With all the fuss over Kate Middleton's baby, have we learned nothing since Princess Diana?

God help us if the Royal Foetus is all we have to look forward to in 2013

Viv Groskop
Wednesday 26 December 2012 21:16

I'm not a fan of the Queen's Speech. Or of the Queen. Or any of the Royal Family. Plus, I had my own traumatic event of the year to get through whilst she was on the telly: choking down the Brussels sprout of the year at a distinctly plebeian mealtime. Sorry, but who has finished eating their Christmas dinner by 3pm? Anyway. In so doing I missed One waffling on about One being Humbled by One's subjects' generosity over the Jubilee.

But at least in HRH's Christmas speech, One did do something every republican – and sensible monarchist – should applaud. One did not mention Kate Middleton's pregnancy. And quite right too. Because this should be our new year's wish for 2013. That this be the last mention of – whisper it, reverentially, as if in a fairy story – the Royal Baby.

No avoiding it

This isn't possible, of course. The Royal Baby, the royal maternity trousseau, the royal perambulator and every cough, sneeze and pelvic floor strain of the royal gestation, will be the biggest British news story of next year. There will be no avoiding it. Already it has been headline news all over the globe and, especially at home. Which, post-Leveson, does not augur well. Or make us look good as a nation.

The recent intrusive, maddening fuss over a minor complication very early in one woman's pregnancy was horrible to watch. Even the Queen – hardly a touchy-feely psychotherapy type – knows it's bad form to gossip about a pregnancy before the 12-week mark. And yet earlier this month no one seemed to question why we were entitled to know that Kate Middleton was in hospital.

The Palace has still not confirmed the due date (estimated June or July). But by all accounts Kate Middleton was between five and eight weeks pregnant when she was hospitalised with acute morning sickness. One in three pregnancies end in miscarriage before 12 weeks. Would that be our business, too?

The Palace must have decided that speculation would have been traumatic and widespread and, possibly, dangerous. Really? Worse than the feeding frenzy that resulted anyway? After everything that happened with Princess Diana, has no one learned anything?

A nation of forelock-tuggers

At the time, many newspaper reports omitted to mention the length of the pregnancy. I couldn't help thinking that this was because they knew some readers would be put off the story because it was, basically, inappropriate. But why let a detail like that get in the way of a “feelgood” factor when it guarantees sales?

After the triple-whammy of the Royal Wedding, the Jubilee and the Olympics, The Royal Baby shows how far we've fallen back into our forelock-tugging habits. Economists are already queuing up to predict that the only retail bounce the UK will get next year is from the birth of the Royal Baby. Have we really become so desperate as a nation that we're relying on the soap opera of the Royal Family for our morale – and our economic survival? Forget Keep Calm and Carry On. This is Keep Calm and Follow the Royals Obsessively.

Of course, it was the Olympics that really sealed the deal. The Queen's contribution to the Opening Ceremony was nauseating. You had to feel sorry for her, for Daniel Craig, for the actress Julia Mackenzie (who doubled for the Queen in the helicopter) and for Gary Connery, the stuntman who had to parachute down dressed in a pale peach chiffon dress and sensibly-heeled granny court shoes. Whatever you think of the monarchy (and I wish we did not have one), it was somewhere in the region between loss of dignity and idolatry. But everyone loved it.

In other countries like Spain and Denmark, they seem to manage to have royal figureheads who pop up occasionally in the gossip magazines, perform occasional ceremonial functions and are generally unobtrusive. That is the sort of monarchy a republican can just about stomach. Not a crowd of aristocratic pseudo-celebrities who manipulate, court and play along with media attention, while complaining when it doesn't go in their favour.


None of this will stop anyone. In this post-Leveson age, the Royal Foetus offers the perfect opportunity for non-reporting. “Ginger heir? Kate and William's Royal Baby has 50/50 chance of having red hair.” Hold the front page. Kate and William's Royal Baby has 50/50 chance of inheriting the throne. Stop press. Kate and William's Royal Baby has 50/50 chance of being a boy or a girl. You couldn't make it up. Actually, you could. And they will. Endlessly. Someone somewhere is probably auditioning stunt babies now for “hilarious” Look Who's Talking? YouTube re-enactments featuring “Kate 'n' Wills 'n' Royal tot”. It's like the past 20 years never happened.

Meanwhile, everyone laps it up. Let Kate Middleton, her nipples and her womb get on with life in peace? Not a chance. Come hell, high water or an even more spectacularly tanking economy, they will be our key contribution to the global news cycle of 2013. And I'm backing out of the room deferentially as I say this, but never mind Andrew Mitchell and Plebgate. When the Royals are firmly back on the front pages, it makes plebs of us all.

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