Prince William and Duchess Kate, the ultimate modern royal couple,
will be basking in the delights and dramas of their first child. Next
comes the big question: How do they bring up a future monarch for the
Not to mention the smaller questions: Will they stay
with her family for a few weeks after the birth instead of the palace?
(Possibly, assuming adequate security.) Will she have a maternity nurse
and, later, full-time nannies? (Almost certainly; even middle-class
working mothers do.)
Will they take the baby with them on overseas trips? Will the child
go to school outside the palace, and later to university? Will the child
meet other children and playmates who are not royal or even rich? Will
the child have a reasonable approximation of a "normal" upbringing?
(Probably yes, to all.)
Unlike some of his ancestors, William is
preparing to change his life for his new status as father: He's expected
to give up his job as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot for the
Royal Air Force in Wales, in order to spend more time with his wife and
child and take on more royal duties.
But the most intriguing
question of all: Will Kate be a good mom? Count on it, says Marcia
Moody, a British royals reporter and author of a forthcoming biography, Kate: A Biography.
think she will approach motherhood like she was born to it," Moody
says. "She has always been drawn to children and has an affinity with
them. It was remarked by an old neighbor that (her own mom) Carole was a
natural mother, and I'm sure Kate will be a similar kind of mother."
thing, too, because there is no Dr. Spock ready with helpful tips about
raising royal babies. Ancient precedents for bringing up royals can be
bloodcurdling; more recent precedents are not entirely helpful either.
It is instructive that these questions weren't remotely relevant after
the birth of all the other royal heirs in the past 10 centuries.
the first child of William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrives
amid historic changes in the rules of the succession. The first born is
the heir apparent even if she's a girl and even if she later has a
This has never been the case for any royal heir
in the 1,000-year history of the English monarchy, which has always
followed the rule that brothers trump sisters in the succession unless
there are no brothers. Now the rules say birth order is all that
Royalty in the delivery room?
unprecedented factor: The baby was the second royal heir to come into
the world with daddy planning to be in the delivery room watching. It
may be routine for the hoi polloi, but not for the royals; Prince
Charles was the first to see his heir, William, come into the world. And
for hundreds of years before the 1920s, royal births took place in
rooms crowded with multiple officials but not the fathers.
it safe to say that bringing up this royal baby won't be like the old
days? Yes, the experts say, at least when compared with the baby's
grandfather Prince Charles, 64, and great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth
But not so much compared with William, 31, and that's all because of
Princess Diana. William's late mother is the royal mom who
revolutionized motherhood and child-rearing in the royal family, Moody
"Diana had insisted that she give birth to William in a
hospital (St. Mary's in London, in June 1982)," she says. He was the
first heir apparent and future monarch to be born in a hospital - in
fact, he was the first to be born outside an English royal palace or
estate in 299 years. There was never any question that Will and Kate's
baby would be born in a hospital, too.
"At Diana's insistence, he
was also the first future monarch who was not home-schooled," Moody
adds. "Kate will simply be following in Diana's footsteps; there will
not be much she probably feels the need to do particularly differently."
Cawthon, a University of Texas historian of the monarchy, says Diana's
ability to ignore centuries of tradition is virtually unheard of in the
history of raising royal heirs.
"She bucked convention in terms of how much time she spent with her children, and more than that, how much she clearly liked her children," Cawthon says. "Royal moms were supposed to be more ornamental and leave it all up to nannies."
can't help but influence William's attitude toward child-rearing. "And
Catherine seems to be a natural with children so I think they will be a
couple who would want to spend a lot of time with their kids," Cawthon
She predicts they will stand out as an exceptionally
family-oriented couple, which will only further endear them to the
British public. "The common touch links the monarch more closely to the
public," Cawthon says.
Yet the baby's upbringing won't be entirely unfamiliar either.
William was brought up mostly in Kensington Palace, and so will the
baby. The couple are to move into a grand new apartment, formerly
belonging to great aunt Princess Margaret, this fall as soon as the
renovation is completed.
And just as William also spent time at
his father's country home, Highgrove House, the baby will live sometimes
at the couple's country home on the queen's Sandringham estate in
Norfolk, also undergoing renovations.
