He’s 272 days old and already I’ve hit peak George

The young Prince has been crowned 'Most Influential Baby of All Time'

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Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that I know about an eight-month baby I have never met. His name is George. His smocked sailboat dungarees cost £75. He became mobile a full month earlier than his father did. He is “obsessed” with wombats. Sometimes he dribbles. He already knows how to “work a room”. At the time of writing he has five teeth. He has been sleeping properly only since he started on solids. He is an Alpha baby with a high degree of self-confidence. His party trick is holding his mother’s hand. I could go on.

This is no ordinary eight-month-old, of course. If he were, I might have quietly clicked “Hide all” on his parents’ Facebook feed weeks ago. This is Prince George, the future king. Nevertheless, it is odd, unsettling even, that his public already knows so much about him. He is only 272 days old and very likely many, many decades away from being the monarch. Royal correspondents estimate that he will carry out more than 20,000 public engagements in his lifetime. There is a danger, with all the teeth-counting, fashion-watching and body-language-analysing on his first outing, that we might have peaked too soon.

Or perhaps there is no such thing as too soon any more. This week, Prince George – small, cute, unable to walk or talk – was also crowned “Most Influential Baby of His Time”. The list was compiled by a baby retailer “according to the baby’s marketing potential, their future standing in adulthood and the net worth of their parents, among other factors”, which is the sort of sentence that makes one wish one had never been born at all. Still, well done George. He has shown up tiny Eric Cowell and Harper Beckham to be the also-rans they clearly are. There are some things money cannot buy.

It’s absurd, of course, to rank babies, even more so according to their “influence”. But the fascination with famous infants is at its peak. No sooner did Chelsea Clinton announce her pregnancy this week than someone had worked out the day her embryo would become eligible to be US President (20 January 2053). The idea that a human being might shape their own destiny is dismissed in favour of the reliable, old-fashioned fact of stock – of who his or her parents are.

It remains to be seen how Prince George will wield the influence gifted him by genetics – whether he will opt for his grandfather’s black spider letters, or the mute, fashion-led headline-making of his mother. On the evidence of the past 10 days, it seems unlikely that he will be granted the space to develop and grow in private, the simple privilege of most ordinary children.

His first visit to New Zealand and Australia has spawned the kind of exhaustive reporting and souvenir supplements usually reserved for royal weddings, major deaths and British sporting victories. His first public playdate, or “official engagement”, was reported on Today and documented with the breathless precision of David Attenborough tracking a snow leopard in the wild. Every crawl, tug and gurgle was scrutinised for signs of future leadership skills, sporting prowess, romantic dysfunction and baldness. Like his mother, he is a fashion plate – unable to put on a cardigan without causing an internet stampede. He is carted around everywhere in an awkward front-facing embrace, the better to greet the public and the banks of lenses in front of them. It’s a funny old life, and it is only just beginning.

In New Zealand, 450 journalists were accredited to cover the royal visit, a level of interest the government described as “unprecedented”. Certainly neither Prince Charles nor Prince William grew up in such a dazzling spotlight. They had stiff photo opportunities, not filmed playdates or Facebook pages dedicated to their clothes. We have been here before: the saturation coverage and flashbulbs cannot help but recall the glamorous grandmother George will never meet. If the Buckingham Palace strategy now is to present William, Kate and George as a loving, modern family unit, it is working. They look like they are having a lovely time. The details of George’s sleeping and eating patterns are appealingly ordinary, but the future king is far from it. And his best chance at a functional upbringing would be if he were allowed to dribble, crawl and play without the world watching him.

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