Birthright likely to sink William and Kate's hope of being ordinary parents

Birthright, public roles likely to sink William and Kate's hopes of being a modern family, despite Diana's trail-blazing, royal watchers say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 July, 2013, 7:31am


The birth of Britain's royal baby will be announced on a golden easel and hailed by cannon fire, but behind the pomp Prince William and Catherine will be trying to balance tradition with modern parenting.

The couple, both 31, have been widely portrayed as a 21st century royal couple who will deal with dirty diapers and sleepless nights like any ordinary mother and father.

But observers warn that even if they avoid dispatching the baby to the nursery like earlier generations of "The Firm", the responsibilities and pressures of monarchy will still get in the way.

"We keep being told that their parents want to give them a normal upbringing," Patrick Jephson, the former private secretary to William's late mother Princess Diana, said. "In some vague sense we are supposed to approve of the notion. But I'm afraid the truth is they're not normal and never can be normal."

Reports that Kate and her baby would spend the first six weeks at her parents' home fuelled the idea that Britain's newest royal might begin life like any other child, although security fears have raised doubts over whether this will happen.

While the Middletons are millionaires, they earned their money in business and appear to be a close-knit family with none of the formality of the royals.

Until now, William and Kate have been living relatively modestly in a farmhouse in Anglesey, north Wales, where William works as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.

They will eventually move into Kensington Palace in London, but renovations, which have already cost taxpayers £1 million (HK$11.5 million), are not expected to be finished before the birth.

Wherever the baby first lays its head, commentators agree that William and Kate will want to be "hands-on" parents.

"Although Kate has professed that she doesn't want nannies, and wants to do it on her own, that's before she's facing six months of sleepless nights," Claire Irvin, editor-in-chief of Mother & Baby magazine, said.

"But she is quite modern and doesn't seem to want huge entourages of help."

Video: Britons speculate over royal baby name

Phil Dampier, a royal reporter for 28 years and author of What's in the Queen's Handbag, believes the couple may have little choice.

He expects William will soon increase his royal duties, as the queen and Prince Philip ease theirs, and says the couple will need support at home. "William will want to do his share of changing the nappies," he said, but added: "I think they will have to have a full-time nanny even if they don't want one."

Gone are the days when royal children seldom saw their parents. Diana can take much of the credit. She took William on a royal tour to Australia when he was a baby and made sure he and younger brother Harry did "normal" things, even though they went to Eton, one of Britain's most exclusive boarding schools.

"She took them to see the homeless and gave them normal treats like trips to Alton Towers (theme park) … I'm sure Will and Kate will want to do the same," Dampier said.

Diana's legacy will doubtless also affect Kate and William's relationship with the press, and their determination to weigh privacy against public expectation.

William was 15 when his mother died in a car crash in Paris while being pursued by photographers. Keeping their offspring out of the spotlight could prove a test even for the media-savvy William and Kate.



If the oddsmakers at the British betting site Coral are right, here's what the birth announcement might look like:

Princess Alexandra


Born in the morning

3.18kg (7 pounds)

Date of birth: July 16 or 17, 9-1 odds

Long-shot names:

Tiffany, 100-1

Chardonnay, 250-1

Olympia, 500-1

And the odds of having something in common with another famous recent baby: 5,000-1. That's the payoff if the child is named North, like Kim Kardashian's newborn.

Source: Coral sports betting, Ladbrokes, William Hill