one was first or second into the world.
It may not even come down to that given how many twins these days are born by caesarean. Imagine the awesome responsibility of being the attending doctor. The first one out of the sun roof will be in line to be King or Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Belize, the Solomon Islands, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Kitts and Nevis, not to mention Tuvalu - though it is up to them if they are still monarchies by the time the royal child ascend the throne. And in Tuvalu’s case, it might not be an island, more a spot on the map of the Pacific marking where a island used to be.
With prizes such as those, it is tempting to see this baby as the winner of life’s lottery, whereas the second place-getter will get ... what? Lower expectations for a start, which, as I have never tired of pointing out to my own younger brother, is to be counted among life blessings.
What else? A spell in the armed forces is likely to feature, probably followed by a lot of golf. Perhaps the odd to trip to Vegas unwinding with plenty of new friends. Perhaps in this case, if you could give advice in utero it would be “hang back”.
Especially as whether boy or girl, the third in line to the throne is likely to have a while to wait.
If Prince William makes it to 80 - the life-expectancy of a British male - he or she will be 50 before they get a crack at the top job.
But, given his family history, the chances are the Duke of Cambridge will make it long past 80, as long as he stays off the fags. Prince William’s grandmother, the Queen, is still going strong on the throne at 86, as is her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, 91. His father, the Prince of Wales, is a very fit 64-year old non-smoker who drinks moderately and has been living on organic food for at least the past 30 years. His great grandmother, the Queen Mother made it to 101. So 50 years might be a conservative estimate of how long the new edition has to wait to fulfil his or her destiny.
It is tempting to speculate about how different the world will be when that day dawns. Predicting the future is a mug’s game of course, but I’d be prepared to bet - a bet I am unlikely to be around to collect - that the prospects for Wills and Kate’s baby are unlikely to change as much as Prince Charles’s have over the course of his life.
When Charles was born in 1948, India, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and Pakistan (East and West) were still monarchies, having only just ceased being ruled from Britain. In that year Britain still ruled all of its African colonies, as well as Malaysia and Singapore.
Looking at the list of countries reigned over by our present Queen, it’s hard to see any of them dropping off the list by the time her grandson pops his clogs with the exception of likely-to-be submerged, Tuvalu.
Canada? Not going to happen. They’ve got enough constitutional tensions without worrying about who their head of state of is. New Zealand? I’ve never met a Kiwi who doesn’t still have a British passport in their sock drawer. They’re not going anywhere. Of course you can’t rule out one or two kingdoms dropping off in the Caribbean, but otherwise I think the kid’s inheritance is looking good.
Australia is certainly not going anywhere either. Indeed as the 1999 referendum recedes into the distances, it looks more and more as though the republican fever is passing. Certainly recent polls on the subject suggest so.
The best barometer of republican sentiment here, however, is the number and frequency of royal visits. In the 1990s, when Paul Keating loomed large in the land, they almost stopped coming altogether. But when the old gargoyle popped up last month to declare we still needed to become a republic, one was reminded that we see a lot more of the royals these days than we do of him.
Indeed who can be sure Kate and Wills didn’t put their three-hour stopover in Brisbane in September to good use and that our next sovereign but two was not conceived at Brisbane Airport?
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