Britain is officially on baby watch. Will and Kate are preggers. Once upon a time, royal heralds in livery made regal pronouncements with pomp and trumpets. Nowadays, word of the royal pregnancy went viral so quickly, you wonder who got to William first: Kate or Twitter?
A new monarch in the making has always been news, and generations of royal watchers have eagerly devoured any little detail that made its way out of Buckingham Palace. Though it took a little longer for word on the Windsors to get around back in the day.
Britain’s current proud papa-to-be started making headlines himself a good seven months before he was even born. Buckingham Palace went public with the announcement of a pending prince or princess in November 1981, speculating “it was ‘possible’ that the heir to the throne would be present when his 20-year-old wife has the baby.”
Naming a royal is big news as well—you can’t just dub a future king or queen “Gunner” or “Siri.” “The Gettysburg Times” June 29, 1982, reported that there had been “a bit of an argument” over the royal moniker. Prince Charles, when asked about it, simply replied that, “We came to the conclusion that it was a rather nice name.” And with neither family having any Williams among their immediate relations, “there would be no risk of offending the in-laws.”
Nicknames, however, were not appropriate. According to the “Chillicothe Constitution Tribune,” a palace spokesman specifically noted that the boy would not be called “Billy” and the name William would not be shortened in any way.
On the eve of Charles’s birth, his mother, Princess Elizabeth, drew a lot of attention by dining out with friends.
Elizabeth’s relatively modern attitude toward pregnancy was still being discussed a year after Prince Charles’s birth. “The Evening Observer” of Dunkirk, New York (6 September 1949), reported that her behavior was “somewhat shocking” to her grandmother, Queen Mary. Her grandfather, George V, “never allowed the coming of a Royal baby even to be mentioned in his presence.” Elizabeth apparently took the pregnancy in stride though, “knowing that young married women in mills and factories stay on the job until shortly before their babies are born.”
Charles’ birth drew crowds to the palace. “Stars and Stripes,” European Edition, of November 15, 1948, reported that “a royal page in blue livery made the first announcement to the waiting throng.
“He walked across the vast graveled courtyard to the huge wrought iron gates and told a police constable. The smiling policeman relayed the news to the crowd.
“‘It’s a boy,’ a middleaged workman shouted, throwing back his head. ‘A prince has been born.'”
In the crowd, “Several women fainted. One young man collapsed and was taken into the tradesmen’s entrance to await an ambulance.”
Prince Philip, Charles’s father, made it clear that his son would be “no sissy.” He wanted him to be “handy with his fists,” although at the time Prince Charles was likely using his fists for teething purposes. He was only four and a half months old.
Even though she was only number four in line for the throne at her birth, Elizabeth was a darling of the media. “The Lincoln Star” covered her arrival at length, and her popularity as a child was well documented.
She was only ten when her uncle abdicated the throne and made her the heir apparent to her father, and the spotlight shone even brighter.
Of course, these days, the spotlight’s nothing. Just ask Will and Kate. By the way, when do you think they’ll be tweeting out the sonograms?