Long life

The birth of a royal baby is hardly an exciting event

Two occasions to remind us how lucky we are to have a proper royal family

25 April 2015

9:00 AM

25 April 2015

9:00 AM

There are already people camping outside St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, to await the birth shortly of another royal baby, the second child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is hardly a very exciting event. Babies are born all the time, and there are already quite enough descendants of the Queen to ensure the survival of the Windsor dynasty on the throne of the United Kingdom for a long time to come. Yet there are many people in this country for whom this commonplace event will be more thrilling than the forthcoming general election, even though it could presage the dismemberment of the country itself. The British monarchy continues to enjoy enormous popularity. There may be doubts about the suitability of Prince Charles to succeed to the throne, but latest polls also show that about 70 per cent of the people of Britain still support the institution itself. No other British institution comes close to it in public esteem.

This seems rather weird and juvenile to the citizens of many foreign republics, in particular to those of the United States, a country founded on rejection of the dynastic principle. George Washington was so wary of seeming to be like a king that he wore a plain brown broadcloth suit for his first inauguration in 1789 and quashed an early proposal that his official title should be ‘His Highness, the President of the United States of America and Protector of Their Liberties’.

But even from its birth the United States, the land of equal opportunity for all, showed itself susceptible to the appeal of dynasties. It elected a father and son — John Adams and John Quincy Adams — as its second and sixth presidents; and in more recent times the names Roosevelt and Kennedy have ensured political prominence for members of those families. And what’s true of America has been even truer of India, that other great democratic republic, where politics for most of the time since independence has been dominated by the Nehru–Gandhi dynasty.

But here we are in 2015, and the two leading candidates in the race for the White House are called Bush and Clinton. This might not seem a great advantage. To be called Bush might even seem a liability. Jeb Bush’s father, George H. W. Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, only won the Republican nomination, despite being Ronald Reagan’s anointed successor, because his opponent Bob Dole, who had a withered arm and an ironic wit, was considered ‘mean-spirited’.

H.W. himself was not much admired. He was often characterised as a ‘wimp’ and as ‘looking like every woman’s first husband’, and he freely admitted to having a problem with ‘the vision thing’. He only won the 1988 election because his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, was even more unimpressive than him, and he was humiliatingly ousted four years later in favour of the sleazy but dynamic Bill Clinton by an electorate tired of his woodenness and Episcopalian reserve. Despite this, Clinton was eventually succeeded by H.W.’s son George W., whose record was to say the least controversial. But has this damaged Jeb’s prospects? It would appear not.

Bill Clinton is a more plausible founder of a political dynasty: he was and is much more popular than any person called Bush. But he ended his presidency mired in scandal — Gennifer Flowers, Whitewater, Monicagate, and so on. You’d think all that could count against his wife as she launches her campaign to be the ‘champion of everyday Americans’, and doubtless it will be used against her as the battle heats up. Also, her own record, both as First Lady and as secretary of state under Barack Obama, is not much to write home about. But even this negative legacy, like that of the Bushes, is apparently more than offset by the comfort Americans draw from their familiarity.

The great strength of a monarchy is that it satisfies the public’s urge for the familiarity and continuity of a dynasty without distorting the democratic system. We’ve had political families in Britain — Cecils, Churchills, Chamberlains, Asquiths, Benns, and so on — but rarely has any one of them held power for more than a generation. We don’t need them to. We are happy with the boring old Windsors, and we like the way they keep politicians in their place.

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  • Anti-Bush just a bit, Mr Chancellor? Seems that way. I notice you make no reference whatsoever to the difference between the character of the Bush presidents and the Clintons, man or wife. You want to watch out also for talk about ‘popularity’: Bill Clinton won the electoral-college vote as one needs to do to win, but Clinton did not have a majority of the popular vote. And Ross Perot (and third-party candidacy in both elections) almost certainly drew more voters away from the Republican than it did from the Democrat side: a major help to Clinton, regardless of his charms (or not).

    As for Mrs Clinton’s record as Secretary of State: she and her boss stood by while an American Embassy was attacked with their knowledge, and refused to send military aid to save the lives of the personnel stranded there — and then lied about what happened, and tried to frame an innocent man, jailing him. I’d call that far worse than ‘nothing to write home about’. I’d call it treasonous.

    • Violin Sonata.

      I always remember Bill Clinton many years ago on one of his trips.
      Crowds were treating him like a film star, journalists and reporters were everywhere . But I thought he came across so totally untrustworthy &
      And now many years later, my American friends tell me the Clinton mafia are
      out in full swing for Hillary, as the first woman president- heaven forbid.

