So it’s a boy, which is rather a relief. I was ready to get all cross and annoyed at the large amounts of pomposity that were to be expended on talking about sex-equality and why the deep-rooted heritage of centuries should be twisted and mangled to ensure that male primogeniture should cease.
A boy, a prince, and a future king – born just a year short of a century after the Great War which toppled thrones across Europe and ushered in an era of social change on large scale. No prince born in Europe in 1913 could have envisaged the way things were going to be as he grew up. Today’s baby prince will have a future we cannot possibly know or predict.
Just as well, because the Britain into which he has been born is one with enough challenges. He is unusual, and greatly blessed, in having two parents who are married to each other. Marriage – that is, true marriage, a man and a woman united for a lifetime – is becoming a minority lifestyle in today’s Britain, and the consequences of this are miserable for the many children who are forced to grow up amid a confusing set of adults all busy with their own desires and relationships. A typical childhood in modern Britain involves being born to unmarried parents, then one of the parents marrying, then that marriage breaking up, then a new relationship being formed…and may well also include grandparents divorcing, and the arrival of various odd quasi-uncles and aunts as sundry relations produce live-in partners at various Christmases and family events…
The Royal Family – by no means strangers to cohabitation, divorce and remarriage – nevertheless remains something around which people can fix loyalties, something which gives out a message of stability in muddled times.
The young Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will bring joy to many people when the first photographs of them cuddling their new baby are published. People will relish talking about the name and exploring its links and traditions. They will talk about their own family associations with Royalty – coincidences of birthdays, special Royal events celebrated in their town or school or community, memories of standing for hours to cheer at some great national event attended by Royalty.
In order to give all of this some real meaning, and to show that today’s Royalty is not a silly celebrity-photo-opportunity thing, it will be necessary for the parents of the new prince to take a long look at it all. What is Royalty really all about? Has it a value? Assuming that these young Royals have some degree of genuine goodwill and a desire to serve the common good – how should they go about things?
They should – and will – have the child baptised and introduced into the Christian way of life, centred on the person of Jesus Christ. We number our years after Christ’s birth, our annual calendar of holidays (“holy days”) echoes the great events of his life, death, and resurrection, and his message of mercy, kindness, and self-giving is at the core of our civilisation. Today, there are still vastly greater numbers of people at church every year than there are at football matches. The first and most important thing that this Royal baby must be given is initiation into the Christian mysteries. And this should be done openly, and the young parents should affirm that he will be taught to pray “Our father, who art in heaven…” and learn about forgiveness and mercy and the Cross and the empty tomb.
This will not insult members of other religious communities. On the contrary, it will affirm the deepest message that the arrival of a new child brings to us all: that human life is precious, that it is at heart a mystery, that it is a gift to us from our Creator, that we share a common humanity, that we all need to worship and honour something far greater and nobler than our own selves.
The young parents therefore deserve the prayers of the rest of us… they will need these as they struggle to raise a child to live up to the great and wise teachings given to us by Christ. We could pray, too, that he will have brothers and sisters to love and support him and one another and that family life centred on the lifelong union of a man and woman will find once again its rightful place at the core of our common life in Britain.
Marriage and family, a man and a woman united in love and service with their offspring – these are understood by everyone. May the new baby born into the British Royal Family grow up in a Britain where there is peace, and enough prosperity to enable the nation to flourish, and a flowering of Christian faith and of the values that enable a civilisation to continue.
Joanna Bogle writes from London.