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Royal baby: 10 tidbits to make you sound like a titled insider

July 22, 2013|By Patt Morrison | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • Prince Charles, left, stands with his mother Queen Elizabeth II, his son Prince William and his daughter-in-law Kate. William and Kate welcomed a baby boy on Monday, bumping nearly all of his relatives down the chain of succession.
Prince Charles, left, stands with his mother Queen Elizabeth II, his son… (Sang Tan / Associated Press )

• For the first time in more than 100 years, four generations of present and future British monarchs will be alive at the same time: Queen Elizabeth II, her son and heir apparent, Charles, Prince of Wales; William, the Duke of Cambridge; and the new baby, Prince of Cambridge. Queen Victoria, who died in 1901, posed for a photograph with her son, the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII; his son, the Duke of York, the future King George V, and the Duke of York’s eldest son, the future King Edward VIII. (None of them could know it at the time, but there were actually five present and future monarchs alive at the same time. King Edward VIII would abdicate and his brother, “Bertie,” became King George VI, the father of the present queen.) 

• The royal means of announcing a birth -- a dignified notice set at the gates of Buckingham Palace -- began with the births of Queen Victoria’s nine children. Back then, the language was august: “The Queen has been safely delivered of a Prince [or a Princess].” When Prince William was born in 1982, the language was more informal: “Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales was safely delivered of a son at 9:03 p.m. today.” (The baby news will also be posted on the royal website.) The delicacy about the royal reproductive parts was in force when the current queen was born in 1926. She was delivered by Caesarean, but the court announcement said only that “a certain line of treatment was followed.”

• The future head of the Church of England will be baptized in a copy of the christening robe of satin-lined English lace that Queen Victoria had made for her eldest daughter in 1841. The robe was retired in 2004 and the copy, made by order of the queen, was used to baptize her grandson Viscount Severn in 2008. Royal babies are usually baptized in the Lily Font, made by English silversmiths in 1841, again for Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, and filled with water brought from the River Jordan, where tradition holds that Jesus was baptized.

Quiz: How well do you know Will and Kate?

• This new baby nudges almost all of his royal relatives down the heir ladder. Only his father and grandfather stay in line ahead of his. His uncle, Prince Harry, bumps down a notch, as do all of the queen’s other children and grandchildren. One baby makes the entire royal family play musical chairs.

• How many names the baby has depends in part on how many godparents he has. Little royals born to inherit are tactfully given several diplomatically chosen names. King Edward VIII, known in the family as David, was formally christened Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. Prince Charles got off lightly, with Charles Philip Arthur George; his bride, Diana, mixed up his two first names at the altar. The present queen is a fairly simple Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, for her mother, great-grandmother and grandmother. Prince William is William Arthur Philip Louis.

• Baby Cambridge -- as the baby will be known in the hospital -- will probably be breastfed. Queen Elizabeth II breastfed her children, as did Diana, Princess of Wales, but until this century it was considered undignified for a royal lady to breastfeed, so most royal babies had wet nurses -- women who had given birth at about the same time and could breastfeed the royal newborn (their own babies had to wait until the royal highness had had enough to eat). Queen Victoria was shocked that her eldest daughter, Victoria, the mother of the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, enjoyed pregnancy and breastfeeding; the whole process of childbearing, Victoria wrote disapprovingly, is “being like a cow or a dog.”

• The new baby will have as many as five title changes in his lifetime:

1. His Royal Highess Prince yet-to-be-named of Cambridge. His father is both a prince and a royal duke -- far superior to your regular, garden-variety duke -- and he takes his name from daddy’s royal dukedom, much as Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and Sarah Ferguson’s daughters are Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York.

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