    • little islander

      ‘gracious’, very.

  • Violin Sonata.

    I’d be careful if I were you, ‘ boring old Windsors’?
    I doubt the Queen will ever swing from the chandeliers after a few too many dubonnet’s. But Charles is a worry, he wishes to be leader of ‘ faiths’ instead of the
    head of the C of E and supports the Green deception, that man is a menace.
    Also if this new baby of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge happens to be a girl
    then all the Diana mania will start up again.

    • davidshort10

      I doubt if it will start up any time soon…..And the Cambridges seem to have successfully managed to engineer the necessary transition of the Royal Family closer to the Dutch sort of model but without the bicycles. Charles is archaic – footmen putting his paste on the toothbrush, taking his own lavatory seat to house parties – and will seem even more so if he accedes when a very old man. The best one can hope for is that he expires before the Queen, which could happen.

      • mikewaller

        What a disgustingly uncharitable thought! No man (= person and including one David Short) is perfect and Charles undoubtedly has flaws. But having several times witnessed him responding to people he meets by chance on leaving the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford, I have always been impressed by his easy good manners.

        • davidshort10

          Well, as a subject of this realm whose opinion on his monarch is as valid as those of others, I do not want Charles to accede. He is out of touch. He was a very bad husband, he is an adulterer, and is out of touch. I find little to commend him. He has enjoyed huge privilege but has given nothing in return. No proper military service. He is useless.

          • mikewaller

            It is my inclination to think that your expectations of those deeply flawed entities, human beings, are wholly unrealistic. A man whose own upbringing has made him emotionally vulnerable marries a women made very “needy” for similar reasons and it all ends in tears. Predictable as it was tragic as is reflected in the present high levels of divorce. But as Christ said “Let he who is without sin…..”

          • Oh I agree. Diana was unfortunate in the way that many very unreasonable people are unfortunate. She happened to be greatly attractive, physically and in her personal charm. That doesn’t make her less disastrous as a wife. If I were her husband, I’d be adulterous too.

          • Just how bad a husband was he? Considering that she was a bad wife.

          • davidshort10

            Well he was an adulterer from the start. She began as a young, innocent virgin. One of the justifications for having this system is that the monarch sets an example. Without that, some of the point is lost. William will I am sure remain faithful and so will Kate.

          • Fine, but there’s no comparison: the present generation are of the same age and are similar people (life of the body and a bit less of the mind, but an exposure to both — the latter primarily through university); they lived together in and out of the public eye for a decade before actually marrying; they developed and secured their personal relationship before bringing children into the equation; there was no sense of the clock ticking and pressure to reproduce, as was the case with Charles. Charles and Diana were always unsuited, right from the start, whether they knew it or not: the opposite is true of W & K.

          • davidshort10

            I could not agree more. That’s my point. To me, they – William and Kate – are an incredibly boring couple but they are what we all want in our own families. It is not to my taste. I have one in mine. They used to say ‘There has to be family life at Court’. With King George Vi, there was. With Elizabeth II, there was until they grew up, Under Charles, who will be a doddery old out of touch, cruel old buffer, there cannot be.

          • Cruel?

        • Besides which, who shall agree on what your flaws are or mine? Some people have been known to love me for the very features that make others twitch at the eye. And the things they think wonderful about themselves, I see as failures of knowledge. So ‘we are all flawed’ only goes so far because most people are not valid judges. Many of the flaws they think they see are motes in their own eyes.

          • davidshort10

            Not relevant to the discussion.

          • mikewaller

            A very sound observation. Without mentioning any names on this list, I think the story of the publican and the sinner in the NT, pertinent. The former cocksure of his not “being as other men”, the latter all too conscious of his many faults yet we all know who was more pleasing to the Lord. And quite right too!

  • Dogsnob

    That’ll be yet another Aston Martin to fill up and maintain in 20 years’ time.

  • DaveTheRave

    Whoever said it was?
    Oh yes, the media.

  • mikewaller

    Dyspeptic old sod! “Boring old Windsors”? From “fairy-tale” marriages to marital breakdowns, the Windsors have given the British more interest that the entire Chancellor canon times infinity!

  • john

    What is a “royal” baby? Does it arrive with unique talents versus every other baby?
    I was very impressed that George was able to earn the title of Prince within microseconds of his birth. Will the new arrival have such astonishing abilities?

  • William Pink

    Republicanism sounds good.

  • davidofkent

    It keeps a lot of people very happy and excited, bless their little cotton socks!