Modern Family Meets Royal Duty: Prince George Turns 2
In not inviting Prince Charles to their son’s 2nd birthday party, William and Kate are sending a message about the kind of family life they want to build.
Young children’s birthday parties are often emotional affairs, charged with an explosive cocktail of expectation (the kids), obligation (the parents), and sugar.
It seems quite reasonable, then, that the last thing you’d want, if you were Kate and William, would be the Queen or Prince Charles showing up at Prince George’s second birthday party.
Still, when one is a member of a hereditary royal family, and the child in question will one day be King, there are certain formalities to be observed.
One of these is inviting current and future monarchs to the future-future monarch’s birthday celebrations.
Well, Kate’s having none of it.
Last year, all the Windsors—including the Queen—came to tea at Kensington Palace for George’s first birthday.
However, Kate is determined that Prince George’s second birthday party, which takes place today (Wednesday), will be no different from the birthday party of any other child of her son’s age and social class.
In a clearly demarcated statement of intent that Kate intends to prioritise family life over royal duty, no senior members of the Royal family are to be present at the young prince’s second birthday party, which will instead be presided over by the Queen of party bags, Carole Middleton.
Carole’s key presence only serves to confirm reports received by The Daily Beast that it is Kate’s solidly middle-class family who are being established as the most important influences in the future King’s life.
As the founder of the Middleton family firm Party Pieces which sells party supplies, one imagines Carole won’t be stuck for balloons and banners emblazoned with the number ‘2’.
Kate also likes having her mom—who has been staying at Anmer Hall on a semi-permanent basis since the birth of Princess Charlotte—on hand because she is a brilliant organizer, and takes charge of running the team of six staff who now work there full time. Running George’s party will be a breeze for her.
The Queen at least has a good excuse for her no-show—she will not be attending Prince George’s birthday celebrations as she is at her Scottish estate Balmoral.
But Charles and Camilla just haven’t been invited. They will spend the day a hundred or so miles away from the Cambridge’s Norfolk base of Anmer Hall, at their own country house in Gloucestershire (where they conveniently have a face-saving official engagement at the local agricultural college).
Pippa Middleton is expected to travel up from London for the party, as are George’s godparents Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton and Emilia d’Erlanger. Godfather William van Cutsem, his wife Rose and his daughter Grace are also expected to be at the party.
However, it is the total exclusion of William’s stuffy relatives from George’s birthday celebrations that provides the most striking evidence of Kate’s determination to raise George in as normalized—and non-royal—an environment as possible.
In the battle of whether they should be a royal family or a modern family it appears modern family is winning the argument.
Kate’s insistence that George’s party should be a totally private, informal affair, indistinguishable from that of any of his peers, is of a piece with her comprehensive rewriting of the royal rule book, prioritising middle class values over pointless and increasingly irrelevant royal tradition.
Since the birth of George, this has been all encompassing.
The process began in week one when Kate rejected the tradition of the royal nursery, moving in with her mum after the birth of George instead.
More changes came last year, when George was the first royal child to have a ‘normal’ Christmas, as Kate overturned decades of Germanic tradition to hang stockings and hand out presents on Christmas Day rather then Christmas Eve.
It’s a reforming attitude that she clearly intends to bring to every element of her children’s lives, including birthdays.
‘Visits by Charles and the Queen can take place on other days’ seems to be her attitude. Birthdays are for children to enjoy themselves.
It is incomprehensible to Kate and William that Charles and Diana both missed William’s first birthday as they were on a royal tour of Canada.
Kate is determined that for her and William, family will come before duty.
Indeed, this prioritising of ‘real life’ over ‘royal life’ is the substantial message behind William’s surprise announcement that he feels he could possibly be the first ever King to do a job share—he said there is no reason why he couldn’t continue being a helicopter rescue pilot ‘for the rest of my life’.
He implied, quite reasonably, that working as a rescue pilot gave him self-esteem and a sense of purpose.
“I’m just trying to be a good guy, trying to do what you can, trying be a decent individual, thoughtful,” he said, while pouring scorn on the concept of a “full time working royal,” saying “no-one actually really knows what that means.”
Don’t be too quick to write this idea of a working King off as a fantasy.
Under Kate’s influence, William really is giving serious consideration to the prospect of radically rewriting the job definition of the King of England.
Kate and he both believe that being in touch with his subjects by having a job (even a part-time one) may be more important—and personally rewarding—than engaging in an endless round of official engagements up and down the country.
Other royals can cut ribbons at factories. They may stick to doing their 20-30 big engagements a year, rather than trying to emulate the Queen’s 300 odd.
For William and Kate, there is a natural understanding that the personal really is political, and that if they want the Windsors to survive as Monarchs for another 50 years, they must be seen to be leading by example.
George’s high-octane but defiantly non-royal birthday party tomorrow is best understood as part of the new Windsor trajectory.
In the old days the concept of being a Royal was duty, duty, duty. These days, ironically enough, the Royals are emulating the middle-class dream of meaningful work, a balanced family life, and individual fulfilment.
By putting these values—which they share with the older millennials who are now starting to have families themselves—above the old values of duty and tradition, they are not simply aping the middle class, they are trying to find a way to be truly in touch with—or at least attuned to the same frequency—as the majority of their subjects in a way that no royal has ever been.
And if that means no invite for Prince Charles to George’s birthday, so be it.