After many, many hours of televised twaddle, we have a new Prince. 8lbs, 6 ounces. All new babies are, as Nancy Mitford so rightly pointed out, ‘deep down among the frills and lace,’ little more than, ‘a howling orange in a fine black wig’. Even little Princes who arrive third in line to the throne heralded by the clammy, effusive trumpetings of Nicholas Witchell and the excitable questioning by Kay Burley of excited people about just how excited they are.
Non-stop news hysteria began at around 7am when Kate and William made the grave error of being spotted entering the Lindo Wing. ‘Amazing scenes outside Buckingham Palace,’ squeaked Jane Hill, pointing at the standard amount of visitors watching the changing of the guard in mid-July. Here is the news,’ gasped Simon McKay on News 24 at 1pm, melting in a collar and tie in 30 degree heat, surrounded by the five hundred strong jibbering journo scrum, ‘The news is… there isn’t any news.’ Unfettered live TV coverage carried on hour after hour
To me, and perhaps to others, the media attention felt rather cruel. Like most kind, sensible people - no, not you odd posh male “royal experts” yaddering about lineage, expectation, duty and protocol – nor you “grinning goon from Corals with your baby name betting stakes updates printed on big wobbly piece of cardboard” – I had no great intrusive fascination in the dilating state of affairs between the Duchess of Cambridge’s legs. Giving birth is a special, private thing. It’s also messy, unpredicatable and damned undiginified. Poor Kate Middleton, I thought, as Sky News anchors joked about her pushing and midwives appeared to paint a vivid picture of the birth. What a weird way to treat a young woman.
By this point in any of my friend’s labours they were in a room at the mercy of a growingly regular dark gurgling. They were mooing, panting and swearing a dark curse in the direction of the man who got them into this spherical mess. No woman has ever lay legs akimbo in a maternity ward, scared and exhausted wishing she could switch on rolling news to find Kate Silverton and gang tapping their watches, speculating about triplets and comparing her birth to Princess Diana’s.
“It’s worth remembering that Diana had to have an epidural after 15 hours,” wittered one berk pundit who feathers his nest with this sort of creepy royal vaginal minutia. It’s worth remembering, I thought at this point, that when William’s mother Diana began to moan about this sort of intrusion, and feel little more than a public property broody mare, she was branded wholly bonkers.
As the afternoon rolled on, Sky News did a lot of speculating over exactly how long after the baby has been delivered – y’know, that time when a woman is at her most delicate and vulnerable and in need of time to bond with her new amazing squawking lump – how long after this would the media scrum be required to wait for a photocall? And how long before they announce a name?
All those people who took up the Corals bet, after all, would want their pay-out. Come on William, give us some ETAs here! How long before Will might appear and thank the press for setting up media city? And thank the Australian media for their special input in this pregnancy, and thank that thoroughly dubious homeless person in the jesters’ costume nursing his ickle plastic baby who has lived in a box outside the hospital for just being swell.
And who, exactly, would be writing the name on to the easel outside Buckingham Palace so tourists and drunks can photobomb it with thumbs aloft? Easel-watch, Sky News were terming it. Do us Britons go out of our way to make oursleves look adorably Camelot-tinged to the outside world? And then at 8pm, suddenly news arrived. A little boy.
Well, this saved a lot of awkward discussions about equal rights. “Not a boy, a Prince!” some windsock in a suit spluttered to Kay Burley when she dared downgrade the small bundle of joy to mere mortal. All little boys and little girls’ births are wonderful, but this one was more wonderful than any you’ve experienced.
As news crews roamed the parks, palaces and Whitehall intereviewing giddy tourists, it struck me that these, whatever one’s views, these people were truly gleeful to have been in London, on July 22nd, close to that weird easel, or hearing a real life Town Crier, in the heart of a royal occasion. They’ve all had their special moments. It would be nice if we all just backed off now, and let Kate and Will have theirs.