Looking at the images coming from Sweden on July 14th this year, two things struck me. Firstly, the second in line to the throne, Princess Estelle, has royal engagements wrapped up at the age of three. Secondly, doing a walkabout every year on a royal birthday is really rather a good idea. And it got me wondering whether it’s time our royals started doing the same thing.
Before everyone starts shouting at me, I am old enough to remember the Queen Mother at the gates of Clarence House on her birthday every year. Growing up in the eighties, it was a marking post of the seasons. Wimbledon would come and go, the school holidays would start and the news would end every August 4th with images of the Royal Family celebrating while a band played Happy Birthday and children ran forward with flowers and cards. It was rather nice, actually.
What happens in Sweden on July 14th is very similar . Crown Princess Victoria, heir to the throne, meets wellwishers who present her with flowers and cards and there are a few words and lots of family photos. There’s a relaxed vibe about the whole event. OK, she then went on to a concert – that bit I’m not advocating. Let’s keep it simple and examine whether a fixed point informal celebration might be a good thing for the royals.
Given the huge appetite for our own Royal Family right now, it struck me that a similar regular date in the calendar could bring a lot of benefits. For a start, who didn’t love the whole family feel of Princess Charlotte’s christening? The images that emerged were some of the most popular of the royals taken this year. A chance to replicate that every year could be no bad thing.
Because it is the regularity of these birthday celebrations that is a real plus point. William and Kate have had their fair share of criticism for not appearing with Prince George in public more often in the early part of his life. In fact, when he stepped out with his dad to meet his baby sister for the first time it was his first public appearance on UK soil since his christening in October 2013. With a bit of an informal family appearance penciled in for dad and granddad’s birthdays then two regular sightings of George and Charlotte would go a long way to answering the critics.
But the other great thing about birthday celebrations is that they are informal. This isn’t a replication of the Queens official birthday with all the magnificent ceremony that goes with that. Official birthdays are totally different. This is about popping out to say hi on a day of personal significance, no more and no less than that.
There’s no need for anyone to stand on ceremony and there are no great expectations that anyone will do anything other than turn up and smile. There’s no pomp, there’s no ceremony, there’s no protocol and there’s no rules to worry about breaking. It’s flowers, cards and happy faces. It can only be a good thing.
And I’m not suggesting for one second that it happens for all our royals. But two of our three future kings might be a good place to start and that would mean family photocalls in November for The Prince of Wales and June for The Duke of Cambridge. It’s just a thought but two regular chances to see our royals in less formal settings could make a lot of people very happy.