My column in the Ottawa Citizen this week discusses the long history of Scotland’s independence being influenced by the arrival of a royal baby. Mary, Queen of Scots succeeded to throne at only six days old and speculation that James II’s son was a spurious, “warming pan baby” contributed to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and eventual Act of Union in 1707. With the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence on September 18, there is speculation in the British press that the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will have a second child next year may influence Scottish voters to elect to remain part of the United Kingdom.
My interview with CBC.ca discusses the potential impact of this week’s royal birth announcement on the upcoming Scottish referendum. There is speculation in the British press that excitement about a new royal baby will encourage Scottish voters to elect to remain part of the United Kingdom. I also discuss the experiences of past royal second children.
Click here to read “Scotland’s referendum: How the next royal baby could sway it“
Clarence House announced today that “Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting their second child. The Queen and members of both families are delighted with the news.” The announcement follows months of speculation concerning William and Catherine’s plans to expand their family. Various media outlets have already dubbed the forthcoming royal baby, “the spare” after Consuelo Vanderbuilt’s famous phrase “the heir and the spare,” coined to describe her two sons, born in her loveless first marriage to the 9th Duke of Marlborough.
The designation, “spare” suggests that a second royal child, or second son prior the current succession reforms, always exists in the shadow of his or her elder sibling, experiencing constant comparisons to “the heir.” For the past three generations, “the spare” has presented in the media as the fun loving sibling, a royal rebel eager to challenge the boundaries of court protocol. Before the present reign, however, there was a strong change “the spare” would become a sovereign and have as many responsibilities as “the heir.”
When photographs of Prince Harry playing strip billiards in Las Vegas were leaked to the press in 2012, his partying was compared to his elder brother William’s work as a Search and Rescue pilot in Wales. William performed rescues the same week as Harry’s Las Vegas trip, emphasizing the apparent contrast between a responsible, dutiful “heir” and a carefree, thoughtless, “spare.”
Harry’s public image initially improved when served a subsequent active tour of duty in Afghanistan but when he spoke frankly of the need to “take a life to save a life,” the press compared his outspokenness to William’s more guarded approach to the media. Harry will be thirty next week and continues to attract speculation regarding his future role in the royal family. He has received praise for his successful charitable endeavors and overseas tours His past girlfriends, most notably Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas, have been the focus of intense media attention. With the arrival of William and Catherine’s second child, he will be fifth in line to the throne.
Both the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, and her late younger sister, Princess Margaret were judged unfavorably by the public in comparison to their elder siblings. While Prince Charles and Princess Anne are praised for their charity work, their younger brother Andrew has been dubbed “Air Miles Andy” for his extensive travels during his time as a British trade envoy. When Andrew was Harry’s age, he had a similar reputation to the current “spare.” Like Harry, Andrew was praised for his military service but his relationships attracted press attention, earning him another nickname, “Randy Andy.”
In 1952, Princess Margaret appeared carefree compared to her dutiful elder sister, the new Queen, but her status as “the spare” did not allow her freedom from the royal conventions of the time. In 1955, Margaret ended her relationship with the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend, stating, “Mindful of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others.” Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones, a society photographer, in 1960, and became a divorceé herself in 1978. Revelations regarding Margaret’s extramarital affairs and spending attracted considerable negative attention and there were calls from UK Labour MPs for her to be removed from the Civil List.
The experiences of Harry, Andrew and Margaret suggest that William and Catherine’s second child will face a lifetime of comparisons to older brother Prince George and a struggle to balance personal fulfillment with expected royal duties. This pattern, however, is a comparatively recent one. Prior to the present Queen’s reign, there was a strong chance that “the spare” would become the sovereign. Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Charles I, Anne, George V and George VI were all second sons or second daughters who unexpectedly became Kings and Queens. (When the future George V became a direct heir in 1892, his “spare” was his sister Louise, Duchess of Fife, the most recent brother/sister “heir and spare.”) Royal “spares” with living elder siblings sometimes found opportunities to rule outside Britain. Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, became Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. King John’s second son, Richard, was elected ruler of Germany “King of the Romans” in 1256. The life of “the spare” contained as much responsibility as the life of “the heir.”