Times change for couple
enduring fact of the British monarchy is that it survives because it
both clings to tradition and it adapts, albeit slowly. Will and Kate, a
future king and queen, already have demonstrated they know how to blend
tradition with innovation to produce success and popularity - just read
the palace tweets.
The monarchy "adapts to meet the needs of the
day, but it is so seamless and they don't talk about it, it just
changes. You can't be more modern than that," says Dickie Arbiter,
longtime royal commentator and former press secretary to the queen.
not expect striking anomalies in the parenting strategies of Will and
Kate, predicts Arbiter. William was brought up in a divorced royal
family, yet until she died when he was 15, the affectionate Diana took
him everywhere to give him a taste of "real life," Arbiter says.
Kate, 31, was brought up in a warm, intact middle-class family that
eventually attained success, and wealth. Both Will and Kate are close to
"They both had a rounded upbringing and they will
do the same with their children," Arbiter says. "The children will not
be cossetted or mollycoddled in any way."
The influence of Kate's family can't be understated, says Sally Bedell Smith, author of multiple royal biographies.
normalcy of her family is going to be a key factor," Smith says. "They
remain very much a part of the picture for (Will and Kate), and that,
too, is new. There will be a whole other place where the children can go
and be apart from the atmosphere of the royal family."
past, said atmosphere could be rigid and remote. Smith says the queen's
upbringing was nearly identical to previous generations in terms of
regimentation: She was born at home, schooled at home, did not attend
university, did not get to meet ordinary people under ordinary
circumstances, often did not even get to leave the palace except under
carefully controlled conditions.
Charles was born at Buckingham
Palace, where he lived in the remote nursery under the strict regimen of
nannies, governesses and footmen and only got to see his parents at
designated times. His mother was busy being queen, so she left his early
care to the nannies and his grandmother. When he was a toddler, his
parents went on official overseas trips, sometimes lasting months, and,
as was the custom, left him behind.
By contrast, Diana insisted on taking baby William along when she and Charles visited Australia soon after his birth.
and Kate "will take advice but make their own decisions, because they
are both sensible, educated people and they know what they can do and
what is impractical," Arbiter says.
Closer to an everyday lifestyle
was the first heir to go away to school and to get a university degree,
but virtually everything about his life was decided for him by his
father and a committee of royal advisers, with the queen as observer
rather than participant, Smith says.
William and his brother,
Harry, were not brought up like that and neither will their children.
"There is a measure of relaxation that is inevitable with each
generation and (makes for a) closer connection to the people," Smith
Will and Kate are products of a more modern parenting
style, and have already demonstrated the effects: They lived together
for years before marrying, they waited until their late 20s to marry,
they worked at jobs, and they learned how to take care of themselves
without platoons of servants.
"Their whole relationship has been
so modern - they had an ordinary domestic life, they went grocery
shopping, did their own cleaning and cooking and chores," Smith says.
"And even though they were very much in the headlines, they've kept a
pretty strong zone of privacy."
Their style is more relaxed than
all the previous generations of royals - within reason. "Royals need a
certain mystique; not too much that they seem too distant, but not so
familiar that seem like everyone else," Smith says.
"It's a delicate line to walk, and each generation learns to walk it in a slightly different way."
one major unanswerable question: What effect will modern media,
especially the Internet, have on the raising of the royal baby?
It's crucial, because William is wary at best, outright hostile at worst toward the media.
And there are
security concerns, of course. It's almost certain the palace will
attempt to work out a "gentleman's agreement" with the British media to
stay away from the royal children until they're 18, as happened with
William and Harry. Yet such an agreement is voluntary and can't be
enforced against American media, for instance, nor against paparazzi and
innumerable online royal-gossip bloggers.
Still, the royal family will adapt. Because they have to.
"There's no turning back the tide in terms of greater public exposure for the royal family," Cawthon says.
will be a measured increase in the public nature of the monarchy with
this new child, but it works better if there's a little mystery left,
and the British monarchy understands that very, very well."
both had a rounded upbringing, and they will do the same with their
children. The children will not be cossetted or mollycoddled in any