Let’s celebrate the magic of monarchy

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaving hospital with newborn Prince George

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaving hospital with newborn Prince George - Credit: PA

Ellen Widdup’s Escape to the Country

HE may be royal, but when it comes to paternity leave, Prince William is like thousands of other new fathers in the UK.

He has now returned work after his statutory fortnight, leaving his young wife to fend for herself.

I clearly remember my husband picking up his briefcase and pecking me on the cheek as he left for the first time after the birth of our daughter.

The door closed behind him and I burst into tears, wailing louder than our newborn who must have sensed my total panic.

So I have no doubt that, despite the entourage of people who are there to help Kate tomorrow, this change could have felt more overwhelming for her than the global media frenzy which has surrounded the couple since they announced she was expecting.

George, the bouncing bundle of international obsession, has certainly got us in a tizz.

Most Read

In the last few weeks we have discussed and dissected every element of his existence – from his gender, hair colour and temperament to his position as third in line to the throne.

But sadly, not all of the conversation has been celebratory.

Predictably perhaps, the republicans among us have taken his arrival as an opportunity to bleat on like a broken record about a monarchy they claim is a British eccentricity with a high price tag.

The BBC received hundreds of complaints describing its coverage as ‘sycophantic’ and ‘overkill’.

Others took it upon themselves to interrupt broadcasts outside St Mary’s Hospital to pour scorn on the mounting excitement.

A left-leaning newspaper gave its readers an option to press a “republican” button at the top of its home page to filter out news about the royal baby.

“A woman we will never meet has had a baby we will never know,” tweeted one member of the hopeless resistance movement in fury as Baby Cambridge finally appeared outside the doors of the Lindo Wing in the arms of his mother. “How is that news?”

Dear me. Do we really need to spell it out to you?

The arrival of Prince George Alexander Louis dominated the press for several days because this is not just another baby. He is the future king of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Which is only slightly less momentous than a future queen would have been.

After all it was earlier this year that Parliament finally repealed an ancient succession rule that gave heirs the preference over heiresses, regardless of birth order.

But there is another reason why the media went into overdrive over the birth. Quite simply, it was feeding a hungry audience.

The stats say it all.

Almost 500 million people took to social networking sites to share in the baby joy and more than 500,000 tweets were sent mentioning the child in the first 12 hours after his arrival.

The Monday when the young prince was born was the biggest global day and second largest UK day ever for BBC News Online, with 19.4 million unique visitors and as a whole, UK web traffic to news and media websites hit a staggering 94 million visits.

Yes, it is very easy to claim the birth was a non-story and complain there were much more important issues for the press to cover, such as the Syrian civil war, the chaos in Egypt or the Government’s plans to block online pornography.

But actually you have to accept that, regardless of how you view the royal family, there is no denying that interest in them eclipses almost all else. We cannot help but find them fascinating.

Why? After all, their role is no longer the political or executive one they have held historically and the Queen is nothing more than a symbolic head of state.

Well I think part of it is their position as Britain’s biggest celebrities but also the fact that they act as a focus for national identity, unity and pride. They give us a sense of continuity and despite the estimated 25% of us who wish they were removed from any position of power to create a republic, there is another 75% of us who don’t.

Those who wish rid argue the Queen and her family are a drain on our economy (they cost each taxpayer about 65p a year). But actually, they are very good for it, generating far more money (through tourism mainly) than it costs for us to keep them.

The Crown Estate comprises some of the land that was historically the private property of the monarch, including the Windsor estate, various prime locations in central London and almost all of the UK’s seabed.

In 1760 George III began a tradition of surrendering income from the estate to the Treasury which has worked out as a bargain for the taxpayer. Last year, the Crown Estates brought in £230.9 million to the Treasury and Queen only received £32.1 million from the state.

The royal birth - the latest boost to brand Windsor - is likely to have positive effects on the economy too. Some financial whizz estimated the birth of the new royal prince would be beneficial to the tune of a staggering half a billion pounds, partly due to a general level of positivity which will have the knock-on effect of making people’s wallets a little looser.

Certainly businesses are doing their best to cash in. One shopping chain has already launched a Baby Royale cocktail. A fast food outlet has introduced a “Munchkin” donut dipped in blue sprinkles and a variety of clothing stores have created ranges with HRH-type slogans, including one factory in Glemsford which is selling a union jack bottle and soother set.

With everyone continuing to jump on the gravy train, I suspect that those who want to abolish the monarchy will struggle to hold back the ongoing tide of delight over the newest member of the clan.

And if you ask me, that’s a jolly good thing.

The British Royal family is not just a titillating celebrity circus. Nor is it a threat to democracy.

Instead it’s a real family, which has learnt to adapt to a modern world and is working hard to preserve and promote a unique part of British culture. And I think, as a country, we depend on their magic more than some would care to admit.

Please email me at EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.