Baby born in London last week

July 29, 2013

Independent columnist Mark Steel is beside himself about the "news" of the royal birth.

WHAT A week! Oh such boundless joy that transports us to the very heavens! It began with the BBC's man on the spot at Windsor Castle, Nicholas Witchell, gasping statements such as: "I am informed the royal cervix has currently widened to 9 centimeters, and the Queen is said to be 'thrilled' at this level of dilation."

"The world waits" were the words the BBC put up, and indeed, the whole world was thinking of nothing else. Somali fishermen abandoned their nets, saying: "Today, I cannot concentrate on mackerel to feed my village, as we pray that Nicholas Witchell soon brings us news of the royal head emerging." In shanty towns of São Paulo, the destitute stopped begging to mark the event, declaring: "The breaking of the royal waters certainly puts our trifles into perspective."

Then he came, and even before we saw him, we could tell he was majestic, glorious, divine and the rest of us should show our gratitude by self-harming with scissors, as a sign of our pathetic humility next to his exalted magnificence.

The royal baby and parents emerge from a hospital in London
The royal baby and parents emerge from a hospital in London (Christopher Neve)

In parliament, our representatives gave thanks, with speeches such as: "May we convey our sincerest, deepest, cosmic and interplanetary congratulations, that are yet miserably inadequate on such an orgasmic occasion, to the infinitely immaculate Royal Family upon the birth of the perfect one, and may we on this side of the House offer a selection of limbs we have severed with rusty implements as a gesture of our gratitude to their everlasting marvelousness."

The BBC began hyperventilating at the unforgettable moment when the family left the hospital. "Prince William has put the baby in the car and driven off," we were told. That's royal upbringing for you. Because us commoners usually get everything mixed up, putting a nappy on the car and pouring petrol over the baby.

By now, the merchandise was on sale, as thankful subjects bought royal baby mugs and tea towels, and even in deprived housing estates, joyous common folk celebrated by buying commemorative crack, stamped with royal approval to mark the event with regal hallucinations.

Soon, we hope, it will be announced that the royal placenta will be put on display in Westminster Abbey, so ecstatic well-wishers can queue for several months to get a glimpse, with a special book in which they can leave their comments, which the new prince can read at his leisure once he becomes king.

Cannons were fired; guards played "Congratulations"; and it would have been quite believable if Huw Edwards had said: "Next, in keeping with the ancient tradition going back to the birth of King Henry III, a camel will be exploded within the grounds of Windsor Castle."

The BBC informed us: "There will be updates throughout the night on our news channels," which was an immense relief, because otherwise, how would we know of any developments unfolding in the life of this one-day-old baby? What if, at three in the morning, he started to fly? Without regular updates throughout the night, we'd have to wait until the morning to find out.

So Nicholas Witchell heroically appeared whenever you switched on to tell us: "The Palace has confirmed the royal baby's latest poo was a darker green than his first one, but just as runny, and Prince Charles is said to be 'delighted' at the consistency." In between the most exciting points, the news channels discussed the implications of all this with objective commentators, such as the editor of Majesty magazine and a spokesperson from Debrett's ("the modern authority on all matters of etiquette, social occasions, people of distinction and fine style," its website tells us).

Some stuck to constitutional matters, such as whether Chris Froome and Andy Murray should hand their Tour de France and Wimbledon trophies to the royal baby, as they are, in truth, the prince's achievements.

Others just beamed with submissive glee, and one chap from a New Zealand royal magazine was so excited he made a sort of "Wheeey" noise, though I think what he was trying to say was: "It's so wonderful that I've ejaculated, on behalf of Her Majesty's loyal subjects of my humble dominion nation."


ONE POINT they agreed on is that the current adoration of the royal family assures the monarchy's survival for generations, its popularity back to the level it commanded 20 years ago. But this is misunderstating the situation. We haven't just gone back 20 years--we've gone back past Victorian times when the rise of democracy made royalty seem outdated.

We've gone back past the 1790s, when Tom Paine's Rights of Man became one of the biggest best-sellers ever, for declarations such as: "The idea of a hereditary ruler is as ridiculous as the idea of a hereditary mathematician." In the current climate, it seems certain they'll give that a try, and next week, we'll be told: "Behold, for the future president of the Royal Society of Multiplication was born today." Then, in 60 years' time, he'll give lectures that go: "Aren't these squiggles wonderful? I've no idea what they mean, but I was left them by my grandfather."

We've gone back to before the 17th century, when every field of human activity was imbued with debate about the nature of monarchy. So as we rejoice that a newborn baby is worthier than the rest of us because we're common, let's take the rest of our ideas from the 15th century as well. To start with, let's abandon gravity, which is nowhere near as much fun as believing that stuff stays on the floor because God keeps it there, and work our way along from there.

Occasionally, I confess, I've had the thought that if you really care for this newborn baby, you'd want the monarchy abolished so he could lead a human life, rather than one beholden to "duty," with no room for emotion, his every moment pored over by sycophantic idiots, every decision made for him according to the requirements of "the Palace" and, worst of all, having to be in close proximity to Nicholas Witchell.

But then I banish these devilish notions and run across fields shrieking: "All hail the royal baby, for we are mere lice upon the most rabid of mangy hounds compared with thee" and I thank the Lord we're not like North Korea, where the way they fawn before their unelected head of state is clearly bonkers.

First published in the Independent.

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