On 23rd April 2018 Prince Louis Arthur Charles was born in the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Paddington hospital. This is a most auspicious date, as it is the Feast of St George, patron saint of England. It is also traditionally the birthday of our most famous writer William Shakespeare.
The son of Prince William and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, he is 5th in line to the throne. The news was announced in the most modern and traditional of styles. There were posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, alongside the usual television broadcasts and of course an announcement was posted outside Buckingham Palace on a golden easel.
The pressure is now off for Kate. Any wife of an heir to the throne is expected to produce ‘an heir and a spare’, just in case something happens to the first-born. In British history we have had many cases of kings who were second sons. Henry VIII and Charles I both lost their elder brothers to illness. The father of our current queen Elizabeth II, became King George VI when his elder brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in favour of marrying the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
Royal babies are incredibly important. There are some instances when great hope has been raised by the arrival of a new member of the royal family. One famous instance was the birth, finally, of a son to Henry VIII, guaranteeing the continuation of the Tudor dynasty. It was celebrated in grand style at Hampton Court Palace with a lavish christening. The fact that one queen had been deposed, another lost her head and the religion of the country changed in order for him to be born made the celebrations, and the relief at his birth, even greater.
At that time a son was of paramount importance as women were not regarded as strong enough to be stable rulers. How British history has proved this theory wrong! Some of our greatest monarchs have been women. Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria and our current Queen Elizabeth II have all provided long periods of progress and stability. Despite this record, it took parliament until 2013 to change the rule of male primogeniture. Just before the birth of Prince George the law changed to say that sons do not take precedence over daughters in the line of succession. As a result Louis’ does not jump ahead of his sister Charlotte to become 4th in line to the throne. He slips into 5th place.
Less frequently remembered is the great hope raised by the pregnancy of Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent later King George IV. Her father was a rather unpopular ruler so by 1816 Charlotte was the darling of the people and their hope for the future. When the news broke that she was due to give birth to a child there was great rejoicing. She and the child would be a fresh start for a new royal family, which the people craved. However, disaster occurred when Charlotte died during childbirth and the baby was stillborn. The outpouring of grief at the time can be compared to the grief shown at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, just over 20 years ago.
Royal babies gain a lot of attention. As a result the royal family are keen to protect them from the glare of the world media. Their rare appearances, however are viewed on television around the world and their clothes are scrutinised by the press. Prince George’s outfits have sent sales rocketing in the same way as his mother, Kate, and grandmother, Diana, have set many fashion trends.
Whilst it is highly unlikely that young Prince Louis will ever become king, he will not disappear into the background of minor royals. As Louis grows up his antics alongside his brother and sister will be a source of fascination for the world.