The popular perception that the “spare” has fun while “the heir” performs extensive royal duties is a recent one, dating from the present reign. The 2012 Diamond Jubilee Thames river pageant emphasized the direct royal line – the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry – rather than the extended royal family. In a streamlined royal family that precludes extensive engagements for royal cousins, William and Catherine’s second child may one day face a busy schedule of royal engagements with little time to act as the fun loving counterpart to a dutiful older sibling.
Prince George is one year old today. In his first year, the royal baby has already had a profound impact on how the public views the monarchy. I’ve discussed George’s first year with a number of journalists in the past week. Here are the interviews:
Prince George of Cambridge, son of William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and third in line to the United Kingdom and Commonwealth thrones will celebrate his first birthday on July 22.
Prince George of Cambridge has had a profound effect on public perceptions of the monarchy during his first year. The senior members of the royal family have all received media coverage based on their relationship to the infant prince. Queen Elizabeth II, who is now the great-grandmother of four, is in a similar position to Queen Victoria after the birth of the future King Edward VIII in 1894: a respected elder stateswoman with three generations of direct heirs.
Recent coverage of the Prince of Wales emphasizes his role as a doting grandfather. During his overseas tours over the past year, he has received numerous gifts for George. In Sri Lanka, in November 2013, Charles visited a tea plantation on the 1,000 acre Labookellie estate, receiving a two silver plated tea caddies, one for himself and one for his grandson. In Canada, in May 2014, Charles received a miniature leather flying jacket with a fur-lined collar from the Stevenson Air Hangar in Winnipeg.
Charles has incorporated his new role as a grandfather into his environmental activism. In a speech delivered in Charlottetown during his recent Canadian tour, Charles stated, “In other words, the health of nature’s life support systems, which are now under such threat, has a direct bearing upon the health and well-being of people…“I have long tried to draw attention to this connection but it has come into even sharper focus now that I am a grandfather.” The Duchess of Cornwall was already the grandmother of five at the time of George’s birth, including William and Catherine’s bridesmaid, Eliza Lopes, but the arrival of Charles’s first grandchild has focused public attention on her warm rapport with young children.
For William and Catherine, the arrival of their son has focused public scrutiny on their parenting decisions. From the time of George’s birth last year, it has been clear that the royal couple are determined to make their own decisions regarding their son’s upbringing. William drove Catherine and George home from the hospital himself. The new parents spent months in comparative seclusion after the birth, spending time with their baby at Balmoral Castle and the Middleton family home in Berkshire.
In April 2014, George contributed to the success of William and Catherine’s tour of Australia and New Zealand. While William also traveled with his parents to the same countries as an infant, the 2014 itinerary included engagements specifically designed to showcase George. His public appearances, including visits to a Wellington play group and Sydney zoo were the most anticipated stops on the tour. In Australia, George was nicknamed “the republican slayer” because of the surge in the royal family’s popularity during the tour, just fifteen years after the Australian referendum on the future of the monarchy.
The Prince George effect is not confined to the royal baby’s parents, grandfather and great-grandparents. Other members of royal family have also received press coverage based on their relationship with George. Prince Harry’s rapport with children has received extensive attention and there is speculation that he is “desperate” to marry and start a family of his own. Although Princess Anne stated the day after George’s birth that his arrival had “Nothing to do with me, but it’s very good news,” her October 2013 visit to Canada received media attention as a tour by the royal baby’s great-aunt that took place at the same time as his christening. Reports on the christening of Maud Windsor, granddaughter of the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, emphasized that she would be the first to wear the replica Victorian christening gown after George.
