But of course the British embassy put together a smashing party to honor young Prince George — and a mere three days after his arrival, too.
“You’ve got to do it quick,” explained Ambassador Peter Westmacott, “or not at all.”
Would you have a hard time throwing together a fancy reception in three days? Perhaps that’s why you’re not a diplomat. But for the embassy, it was just a matter of being prepared.
“We didn’t know when it would happen, but we made a plan,” the ambassador told us.
The guest list was prepared, the invitations were ready to go, with just one small blank space necessary for the gender — and four hours after the world learned of the birth Monday afternoon, select Washingtonians (Christine Lagarde, Valerie Jarrett, Anthony Foxx, Andrea Mitchell, Alan Greenspan, Chris Matthews, Tony Podesta) received email notices for “an Open House to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness Baby Cambridge.”
With an eye on short-term weather forecasts, staff knew they could plan on Thursday night’s party spilling out onto the terrace and lawn of the elegant residence.
And the spread of Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips, cucumber sandwiches, pickled beets and bottomless Pimm’s cup? The British embassy has this stuff down to a science.
In one corner, old newsreel footage of a beautiful young Princess Elizabeth in her Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform; in another, a slideshow of William and Harry doing charitable good deeds. And of course, a cake, whose blue-on-white letters offered a cheat sheet to the child’s proper title: HRH Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.
“I don’t remember this kind of fuss over William’s birth,” mused Elizabeth Drew, the political writer and longtime guest at British embassy parties. She recalled a lovely breakfast to celebrate the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. But when William and Harry were born, “there wasn’t this kind of carry-on — that’s a very British phrase.” Some new mania for the British royals has ignited in our culture, though, and why the heck not.
“It’s fun. It’s a diversion! Why not? It beats talking about the budget,” she said. As for the rapid party mobilization, “The Brits know how to do these things,” Drew said. “And it wasn’t a surprise,” added her friend Kathleen Newland, a director of the Migration Policy Institute.
So, more about the boy: Westmacott told his guests that “George” was for the infant prince’s great-great grandfather, “Alexander,” because “he will be a great monach, like the famous Greek,” and “Louis, to signal our intention to take back France for the British crown.”
Hahaha! (That was a joke, wasn’t it?)
Some more monarchical nomenclature trivia: Don’t assume this prince will become the next King George, the ambassador said. King George VI was actually christened Albert, so little George could very well pick one of his other names by which to rule: “We could have the first King Alexander, or we could have the first King Louis, who might, I suppose, entertain an invitation from the French to become their Louis XX.”
Unmentioned: Going by normal life expectancy projections — and not even taking into account the unusually hardy Windsor stock — most of us will likely be dead by the time this lad takes the throne. All the more reason to celebrate today, we suppose.
Westmacott — who served as a deputy private secretary to Prince Charles in the early ’90s and knew William as a 10-year-old — shared some more serious thoughts about the ruling family. Most people in public life “are there because they choose to be” and have the option of returning to private life,” he said. “It’s not like that for our royals. They are born into it, and it’s a job for life.” If the monarchy is alive and well today, he said, it’s thanks to the queen and her family, who “are acutely aware that with the privileged life into which they are born come a series of duties and responsibilities and a commitment to a life of public service.”
“I am biased, of course,” he added, “but I think they do the job brilliantly.”