Prince George apparently looked a bit nervous as he went to school for the first time, as many five-year-olds do.
So, given that it’s a stressful moment for a kid anyway, wasn’t it a great idea to deploy journalists and photographers, police officers and “large crowds”, ready and waiting to pounce on every minute detail of the Great Event and distribute them all to the waiting world?
No tiny nugget was too quotidian to broadcast. George’s new school uniform included a blue jumper (£25, John Lewis), blue bermuda shorts (£23, John Lewis) and long blue socks (£14, John Lewis) with laceless black shoes (brand sadly unknown but similar available in Trotters, from £62). Some of this had been a choice. There’s a winter uniform too, but at this time of the year there’s flexibility.
George has a couple of small cuts on his face, and the start of a black eye. Boys will be boys, the Daily Mail reminded us, perhaps not entirely in tune with the spirit of the times. The skin of girls does not cut or bruise, of course. Everyone knows that.
George had a schoolbag, and his name was on it. He will be known as George Cambridge at the school, which is Thomas’s Battersea, a top independent school. But apparently George won’t be getting any special treatment there, which rather makes you wonder what the point of travelling so far from Kensington Palace, in a black Range Rover with tinted windows, in a child seat, in the back, could possibly be.
The front seat was missing its precious cargo. Kate Cambridge was “sad”, “devastated”, “disappointed”, “upset”, and so on, to miss the occasion. You can randomly pick your own word to describe how you imagine the duchess was feeling, because that’s exactly how those ones reached the public domain. She was “bedbound” – possibly – owing to hyperemesis gravidarum, which the Mail capped up, to emphasise just how gravidarum this extreme form of morning sickness is. It “causes victims to vomit constantly”, sometimes “up to 50 times a day”. But never 51. Thankfully, however, the duchess was still able to monitor her son’s arrival, on the television news. We should all be so lucky.
Some people were very unlucky indeed. Rita and Tony Cresswell “travelled 160 miles to see Prince George on his first day” and shared their frustrated expectations. “We’ve come down from Matlock, in Derbyshire, and we thought it would be nice to see them whilst we were here. We had hoped that Kate would be here too, we are disappointed. It would have been nice. My granddaughter started preschool yesterday, and I was hoping to get a photograph of George to show her that her prince had started. It is just a bit disappointing.”
This week William himself looked ‘the young, modern father on the school run’ Which is the very strange thing about the whole royal business.
It’s not the people who regard the royals with indifference who turn the institution into an endless bunfight of intrusive demand. It’s the fans. Everything that the royals find most irksome about being royal is generated by those who support them, and want to feel some sense of communality, ownership or wonder. Essentially, cognitive dissonance rules.
As for those who fulminate that the whole farrago is an anachronistic betrayal of egalitarian ideals, they’d defend any amount of scrutiny and encroachment as the least that the royals deserve as the price of their privilege. Love the royals or hate them, the tendency is to make personal demands, or at the very least hope that the weight of personal demands will result in collapse. A lot of people, a generation ago, believed that Princess Diana would “bring down the monarchy”. Instead, she revived it.
Diana got her bit part in this week’s coverage, in photographs of her taking William to school on his own first day. So did her modernising influence. This week William himself looked “the young, modern father on the school run”, cutting a more dashing figure in his blazer, chinos and open-necked shirt than his father had done, “in tie, plaid suit and polished black brogues”. Which makes Charles sound more the hipster, actually. But never mind.
Yet monarchy is not a modern idea, and never can be. Exposing a child to media attention, the consent of the parents more part of a Faustian bargain than a decision made in his personal interests, is not, or should not be, a modern idea. Public speculation about the physical symptoms of a woman’s pregnancy is not, or should not be, a modern idea.
If there is any place for a monarch in Britain today at all, it is as a constitutional figurehead projecting nothing on to others, in order that others can project on to him or her. Knowing that the king wore a belt that matched his desert boots when he took his heir for his first day at primary school is the antithesis of that. All that’s keeping the monarchy going is this fans’ mindset, which will sooner or later render it unworkable.
• Deborah Orr is a Guardian columnist
Source: theguardian com
Tags: Prince George, Prince William, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, Duchess of Cambridge, Royals, British Royals News, Royals News, Faustian Bargain, Modern idea