The long anticipated news from the royal family of the United Kingdom was announced this morning, as seen on the twitter feed of Clarence House, the home of the Prince of Wales:
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby – bit.ly/11GYnaj
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) December 3, 2012
One can only imagine the joy felt by the soon to be grandfather. Of course the announcement spread quickly:
What this means to the United Kingdom is a continuation of a tradition going back thousands of years. While some might scoff at the concept of a king or queen, there is a legitimate argument for a constitutional monarchy as the UK has enjoyed since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Their head of state grows up in an atmosphere of obligation and duty, trained for this role from birth, groomed from an early age to assume the crown. This, according to philosophers going as far back as Plato, would ensure a continuity and stability of governance not found in a pure democracy. After the last few years of presidential elections here in the United States, one can see the wisdom of this viewpoint, even if it would not fit with the independent and stubborn streak which is the hallmark of the US and its population.
Let us look at the way in which both Prince William and his father Prince Charles were raised, to get an idea as to what this future ruler will be facing. Both William and Charles attended private academies where they were not given preferential treatment from the other students. Their titles and positions made them instead have to work harder to prove their places as top students and role models. Both served in the military, not in administrative, safe roles but on the front lines. Charles rose through the ranks, from a lowly pilot on the HMS Norfolk he eventually took command of the minesweeper HMS Bronington and retired from the Navy with the rank of Commander. William is a current member of the military as a helicopter pilot, and has been involved in both anti-smuggling as well as search and rescue operations, holding the rank of Captain.
Contrary to popular belief, the royal family is not living on the public dime. The only two members paid by the government are the Queen and her consort, Prince Phillip, for both their jobs and the upkeep of the royal palaces used for public functions. This amount is less than the actual cost to maintain the residences, and is made up for out of her own pocket. Instead, the royal family makes the majority of their money through land development. Prince Charles, for instance, operates two main estates, Higrove House and Bikhall, plus smaller holdings around the world. Prince William inherited half of his mother’s estate when he turned 21, including substantial land holdings as well. In effect, the royal family is the largest collective group of landlords in the United Kingdom.
The royal family’s wealth (still not fortune 100 level, mind you) will make sure that this child will want for nothing due to finances. But seclusion and isolation is not what is in store for this child. While some might see the pomp and circumstance and consider it an easy light, the entire family lives under a microscope. Look at how what would be considered a minor bit of tasteless humor by William’s younger brother Harry becomes a huge international scandal. Some rise to the occasion, others collapse, and yet others run away, such as when King Edward VIII abdicated, stating it was to marry for love, but if looked at more carefully looks more the moves of someone dissatisfied with their life and responsibilities.
We can only wish for Kate and William a smooth pregnancy and a happy childhood. The weight of a millennia of tradition is upon this unborn child’s shoulders. While some might think it is a life of luxury, it is a life which comes with a heavy burden few can handle.