Early Tuesday morning, or Monday afternoon London time, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to her first child. All over the world, people celebrated the royal arrival in style: sky-scrapers were lit up in blue lights, dignitaries penned messages of congratulations, and well-wishers sent parcels of knitted booties to Buckingham Palace. Media outlets on every continent, in every major language, put aside the drab politics of Egypt’s second leadership coup and Europe’s economic woes, to break the one story people had been waiting days to hear: It’s a boy! But another question still remains on people’s minds: will it be a Prince George, James or Phillip?
Make of all the hoopla what you like, but maybe a light diversion like this is just what the people need. After all, hard-working Kiwis, like their British counterparts, spend the majority of their lives toiling away, and if a glamorous birth lightens up their working week, then who’s to say there’s anything wrong with that? The one thing you can’t deny is that, for many people, the royal birth has been a positive—even an uplifting—occasion.
The last few weeks, however, have inevitably seen questions raised about the place of the royal family in the 21st Century; while many eagerly placed their bets on the baby’s gender, others decried the royals as irrelevant and overly extravagant, an antiquated tradition of a bygone era.
The last few weeks, however, have inevitably seen questions raised about the place of the royal family in the 21st Century.
Indeed, toward the end of the last century, many considered the royal family to be in a state of decline. With Britain’s final days as imperialistic super-power waning, the royals struggled to remain relevant in the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, at the same time inflicting bad press upon themselves with the divorces of Princess Margaret and later Prince Charles. However, after hitting rock bottom in the mid-90s, the royal family have since undergone a renaissance of sorts. The charge has predominantly been led by Prince William, who has captured the hearts of royal loyalists and new audiences alike. Not to mention Prince Harry, whose reputation for knowing how to have a good time has at least earned him the attention of regular viewers of E! Television, for reasons both good and bad.
Royalty though they may be, both Will and Harry do their bit for Britain for too—Will as a Search and Rescue pilot and Harry as a soldier, in addition to their humanitarian work.
The general impression seems to be one of fondness for the royal family—their lives are by no means a fairy-tale, but at least they make an effort to engage and relate to the public. You only need to look at the way in which Will and Kate handled the birth of their first child. When William was born, it was the royal Charles who carried William out of the hospital doors, to the crowd of expectant media, before handing him to Diana. However, this time around, in a sign of the changing times, it was Kate who carried their baby boy outside for his first public appearance, before handing the newborn boy to his father.
Unlike his father before him, William also wasn’t to be seen wearing a suit; rather, he was casually dressed in a shirt and pants, his sleeves rolled up like an everyman. The couple was also chatty with reporters, Kate describing the moment as, “Very emotional and such a special time. I think any parent would know what this feeling feels like.” Practiced though their responses may sound, they are right on tune: this is a royal family that people can really relate to, and under which people can find a sense of unity.
For New Zealanders, the idea of unity is two-fold. In one sense, many of us treasure our connection to the royal family, and such occasions provide an opportunity for us to come together over positive circumstances—not over tragic events such as Pike River or the Christchurch earthquakes. In another sense, the royal family provides us with a link back to our British roots. As a small island nation, we simply refuse to concede our relative international significance, and the royal birth has provided us with that very sense of importance on the world stage that we yearn for.
Such occasions provide an opportunity for us to come together over positive circumstances—not over tragic events such as Pike River or the Christchurch earthquakes.
The debate over the relevance of the monarchy goes far further than this, of course. But in the end, they cost the New Zealand taxpayer very little to have and bring a great deal of cheer to the lives of ordinary New Zealanders. That’s difficult to argue against.
What do you think of the royal family? Leave your view in the comments section below.