The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant. Get prepared for seven months of name suggestions, foetal health updates and unnecessary public excitement. As with the William/Kate wedding in April 2011, the lead-up to the birth of the future heir to the British throne is likely to be followed as closely as the US presidential election race. There is, of course, one obvious difference in circumstance; the US presidential election mattered.
During Diana, Princess of Wales’ pregnancy with Prince William in 1981-1982, the British press kept a close tabs on her conditioning and increasing rotundness. There was almost an outbreak of public grief when Diana fell down a Sandringham staircase twelve weeks into her pregnancy and the worst was feared. Fortunately, the royal foetus was not damaged. Scrutiny pervaded her gestation period until the very end, with further panic setting in after she entered labour early and endured a difficult birth. Only on the sounding of the 41-gun salute did the country breathe a collective sigh of relief as confirmation of the birth of a male heir (the best type) was given in the traditional manner.
There is already mild sympathy for Kate, who has been treated in hospital for morning sickness. Of course, she does not appear to suffer from the same general health problems that plagued the young Diana, who was ten years Kate’s junior during her pregnancy. The country’s political leaders are already lauding the announcement. David Cameron wrote on Twitter that he was “delighted by the news”, exclaiming that Kate and Will would “make wonderful parents”. The hapless Labour leader Ed Milliband had to have his say too, declaring that a royal baby is something “the whole country can celebrate”.
Wrong again Ed. The irrelevance of a royal baby could not be greater at this current time. Ordinary people are concerned about job security, economic malaise and declining living standards. What good is a royal baby going to do? Lift their spirits? The politicians will no doubt use the pregnancy as a convenient diversion from the genuine problems affecting the country. Worryingly, it will probably work. Those brain-dead, over-sentimental simpletons with too much time on their hands will be overjoyed by the prospects of half-a-year of celebrating, fuelled by hopeless rags like the Daily Express which have not missed a day of printing Princess Diana’s name since her untimely death in 1997.
As was the case with Diana, we hope for a happy ending to Kate’s pregnancy. Yet, aside from the genuine joy it will bring the lucky couple, what real relevance does it have for Great Britain? The monarchy has long lost any executive or legislative power and its remaining symbolic power is highly debatable. Whilst it might help sell a few tacky souvenirs to money-laden tourists and bring light entertainment to many Americans, the British monarchy is essentially a defunct institution. The expense of keeping the royal court in befitting finery is great; the payback not so. Whilst the royal family can act as ambassadors for Britain overseas (and most of the Windsors do a fine job of this) the old loyalty to the Commonwealth is waning. Nations of the Empire have been independent too long; their people unaccustomed to the period of British rule and patronage.
It is time the hysterics over the monarchy stopped. Leave them in peace and call time on the institution before this latest heir is born. Otherwise, the wastefulness and monarchical profligacy will continue and the real “issues” will continue to be strategically buried beneath appeals to sentiment.