Extinguish all rational thought. Abandon all hope that the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will make the front pages this week. Stand aside, Leveson Inquiry and its fretful consequences. There’s a royal foetus out there and it’s instantly eclipsed all other news.
Scarcely had Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got hitched in May last year – barely had they been carried down the Mall in their golden carriage – than their loyal subjects in the nation’s press began speculating how soon a royal bun might rise in the Middletonian oven. Remarkably, though, today’s news was recently forecast in a flurry of hints and coincidences.
The Duchess appeared in public with a new haircut: “What,” asked one newspaper darkly, “is she hiding behind that fringe?” Clearly she must be hiding news about a secret sprog emblazoned on her brow. Hello! Magazine splashed with “Baby Talk: William and Kate spark rumours”. The magazine has carried variants of the line for 18 months, but this time they knew something was afoot. Why? Because the couple “kept laughing together as if they had some wonderful news”. Elementary, my dear readers.
Last week, Prince William accepted a Babygro garment from a well-wisher without hurling it on the ground and stamping on it? Kate must be pregnant! Ladbroke’s instantly posted odds-on of 1-5 that there’d be an announcement in 2013.
They were wrong. Today, nudged by a burst of hyperemesis gravidarum, St James’s Palace announced that the Duchess is indeed expecting a baby, although the pregnancy is still in its very early stages.
The Prime Minister immediately tweeted to say that he was “delighted with the news”, and you can understand why. Say what you like about the royals but their timing is impeccable. Just as the country starts to tip over into a long slide towards the Pit of Winter Gloom, as the Coalition Government threatens a schism over press freedom, as the Church of England contemplates its own extinction, as the Chancellor considers “tackling” welfare payments for the poor, the British population can lift their hearts with joy because two of the country’s richest people are expecting a little Elizabeth (8-1) or Frances or John or Charles (all 10-1). Or Mo (500-1.)
The pregnancy does present one mild legislative inconvenience, in the sense that the updating of the law of royal succession to give female heirs equal rights to male ones may need to be backdated to accommodate this notional heir to the Duke of Cambridge.
It will be considered a small price to pay for the perceived boost to public morale. The nation has been riding thermals of alternating sporting and royal ecstasy all year, with the Olympics, the paralympics, the Golden Jubilee, Andy Murray, the Tour de France, the All Blacks at Twickenham…
Just as we thought our collective bliss was all over for 2012 and grim reality was returning, the announcement of a royal pregnancy offers a brilliant back-throw to the summer of the feel-good factor. Because the pregnancy is obviously (don’t argue; it’s obvious) the result of royal rapture atone of those golden moments...
Connoisseurs of sibling rivalry will point out that the Duchess had to do something to steal back the limelight from her sister and the publication of that wretched party book. (Does it include an entry on how to celebrate the announcement that one is to be an auntie?) The rest of us will go on speculating about what the Royal parents really meant by their pregnancy-timing.
With luck it’ll take us right up to the birthday. Say farewell, news agenda.