The summer of 2013 has seen the birth of a new royal heir in the United Kingdom for the first time in more than 30 years.
I have been touched by how excited and supportive Americans have been about the birth of Prince William and Princess Catherine’s first child, and my friends and family in England have been “chuffed to bits” (as they say over there) by the news.
There was frantic discussion in the U.K. media about whether they would have a boy or a girl. The princess’ severe morning sickness was seen as an indication that they would be more likely to have a girl or twins.
Both predictions, of course, proved to be wrong.
The fact that we have a prince means that the recent changes in the rules governing the royal succession now are just a technicality. Under the old rules, a girl born before her brother would have been behind her male sibling on the royal-succession list as a result of male-preference primogeniture rules. To put it simply, the eldest boy became king even if the first-born royal child was a girl. Girls only inherited the throne if they had no brothers, as with Queen Elizabeth. So even though the next three heirs are male ? Prince Charles, Prince William and now Prince George ? it still is appropriate that this old-fashioned law is being updated.
While the royal family was careful not to confirm an exact due date, it now is clear that Prince George was a few days later than predicted ? as is often the way with first babies. His proud father even joked with reporters about reminding the baby in future years about this tardiness. Prince William has demonstrated that he intends to be a modern dad and a more hands-on parent than were found in previous royal generations. For example, he was present at the birth, stayed the night with his wife and child in the hospital and will take two weeks paternity leave. Compare that to when Prince Charles was born at Buckingham Palace while his father, Prince Philip, was at the squash court!
In a clearly choreographed move, Prince William held tiny Prince George when mother, baby and father made an appearance on the hospital’s steps. Baby William’s appearance at the same hospital after his birth 31 years ago caused a stir because, previously, the queen had displayed her babies only from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. However, I cannot imagine the reaction of the crowd of reporters who had been waiting at the hospital for many days on baby watch being denied this photo and interview opportunity.
The announcement of George’s birth was a curious mix of ancient and modern. The tradition of announcing royal births outside the gates of Buckingham Palace on notepaper with the royal crest was continued, although this time on an easel. In addition, and in keeping with tradition, there were special 41- and 62-gun salutes from the royal Green Park and the Tower of London, and the national Union Jack flag was flown from all government buildings, royal naval ships and defense establishments. However, immediately following those traditional notices, the media were informed and announcements were posted on Twitter and Facebook.
The naming of Prince George Alexander Louis also was the subject of extensive debate. Unlike in previous centuries, the royal couple had much more choice in choosing their baby’s name. In recent decades, there has been less and less royal interference in the naming process, but clearly the new parents were not going to call their child anything too controversial. In their name selections, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could not have been more traditional and demonstrated that they respect and honor history.
Why George? To date, there have been six kings of Britain named George, the most recent being Queen Elizabeth II’s own beloved father, popularized in the recent film “The King’s Speech,” who died from lung cancer at the age of 56 in 1952. The fact that William and Kate introduced their son to the queen just before announcing his name implies that they were asking her blessing for him to be named after his great-great-grandfather.
Why Alexander? Three early Scottish kings were called Alexander, so this choice may reflect the royal couple’s desire to honor Scotland’s past. That’s especially important as the Scottish people prepare to vote in a Scottish-independence referendum in 2014. Why Louis? This likely is to commemorate Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was the last viceroy of India and a greatly beloved great uncle of Prince Charles. He was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army in 1979.
There has been a lot of discussion about the fact that the couple chose not to honor Diana or the Spencer family with the naming of their son. This contrasts to their engagement, when Prince William gave Kate Middleton ? as she was known then ? his mother’s sapphire engagement ring.
For now, the newest royal-family member and his parents are spending some quality time at the Middleton home before they face another barrage of questions about the christening and subsequent plans. But that is another column.
God bless America, and God save the (future) king!
Francis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009. Email her at email@example.com or go to www.lesleyfrancispr.com.