In the past year, the arrival of Prince George has changed how the public in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth view the entire royal family. As great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles or cousins of the world’s most famous baby, all the members of the royal family have become the focus of increased popular interest. As George approaches his 1st birthday, he continues to transform how the public connects to the monarchy.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s finances have become the focus of public scrutiny in recent months. The extensive renovations to their apartment in Kensington Palace and erroneous reports that Prince William received a helicopter for his 32nd birthday prompted criticism of the usually popular royal couple. I discussed William, Kate and Royal Finances with Janet Davison at CBC.ca
For more of my thoughts on royal finances see the recent article I wrote for the Ottawa Citizen, “The Truth About Royal Spending” and the 2013 article I wrote for Bloomberg View, “How Big an Inheritance Awaits Kate and William’s Baby”
1) The Queen Celebrated Her Official Birthday in the United Kingdom on June 14, 2014 at the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony
The History: In the British Isles, the monarch’s birthday has been a time for public celebrations for centuries. Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) employed a “Fire Master of England” to release fireworks on special royal occasions. The earliest versions of the Trooping the Colour parade date from the reign of King Charles II (r. 1660-1685). Following the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, regiments displayed their flags in a parade, enabling all soldiers to recognize their regimental colours for use as a rallying point in battle. During the reign of King George II (r. 1727-1760), Britain decided to combine the celebration of the sovereign’s official birthday with the Trooping the Colour Parade. In 1901, King Edward VII, whose actual birthday was November 9, decreed that the Trooping the Colour should always take place in June and was the first monarch to review the troops in person at this event. The Queen has attended Trooping the Colour every year of her reign except for 1955, when a railway strike prompted the cancellation of the event.
The celebration of the sovereign’s official birthday varies throughout the Commonwealth. For more on how the Queen’s birthday is celebrated outside the UK, including Victoria Day in Canada see my blog post “Why The Queen’s Annual Birthday Celebrations Take Place On Different Days Around The World”
2) Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge celebrated his first Father’s Day on the polo field. The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George were there to watch the game.
The History: Prince George of Cambridge, who will be one year old next month, made his first public appearance since his April tour of New Zealand and Australia with his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, when he attended a charity polo match on Father’s Day. George wore red and white striped overalls to the Jerudong Polo Trophy at Cirencester Park Polo Club demonstrating that William and Kate are not constrained by “blue for a boy, pink for girl” stereotypes when dressing their son. George’s overalls are reminiscent of earlier eras when all royal babies were dressed similarly. For example, the generation of European royal babies born in the two decades before the First World War wore white dresses as infants then sailor suits as toddlers.
Prince William enjoys a close relationship with his son, George, and father, Prince Charles. Multiple generations of harmonious father-son relationships are rare in royal history. For centuries, raising an heir often meant raising a rival. The 18th century House of Hanover was notorious for the poor relationships between monarchs and their adult sons but other dynasties also had their share of absentee, resentful or overbearing royal fathers. In contrast, both Charles and William were present in the delivery room when their children were born and have taken an active role in child rearing.
3) King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain are expected to keep their titles after the installation of the new King Felipe VI on June 19
The History: Following the installation of their son as King Felipe VI, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia are expected to retain the titles of King and Queen. Spain’s government is also taking measures to ensure that Juan Carlos retains some degree of the judicial immunity he enjoyed as King after he abdicates, examining measure to prevent civil suits, such as paternity cases.
Spain has debated the appropriate title for a reigning monarch’s father before. When Juan Carlos became King in 1975, he succeeded the dictator Francisco Franco rather than his father, Infante Juan so the new King had to address the question of his father’s title under a restored Spanish monarchy. Two years after Juan Carlos became King, Juan formally renounced his rights to the throne and received the historic title of Count of Barcelona. Since the Catalan parliament in Barcelona approved a declaration asserting that Catalonia is a sovereign entity last year “Count of Barcelona” would be a controversial title for Juan Carlos in the 21st century.
William, Kate and George arrived in Sydney today for the Australian half of their royal tour. Upcoming highlights include a visit to Taronga Zoo, where the bilby enclosure is being named after Prince George, a visit to the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra and an ANZAC Day March for the centenary of World War One.
I participated in a Canada.com live chat today about the royal tour of Australia and New Zealand.
I will be participating in a Canada.com Royal Chat about the current visit to New Zealand and Australia by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge & Prince George on April 9 at 1pm.