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Wednesday 5 December 2012

I'm a Royal - Get Me Out Of Here!


It's a boy! It's a girl! She's eight weeks, six weeks, ten weeks gone! He's tense, he wears trainers, he smiles. It'll last for two weeks or the whole pregnancy, she doesn't want an army of nannies but might have one or two, newspapers have chosen the godparents and bookies have picked the name!

We've known Kate is pregnant for about five minutes and despite the fact the embryo has fewer cells than Lewisham nick it's already driven the planet dotty.

Several people have announced they knew she was pregnant when she cut her hair. Others presume that Kate would want or appreciate the congratulations of convicted girl band thugs. And apparently her greatest challenge won't be the vomiting or the childbirth, it will be what to wear for the next eight months.

I'm sure we can all imagine her, propped up in a hospital bed on a drip but with still-glossy hair, flicking casually through swatches and planning her wardrobe, with occasional breaks for a ladylike retch into a silver spittoon held by a bewigged footman.

COME ON. She's green at the gills, terrified and no-one's done her hair for a week! She can't keep water down, is barely used to the idea of being pregnant herself and if she's managed to focus one eye out the window to see the TV cameras outside is probably coming to terms with the fact that her plumbing will be a matter of international fascination for the duration.

In her shoes I'd be weighing up hysterectomies and running off to live in a cave somewhere.

And don't go blaming all this bonkersness on newspapers. Yes, there's been more words written about something which hasn't even drawn breath yet than are probably in all of Shakespeare's plays, and yes a fair number of them are barking mad, calling for Charles to step aside, predicting what the 22nd century will be like and agonising over who gets to pick the heir if it's twins and there's a Caesarean.

But stick your head into any pub, coffee shop or office and much the same insane speculation is going on. Have a look at the internet, if you dare, where chat forums and comment boards which at the best of times are a psychoanalyst's nightmare have managed, somehow, to get more mad.

This is a nation which, by and large, disdains the idea that one person can be born better than others. Black or white, rich or poor, the British prefer a spot of equality, the right to speak and be heard, and think those who rise above the common herd need to earn it.

Yet here you all are getting feverish about a baby which if it survives will be the scion of a German-Dutch ruling dynasty which genuinely believes, if you read the small print, to have been chosen by God, enjoys immense unearned privilege, and that they own all the swans.

If you want mad, that's a reasonable definition right there. Another would be a nation of grown-ups going along with the whole thing, and a third would be arguing that we should pick the most suitable member of the family to wear the crown because the next one in line isn't pretty enough. Monarchies don't work that way!

At the same time a man of quite reasonable privilege himself is going to stand up in the House of Commons today and announce more spending cuts because he's got his sums wrong. We'll be told that people who don't work and live off the state are abhorrent while at the same time the Duchess of Cambridge should be applauded for producing someone who's going to spend their whole life on benefits.

Now, let's not be mean. Good luck to the little sprat because it's going to need it. Maybe the monarchy will implode before it gets to rule and maybe he or she will be the greatest figurehead our nation's ever known. Kate's a sweet enough girl, although I wish like hell she'd had a job and a life and an opinion or two to call her own.

No the problem here is billions of people - not just Britain but all over the planet - thinking this is firstly wonderful, and secondly part of their own lives.

It's not wonderful a woman without any obvious character traits - positive or negative - is held up as an example for others to follow. It's not amazing the only thing people can think of to write about her is what she will wear or do with her hair. It's sad, it's depressing, it's teaching young girls that what they do and think doesn't matter.

And while it's understandable other expectant couples, or parents who've had the same worry at such early stages, would identify with a high-profile pair experiencing the same gut-churning fear it doesn't mean you know them.

It's the fact people identified so closely with, and took to their hearts, the young Princess Elizabeth when she became queen at 25 that meant her family was seen as our family, with all the attention and gossip about private matters which comes with it. Her coronation was the first to be televised, she speaks to us all at Christmas, we got invited to her children's weddings and watched their divorces unfold.

There were daughters-in-law we liked and some we didn't, there are grandchildren who seem more worthwhile than the others, and with a Royal Family treated like a soap opera not just by newspapers but on television, at their own public appearances and by millions of obsessed fans all over the planet we have created modern celebrities from an outdated system of, face it, tyranny.

That celebrity, and the crazed flower-chucking, name-squealing, fainting delight that it brings to many, is probably the only reason we still have kings and queens at all. We would no more choose to get rid of the shiny-haired, white-toothed rich people we enjoy imagining we have something in common with than we would have decommissioned Dallas had that decision been ours to make.

Kate is no different to Pam Barnes - seen as being a bit common and upstart by the family of oil barons she married into, but from a pretty wealthy family herself well above the common herd, and more importantly a sweet heroine until you wonder why she was so thick as to get involved with the Ewings in the first place.

The difference is that a real soap opera can be turned off, we can obsess about the actors who play the parts in the knowledge they have sought and exploited fame, and they can't do us any harm. A royal family consists of people who don't always appreciate the attention and who didn't all choose it, and they can't turn it off any more than we can.

They talk to prime ministers, fire off letters to members of the Cabinet, and manage to send half the planet mad with a wave of their hand.

Perhaps that's all fine if they're overseen by a kind Miss Ellie but anyone who gave JR that kind of power would have to be insane.

And the thing with babies - and monarchs - is that you don't get to choose.

You get what you're given.