On his third birthday, I can think of one gift Prince George really does need – and it's not another £18,000 playhouse

In 1978, Margaret Thatcher claimed that 'there may be poverty because people don’t know how to budget, don’t know how to spend their earnings, but now you are left with the really hard fundamental character – personality defect'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It’s Prince George’s third birthday today. As his loyal subjects, it’s only right that we celebrate. Only this morning, as I cracked open the Bollinger on my private flight back from the holiday home in Tuscany, I thought to myself, ‘I should probably send him a gift’. 

But what to send that would top the £1,800 puppy, the £300 train set, the £5,000 rocking horse from the Middletons, the other rocking horse from the Obamas, the £18,000 miniature cottage on wheels, the £1,320 carved swing, the celebrity-studded themed birthday party, the other party at Balmoral with the Queen, the possum skin cloak, the amphibious boat, the personalised surfboard, the personalised skateboard, the personalised basketball shirt from the NBA, the sheepskin boots, the bike, the leather flying jacket, the handmade First World War-style flying helmet lined with possum fur, the yellow jersey from the Tour de France, the £345 hand-crafted pine toy box, the cot blanket handmade by nuns in the hometown of Nick Clegg’s Spanish wife, the £7,000 silver sculptures of his hands and feet, the monogrammed cufflinks, the lapus lazuli orb featuring the silver cross of Edward the Confessor from the Pope, the herd of bulls in Kenya, the permanently reserved table marked by a plaque in the Fort St George pub in Cambridge, the £10,000 18ct white gold bracelet with a charm-sized nappy rash cream holder attached, the commemorative £5 coin, the kangaroo-hair blanket from Australia, the wardrobe of royal collection clothes so enviable that he made it onto GQ’s ‘50 Best Dressed Men in Britain’ list, the field of wildflowers in the Transylvanian hills – these are all genuine gifts that George has received in his short lifetime – and the host of other less important presents such as books and DVDs and clothes made from the tears of unicorns by enchanted nymphs?

Perhaps one of those Fisher Price hoovers will do – although it’s hardly likely to introduce him to a skill he’ll ever have to use in adult life.

I know it’s dreadfully vulgar to go on about it, but Prince George is a boy born into enormous privilege. The 18th century mansion that he lives in, given to his parents by the Queen as a wedding gift, has 10 bedrooms, a swimming pool and a tennis court. Meanwhile, one in five children in the UK lives in poverty. In Newcastle, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, the part of the country where I grew up, that rises to one in three.

It’s often said that the royals endure just as many hardships as they do privileges, considering that their lives are so assiduously recorded by a snap-happy international media. So are the mountain of presents and the approximately £4,000 annual fees of his Montessori nursery school worth the unfair scrutiny this poor child will have foisted upon him? Well, yes. If you lived in a single room with your three siblings and your parents, and your mum went without dinner two nights a week so she could feed you, you’d probably think so too.

I don’t like that we live in a world where five-year-old Florence Cameron appears on the front page of the Daily Mail as “Cameron’s little cutie” with a full-size accompanying picture just because her father resigned as prime minister, and I wouldn’t want my awkward teenage phase permanently recorded in the pages of Hello! magazine either. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to dredge up sympathy for the royals in today’s climate of austerity – one that punishes the poor and turns a blind eye to the excesses of the rich.

In 1978, Margaret Thatcher claimed that “there is no primary poverty left in this country… All right, there may be poverty because people don’t know how to budget, don’t know how to spend their earnings, but now you are left with the really hard fundamental character – personality defect.” 

Prince George may have to live with the judgment of the nation, but children who grow up in poverty do too. 

They live with the judgment that their parents are defective and lazy, even though over 60 per cent of families living below the poverty line include parents who work. They live with scrutiny over their worn-out, hand-me-down clothes, their inability to attend social events and school trips, and shame about their “rough” backgrounds where they live among “scroungers”. 

They live with the legacy of Thatcherism, in a time when our new prime minister makes jokes at Prime Minister’s Questions that appear to suggest that she’s Thatcher incarnate and while Tories crow about the return of an Iron Lady.

7 of Prince George's most astounding privileges and powers

Prince George is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act; the royal family is the only public body that is. But there’s nowhere to hide when you’re poor, and everyone thinks they’re owed information about you. 

If you claim working tax credits, you are expected to regularly lay bare details about your life to the Government and a host of people who work for the Department for Work and Pensions. But if you’re a royal, you take much bigger handouts from the taxpayer, with a private weekly meeting with the prime minister thrown in.

The best gift Prince George could receive today, then? It’s one his grandmother had in abundance: the gift of perspective.

Comments