For any family, the birth of a baby is a momentous occasion and welcoming a new person into the world is one of life’s highlights. Most parents will spend the first few months getting used to sleepless nights, changing nappies and caring for their new arrival. Decisions have to be made as time progresses, too. Will the little one go to nursery? What will mum and dad’s parenting strategy be?
For Catherine and William, it is likely that similar questions will be crossing their minds as they spend their time getting used to their new baby boy. However, while Catherine and William share a lot of the same experiences with other new parents, Prince George will have a very different childhood compared to the average British toddler. It is inevitable that royal babies have very different life experiences, but how exactly will Prince George’s childhood compare to other royal babies in history?
A Royal Baby in 1800
During this century, Britain had four monarchs: George III, George IV, William IV and Victoria. Inevitably, a significant number of royal babies were born during this period. In fact, there were a total of 25 legitimate royal births during the 1800s.
Ever since the medieval period, there has been public scrutiny of royal births and babies and this can be seen by the rise in royal baby portraits in the 1500s. Even back then, the public was fascinated by who might be their future monarch and newspapers along with other media would report on royal births. During the 1800s, it was not much different. The way that royal births were announced to the public was practically set in stone by that point and tradition called for the firing of the guns and announcement on Buckingham Palace’s railings. News often spread by word of mouth before officials could make the announcements, however.
This was because it was tradition to have royal officials present; sometimes even up to 80 people would witness the birth. The idea was that they would be there to ensure that the baby was not swapped for another. This practice continued until 1948.
In terms of the royal baby’s upbringing, the 1800s were unsurprisingly very traditional. The reigning monarch would have very little to do with his or her child and most of the caregiving would be done by nannies and housekeepers. By Queen Victoria’s time, nurses and nannies would have complete reign and authority in the nursery. A royal baby’s childhood would consist of private tutors in the Palace; very few (if any) play dates with other children and virtually no contact with the ‘commoners’ of the outside world.
A Royal Baby today
In the last fifty or so years, there have been around fifteen royal births. Queen Elizabeth had Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Perhaps most famously, Charles and Diana had William and Harry, of which William is second in line for the throne. Of course, the newest addition to the royal family was Prince George of Cambridge, who was born to William and Kate on 22nd July 2013.
Whilst the public interest in royal babies certainly has not abated, there has been a marked change in the way royalty is brought up. This can particularly be seen with Charles and Diana’s parenting style, which was relatively more ‘hands on’ than parenting styles previously. Diana in particular was famous for wanting to give her boys a normal childhood. This started with her being the first royal mother to give birth in a hospital, when previously it had been tradition to give birth at the palace. Diana also encouraged a more informal relationship with her kids and she was regularly spotted taking her children to school personally.
It is expected that this is something that will be carried on with Catherine and William. Reports have suggested that they both will be extremely hands on parents and have even decided not to employ a full time nanny. It has been confirmed that they will only rely on a housekeeper for help. This is actually quite unheard of for the royal family, which has always employed nannies and tutors to work in the nursery. It seems like William will also be a very involved father and just hours after the birth of Prince George, it was reported that he had already changed a nappy.
However, while Prince George is likely to have a much more normal childhood than royal babies from previous generations, he will still be undeniably royal. Private education is extremely likely and it would not be surprising if he went to Eton like his father did. Following that, a career in the army is traditional for royalty, so it is likely that he will follow in his father’s and his uncle’s footsteps in that respect as well.
Another difference with Prince George’s childhood is that he will have a lot of contact with Catherine’s parents (his other set of grandparents) as well. This is something that hasn’t been seen in the past and most families that marry into the royal family will put their familial ties aside. However, the Middletons have already played a big role in Prince George’s life and The Duchess of Cambridge is spending a lot of her time following the birth at her mother’s home.
Only time will tell as to how different Prince George’s childhood will be compared with his ancestors; but the generally feeling is that he will have a 21st century childhood as a 21st century prince. The christening is likely to take place during October this year and it will be interesting to see what christening gifts Prince George will receive. In 1903, another Prince with the name George was given a very elaborate silver gilt cup with a hand engraved message on it.