Kate Middleton

Bit of a queue for future king

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 4:46pm

There's nothing quite like a royal event to unite the nation and lighten gloom and doom in Britain. Amid national austerity, the birth of a baby boy, third in direct line to the throne, has sparked jubilation. It has also brought out vicarious monarchism elsewhere, especially in the US, thanks partly to the emotional link to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who would have been a grandmother at 52.

Royal watching takes a kind of stamina these days. It is debatable, for example, whether the first British royal heir to be born in the 21st century will ascend to the throne before the turn of the 22nd century. It depends on whether his grandfather, Prince Charles, 64, and father, Prince William, 31, have inherited the longevity and unswerving dedication to duty of his great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth, who has reigned for 61 years, and her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years. If so, he is more likely to have made a grandparent of his father and become one himself before taking his turn on the throne. That is unless his father or grandfather follow the recent example of two European royals and abdicate for one reason or another, such as age, health, or simply to make way for someone more in tune with younger generations.

How will the newborn's parents balance their royal duties with raising him for a long life of king-in-waiting? Thirty years ago, Charles and Diana left the then baby William in the care of a nanny on an Australian rural property while they undertook a royal tour. However, Diana later strove to give her two sons a normal upbringing. William is determined to shield his family from the public attention that defined his mother's tragic life. It will be interesting to see how that is reconciled with a mutually beneficial relationship with the media.

Australia eventually rejected a change to a republic - a reminder that despite the symbolic anachronism, constitutional monarchies can still play a lasting role in political and social stability.