I think this royal baby watch may be getting out of hand.
I would write about something else, but I have been sitting rapt and unblinking in front of my computer for the past several days, reloading the page to make certain that no Tiny Royals have come into the world. And I’m not alone. Did you want to learn the plans for “Raising A Royal Baby” (Collector’s Edition)? Us Magazine has you covered. The Royal Fetus has 15,000 followers on Twitter, and it’s clearly not even the real Unborn Royal producing the tweets (that’s a different account, with 1,000 followers).
I would go to London, but from the looks of things it is full of hordes of journalists hovering outside the Royally Designated Hospital like baby-vultures, ready to swoop in and intercept the stork.
Clearly, there is some market for these things, and we are that market. On the one hand, the obsessive pursuit of celebrity news is a hallmark of modern life. But all the tweeting and interactive graphics and glossy magazine covers can’t disguise the fact that it feels a little — well, medieval. The fact that we are using our telephoto lenses to discover the Royals sunbathing topless rather than our scrying glasses to determine the likely Humors Prevailing at the birth of the King’s Heir does not change the fact that the same impulse underlies both.
The last time people were scrutinizing the reproductive activity of a royal so intently, it was Marie Antoinette, who had to write letters to her mother the empress Maria Theresa every month to inform her that she had not consummated her marriage to Louis XV yet. And before that it was Henry VIII. “WHERE’S THE HEIR?” everyone kept shouting, crowding around the Royal Birthing Room. “NO HEIR? OFF WITH HER HEAD!” We’re in no danger of beheading Kate Middleton — she looks far too good in a fascinator — and it’s not as though the polity will collapse in the absence of a successor to stand there impeccable in a tailored coat at ribbon cuttings. But it’s still a strange mixture of solicitude and voyeurism. It’s intensely 21st-century, a big Social Media-enhanced events — like “Sharknado,” but still carrying a whiff of “The Tudors.”
If someone announced that — whether you wanted to or not — you would be stared at and revered and on the receiving end of hand-knitted blankets and face-cakes from total strangers for your entire life, an alarming number of people would cheer and say, “Great Scott, that’s the dream!” But, equally, others would cringe and mutter something about serving a life sentence for a crime you weren’t sure you committed. We can debate later which of these responses is more sane.
But this is definitely going to be the shape of life, for — we don’t even know his or her name yet.
The Kanye-Kardashian merger child has come and gone. Among the consolations of the alarming amount of time we spend poring through the lives of celebrities is that most of them, from the Kardashians on down to the Boo Boo Family, asked for it at some point. Not so the Royals. This is their civic duty — to be stared at.
The Royals, and the offspring of celebrities like Jay-Z and the Jolie-Pitts, are the last “guiltless” celebrities, the ones who didn’t choose this life. In theory, they have no power. But these days, many people who have what we used to think of as power would trade it for the kind of attention that is a royal birthright. So often now, our value is determined by the number of people staring at us at any given time. And everyone’s staring at the As Yet Undetermined Royal. While typing this, I reloaded the page six times to make sure there were no updates. That’s the weirdest part of all — I wish he or she got to choose this. I wish we didn’t have this medieval modern obsession. But look away? Are you crazy?