With most international media and the royal family celebrating the birth of the third in line to the British throne and the first child of Prince William and Kate Middleton, RFE/RL took a look at a few interesting age-old traditions and factual details surrounding royal births.
1. Born With A Silver Spoon (Or Two) In Its Mouth
The royal baby could inherit $1 billion some day, according to Wealth-X a company that specializes in intelligence on high-net-worth individuals. The wealthiest person in Britain’s royal family is the royal baby’s great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. Her assets have an estimated worth of $600 million. The royal stamp, car, wine, art, and medal collections alone are worth about $100 million.
2. A Boost To The State’s Coffers
The birth of the new British royal could also make a significant contribution to the British economy. According to the Center for Retail Research, sales of royal-baby paraphernalia could generate some $380 million. Even expectant grandfather Prince Charles was selling baby shoes at a shop on his Highgrove country estate. The baby might well prove an extension of the “Kate effect” — the phenomenon whereby sales skyrocket for anything the duchess wears.
3. No Parliamentary Oversight
British Home Secretary Theresa May didn’t attend the royal birth. The custom of having the home secretary on hand ended in 1948, prior to the birth of Prince Charles. May has pointed out that the practice existed to exclude the possibility of a royal baby being “smuggled” in. The last royal baby to have been born under this tradition was Princess Alexandra, Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin, in 1936.
4. The Next Monarch Regardless Of Gender
A major change to the rules of succession ended Britain’s ancient laws of male primogeniture in April 2011, so the first child of the duke and duchess of Cambridge could have become a monarch even if he had been born a girl. (Queen Elizabeth II became a monarch only because her father had no male children.) However, the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013 will not come into force until all Commonwealth countries make the appropriate amendments to their laws. Theoretically, this could have produced a scenario whereby an older daughter could have become queen of England but a younger brother could have been king of Australia. Incidentally, the birth of a child to William and Kate bumps Prince Harry down into fourth place in the line of succession.
5. An Unprecedented Media Frenzy
It is fair to say that no royal baby in history has been at the center of such an immense social media frenzy and garnered so much international media attention. For weeks, hordes of journalists have been camped out in front of the central London hospital where Kate was scheduled to give birth. As soon as news broke of the duchess going into the early stages of labor on July 22, more than 200 tweets a minute were being posted that featured the words “Kate” and “labour.”
6. Birth Announcement — Mixing The Old With The New
The royal family adhered to the old custom of announcing the new heir via a proclamation on a special ornate easel. The news of the royal birth was also simultaneously announced on the monarchy’s official Twitter and and Facebook accounts.
7. There Is A Choice Of Surnames For The Baby
According to the monarchy’s website, it is not required for the baby to have a surname, because prior to 1917 members of the royal family did not have surnames as they adopted the name of the house or dynasty to which they belonged. If the duke and duchess decide to include a surname, there are three choices available: Mountbatten-Windsor, Wales, or Cambridge. In 1917, King George V replaced his house name with Windsor (from Windsor Castle), while Prince Philip adopted the surname Mountbatten from his British maternal grandparents. The couple could also decide to keep it simple and leave it as “His Royal Highness Prince of Cambridge.”
8. The New Royal Has Already Been Wikified
Within hours of Kate’s early stages of labor but well before the birth, the royal child already had a 900-word Wikipedia entry.
By Deana Kjuka. July 22, 2013. Eight Factoids About Britain’s Royal Baby. Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
Update: The baby was named George Alexander Louis. His last name (surname) is Windsor. His title is Prince George of Cambridge.