In even the newest of life, if I might welcome the glad tidings on a suitably upbeat note, we walk through the shadow of the valley of death. And so it occurs to this natural-born optimist that the odds against you, aging reader, and me being around for the little fella’s Coronation are similar to those against him being christened HRH Prince Monolulu Wayne Osama Dizzee Rascal Himmler Gonad of Cambridge.
My own preference for the future sovereign’s name, by the way, has alway been James (the 2-1 favourite at the time of writing), in homage to the splendid if ultimately futile role played by Sir James Savile OBE in brokering marital peace between his paternal grandparents, Charles and Diana.
But whatever the infant is named – or has have been named, should the Palace have seen fit to make us look fools by releasing the news after we went to press – his gene pool and advances in the medicine of longevity suggest that his father, the clean-living, non-smoking Prince William, will live to at least 91. In which case little Monolulu/James/Whoever will not park his bum upon the throne of the United Kingdom and his great-grandmama’s former dominions across the seas until, at the very earliest, the year 2073.
Foreseeing the kind of Britain His Adorably Wee Royal Highness will constitutionally rule is an impossible test for even as sensationally talented a soothsayer as your columnist. When William was born 31 years ago, for example, futurologists were sure that by now we would have ditched the cars, trains and buses for personal jet packs. That cancer would be as distant a dark memory as smallpox. And that the fearsome challenge for those of us soon to turn 50, who would be poised to cease work with obesely padded pension pots, would be usefully filling the untold hours of leisure. So how’s that wealthy early retirement thing working out for ya? Me, not so good.
The oddity – and however often the point is made, it is bizarre – is that one thing utterly safe to predict is that this man-child will one day sit on that throne. If the reaction to his birth re-teaches us anything, other than that almost everybody goes gaga over a freshly minted baby, it is that being a Republican in Britain is more of a mug’s game now than for centuries.
This must explain the national rapture better even than the gorgeous, biscuity smell of new-born neck about which legions of mummy novelists so love to bang on. The spectre of permanence is a pleasing one in a world developing at breakneck pace thanks to the wonders of technology. And especially so here in the global citadel of bonkers nostalgia, where huddling on underground platforms to avoid Luftwaffe bombs remains, to some, the happiest days of their lives.
The plus ça change-ness of an unbroken royal line stretching back to the Hanoverians and far into the future is a reassuring force, and no one should come over too sneery about that. I relish the idea that in this one regal regard, the country inherited by King Lulu I, if he’ll excuse the familiarity, won’t be remotely different from the one he entered at 4.24pm on Monday. News of his Coronation will not appear on the printed page, because there will be no such entity as a printed newspaper in 2073 (or, come to that, in 2023). But those reading about it on graphene tablets that scrunch up into tiny, pocket-sized balls, or having them downloaded directly to their cerebral nanochips, will find those details virtually identical to the ones that attended the present sovereign’s anointment by God in 1953. And that, you will agree, is a comforting thought.
Beyond that, imagining the Britain of 60 years hence is a challenge, although something the amateur futurologist may state with certainty. “Will England have won the World Cup by 2073?” a friend and colleague mused yesterday. “England,” I wearily replied, fatigued by a child-like naivety unbecoming his years, “will not have won the Fifa World Cup by 3073.” Sir Brucie will still be fluffing his Strictly punchlines, and the Daily Mail – or at least Mail Online – will still be in a frightful state about the tidal wave of immigrants (albeit perhaps flooding in from Jay Zeta Centauri in the Quark-Hiphop nebula, rather than Bucharest). It is conceivable that Australia will have produced a cricket team capable of contesting an Ashes Test match in a manner other than the wholly satirical. But you wouldn’t necessarily care to bet on that.
Me, I’d have my posthumous tenner on tobacco, howsoever packaged, having virtually vanished from the face of the earth, the idea of filling the lungs with carcinogens having come to be seen as no less preposterous than that ancient debate about whether gay people should be entitled to wed. Who knows, the future King may have become our first out-and-proud monarch, forging a dynastic marriage with a drag queen from Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, and producing an heir of his own by way of turkey baster and surrogate.
Whether by 2073 climate change has rendered Windsor Castle an oasis in a British Sahara stretching from Brighton to Balmoral, whether the New Chinese Empire has been supplanted by the Pax Braziliana, whether Spurs have finally contrived to finished above Arsenal in the Premier League, and whether Katie Price has bequeathed her implant collection to a permanent silicon retrospective (never underestimate the Pricey!) at the Unnatural Science Museum, who can guess?
On these and a myriad of equally intriguing questions, the crystal ball is enshrouded by fog. But whatever the future holds, we wish the little chap only happiness as he grows up in a bemused, peculiar and, at moments such as this, peculiarly endearing post-imperial power that knows no other way to make sense of its place in the world than by coming together, daftly and sweetly, to celebrate his arrival and the promise of permanence it holds out. Long live Prince Monolulu, or Whoever, of Cambridge!