It was the ‘good news’ the world, or at least the media, had been waiting for. The third heir apparent to the British monarchy was born on Monday, July 22, amid anxious but excited wait of the media, obsessed to deliver the news to people who might not be as fascinated. The British press as well as media from across the globe camped outside St. Mary’s Hospital in West London for weeks before Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, arrived at dawn break on Monday in the early stages of labour. This “royal baby fever” swayed the media, leading to moment-to moment coverage, curious dwellings on not just the baby’s gender but the name, and the future of the monarch.
The boy is the first royal prince in the digital age, which was apparent with the kind of prying he generated. The action seemed to be happening not just inside the hospital but outside on the world stage. The reports and speculations were almost breathless, pointing towards the interest the royal family has always caused worldwide. Such attention was not always so frenzied and was aided in this time of the arrival of the new monarch with the technological advances, the 24X7 news portals and the bulging social media. Platforms like Twitter magnified the tendency for curiosity around the family that has now become a global phenomenon.
The world media seemed to be on high alert for what was dubbed the ‘Great Kate Wait’ with such furore that it can be a case study for media students. Britain was not alone in celebrating the birth of a new prince as newspapers around the world splashed the happy event across their front pages the next morning. Here is what some of them had to say: “As unabashed monarchists, we’re delighted with this latest addition to the Royal Family,” declared the Toronto Sun. “While we respect the view of our fellow Canadians who prefer that we become a Republic, similar to our American friends, we believe tradition is important. That includes Canada’s tradition as a constitutional monarchy.”
The birth of the third in line to the throne was a leading news item on all major US networks. New Yorkers are spending a “royal bounty on balloons, booze, bets” to celebrate the royal birth, reported The New York Post. “New York City — which you might presume is too cool for such Anglo trivia — is experiencing its own jolt of excitement... Restaurants, bars and shops across town report a flurry of sales related to the new prince.”
French daily Liberation listed ways in which the birth of the royal baby is different from that of just any baby, including the fact that it stirred the Republicans into action. “Yours wakes you up in the night, but this baby wakes up the British Republican camp. It is a paradox, but at each major royal event they launch a communications plan to benefit from the excitement.” However, the current campaign “has not found much of an echo”, added the paper.
“The Great Kate Wait is over, and the UK — and Australia — has a new third in line to the throne,” reported The Sydney Morning Herald. The paper’s readers joked: “The pressure on the young royal couple right now must be extraordinary: ‘Does one use cloth nappies or disposables?’ for example.”
“What is the secret of the British royal family, because of which we were all in labour yesterday?” Boaz Bismuth wondered in Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom. “Who cares about Cameron, Hollande, Nasrallah or Obama on a day a new hero is born to the royal family? The kingdom is dead? Long live the kingdom!” The world press has made Baby Cambridge’ an international celebrity, in turn made famous by his popular parents as also the global fascination with the royal family that can be traced back to Princess Diana’s time in the spotlight. However, such curiosity can also generate unpleasant events as was witnessed in incidents like the death of Princess Diana and most recently the suicide of St. Mary’s Hospital nurse Jacintha Saldanha.
Technological advances mean anyone with a modern camera and phone can pose a threat, especially for the royal family, the most photographed, mediainterest attracting institution in the world. Everything about it is under constant scrutiny and it was this prying that led to the death of Princess Diana in a car crash. The accident was blamed to be the result of the paparazzi following the princess to capture her with her partner.
Media can go to any length for scoops on the royal family, made apparent last year too in December. As the news of Duchess Kate’s pregnancy broke, two radio jockeys from Australia made a hoax call at the St. Mary’s Hospital where she was admitted at the time, pretending to be Queen Elizabeth anxiously wanting to know the health of the Duchess. Nurse Saldanha had answered the call, and revealed some private details without cross-checking. The embarrassment put the nurse’s role under scrutiny and she later committed suicide, squarely blaming the jockeys for the drastic step.
There’s no escaping this snooping and sweating. As the biggest blanket of press gathers in London, the new parents have a tough job to do — give a normal childhood to their son. The royal couple might have to make a deal with the media to keep their prying eyes at bay. This was earlier done by the baby’s father Prince William after the death of Princess Diana, to which media had agreed to not intrude. It’ll be interesting to see whether he’ll be able to manage the same for his baby. In the current circumstances and technological developments, however, that seems like a royal task.