The Duchess of Cambridge’s second pregnancy has rather passed us all by considering the mother-to-be has been invisible for most of it. Not being one of those flag-waving loons in Union Jack underwear camped outside the Lindo Wing, I didn’t even realise the bairn was due this week. But in less time than it takes to do a perm the Duchess had been spirited into hospital at 6am, delivered a girl, reapplied her lipstick and appeared on the steps of the Lindo holding the fourth in line to the throne.
So forgive me if I didn’t find a Russian newspaper’s theory that the child was in fact a changeling entirely implausible. I don’t think the British royal family has been accused of doing the old cradle switcheroo since James II and Mary of Modena produced a son. Of course the Russian reporter was displaying the venality characteristic of his nation but I do think the game of hide and seek the Duke and Duchess are playing with press and public leave them open to criticism.
Prince George has been shielded from the public eye from the day he was born and there is every indication that the as yet unnamed princess will be equally elusive. Prince George is a beautiful child and one ventures to suggest it wouldn’t hurt too much to see the younger members of the royal family appearing a little more often. Children should be protected from the rabid attention of the media today but if royal infants are invisible the public will find it hard to invest affection and loyalty in them as they grow.
Some of the newspapers have pointed out that the Cambridge Princess – who will continue to sound like a model of car before she is named – is born into a supporting role. Comparisons have been made with Her Majesty’s late sister Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. It is patently ludicrous to map out a child’s life before she is barely a day old. Then again being born into a dynasty rather than a family does provide precedents and cautionary tales.
The last Cambridge Princess was Mary Adelaide, a granddaughter of King George III, who married the impoverished German Duke of Teck. Mary Adelaide was the first member of the British royal family to be called the people’s princess. The joke in society was that the Duke of Westminster owned the whole of Mayfair except for one acre: the Duchess of Teck. Huge and hugely popular, the Duchess was as extravagant as she was generous. Her profligacy necessitated a period of retrenchment in Florence.
The Duchess of Teck would have the last laugh when her daughter May married the future King George V. She never lost the love of the British public and is buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. In the absence of royal dynastic marriages it is not probable that the new Cambridge Princess will marry her way to a throne presuming her brother Prince George inherits the British crown rather than she. But she will be wise to keep the affection of the people come what may.
As a younger sister of the monarch, Princess Margaret has already been held up as a cautionary tale for the Cambridge Princess. Princess Margaret is painted as a louche, kaftan-wearing jet setter whiling away a disappointing life with younger men on the island of Mustique. Forgotten is the glamorous, charismatic princess who was England’s sweetheart after the austerity of the war years. Refused the right to wed a divorcee, Princess Margaret married a commoner and became a divorcee.
It must have galled Princess Margaret to see her nephews and niece divorce and bring infinitely more approbation upon the royal family than she. One hopes Princess Margaret did not have as unhappy a life as some wished for her. If reports are to be believed, the Queen is entirely justified to be angered by the portrayal of her sister in the film A Royal Night Out. The film imagines VE night in 1945 when the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are allowed to join the crowds in London celebrating the end of the war.
As the film tells it, the princesses join a conga line through the Ritz hotel. The Queen’s cousin Margaret Rhodes confirms that this is true. But the film also has Princess Margaret absconding with an anonymous serviceman who takes her drinking in a nightclub that is little more than a clip joint. This is not true and nor, I suspect, are many stories about the late Princess Margaret. I think it in terribly bad taste to make semi-fictional films in the lifetimes of their subjects. I loathed Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady and didn’t think Helen Mirren should have made The Queen.
Interesting, isn’t it, that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge now live in Princess Margaret’s former home Apartment 1A in Kensington Palace and that Kate and the Middleton family seem to spend an awful lot of time accompanied by Prince William on the island of Mustique. If the walls of Apartment 1A could talk they might whisper than royal privilege comes with the weight of great responsibility. Abdicate the latter and the former must be sacrificed.
The popularity of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge grows apace after the birth of the Cambridge Princess. They have fulfilled the contract in giving The Queen a third generation of heir to the throne plus one. They have also nudged Prince Andrew and his children further down the line of succession to the great relief of the nation. The Duke and Duchess and their family are so full of promise. Seeing them a little more often would go a long way to keeping that promise.