1981, 2011. Bunting, people in the streets wearing Chinese-made Union flag hats, and a public holiday. It has become a rule of modern monarchy that young royal couples excite euphoria, and the Windsor family knows it well. In times of economic depression and political discontent, the people in the Palace can be relied upon to instil a docile loyalty and vicarious happiness in the people. Their family is reported on as though it were ours, by lickspittle royal correspondents on rolling news channels. As the announcement of a third pregnancy came on Monday, television journalists kicked into royal reporting mode, making as much hay of an everyday event as possible. Before she could even work out how to pronounce Hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness), Victoria Derbyshire on the BBC’s morning current affairs programme told us the royal couple were expecting, and that everyone was very happy about it. Whether this was disclosed to her by strong powers of intuition, divine revelation, or some form of mass telepathy, I don’t know. I’m not so much striking at Derbyshire, but rather the television news style that makes all breaking stories glib and speculative. The question must be asked: is everyone really so happy about the new royal baby? Perhaps not.
To put it in the dispassionate (but altogether traditional) terms of the royal family’s biological snakes and ladders game, Wills and Kate have the Heir, and they also have the Spare. After a recent amendment to the Succession Act, female royals like Princess Charlotte now have the same rights of inheritance as their male siblings. The expected new child then, is somewhat surplus to requirements. Not that this should put off any loving couple from bearing children. Except actually, it might. Those many young families across the country struggling to buy a home, or afford a high cost of living, might think again before deciding to have more children. And those faced with Her Majesty’s government’s punitive two-child benefit cap have little choice – they are forced to draw a line under the idea.
Our recent general election, and the European referendum before it, showed the people are at this moment quite prepared to shake up or even shake off the ruling institutions they have grown accustomed to. Having just been treated to a week-long license-fee funded rehash of the 1997 Diana hysteria, I was reminded most of the speed and ferocity with which the country turned on Elizabeth II and her entourage as they hid away in Balmoral Castle. They were seen to have crossed the thin line from magisterial, to ‘out of touch’. The Windsor family might want to keep this in mind as its next generation rises to prominence.