It was an English monarch who purportedly said, “No news is better than evil news,” and thereby launched an enduring (though now somewhat less wordy) maxim. Unless, King James I should have added, it’s news about his successors.
From the time Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, entered the maternity hospital until she and her husband, Prince William, emerged with their newborn boy 12 hours later, the minutiae of the royal birth on Monday dominated the news in Britain — and not only there. The arrival of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in Washington was no competition for the suspense in London, broken shortly after 11 a.m. not by the traditional notice in a wooden frame posted by the gates of Buckingham Palace (that came later, carried out by two women in morning coats, black ties and bright red waistcoats) but by a tweet from Kensington Palace that the duchess “was safely delivered of a son.”
Before and after that there was little the inquiring public would not learn. It was “breaking news” when Prince William brought his other children, little Prince George, still in his school uniform, and Princess Charlotte, who gave an oh-so-precious wave to the crowd, to visit their new brother. The royal obstetrician and royal gynecologist — “royal” was the word of the day — were richly profiled. The fact that Lady Gabriella Windsor, the daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, had been born in the same hospital on the same day, only 37 years earlier, was presented as a remarkable coincidence. Westminster Abbey announced it would ring a full peal of “Cambridge Surprise Royal” on Tuesday; tabloids noted with disapproval that the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, took more than three hours to send his greetings to “Kate and William.”
And so it went. That which did remain unknown by day’s end — the baby’s name and the godparents — was endlessly discussed. Bookmakers were putting odds on Arthur, Albert, Frederick, James and Philip; as for sponsors, the speculation was that a third child with few chances of ever ascending the throne would not need a roster of prominent godparents like his siblings.
Was it too much? Of course, but when offered alongside all the other “evil news” of White House iniquities, shooting rampages and other horrors, it’s barely enough, as Mark Twain might have put it.
Though the British royalty went through a rough patch in the 1990s with a rash of divorces, scandals and salacious leaks and the death of Prince William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, today Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 on Saturday, presides over a curiously sympathetic and attractive mix of archaic tradition, fairy-tale titles and very modern lives. While the duchess was giving royal birth, her brother-in-law Prince Harry and his fiancée, Meghan Markle, an American actress, were attending a memorial service on the 25th anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence, murdered in a racially motivated attack.
So stay tuned. They should be announcing the name(s) of His New Royal Highness any day now.