Rod Liddle

I don’t care about the royal baby. What’s wrong with me?

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

Driving along in the car on a pleasant evening earlier this week, I was happily humming along to the toe-tapping sounds of the sadly defunct deathcore  stalwarts Anal Prolapse, when my wife leaned over and turned the CD player off and the radio on. Those smug and portentous pips sounded.

‘What the hell are you doing?’ I asked, outraged.

‘I want to know if she’s had it or not,’ my wife replied.

‘If who’s had what?’

‘Kate. The baby.’


There was no answer to the why, from my wife or, it seems, the rest of the country. No answer to the why from the beaming gumbeys camped outside the hospital with their home-made Union Jack hats and mobile phones held aloft, the modern form of tribute from our quiescent underclass. Nor from the jabbering reporters endlessly telling us in every news bulletin that there was no news whatsoever to report, but that this was still nonetheless the lead story of the day, the fact that there was no news to report. Still less from the features editors, itching to release their 52-page ‘Young Woman Has A Baby’ souvenir edition and terrified that it might clash with their 48-page ‘Very Ill Elderly Black Man Dies’ souvenir edition, both having been on the stocks for the past six weeks. Nelson is stoically holding out, though, so that problem has been removed from the fevered minds of the newspaper execs.

It is at times like this — much as it was at the time of the death of Princess Diana — that I feel estranged from the country, nay, the world. Hell, the Canadians turned Niagara Falls blue. Thank the Lord it was a boy, then — a vast psychedelic pink river might have made the entire population of Buffalo spontaneously vomit.

It is not, I hasten to add, that I have anything against Kate, or Wills, or the baby or the royals in general. Quite the reverse, I am delighted for them and wish them well. It’s just that I don’t get the all-consuming interest. I cannot even imagine why people would wish to turn up to the hospital, or the palace, and wave flags; it simply escapes me. Although I did like the mischievous man who said to Sky News’s Kay Burley that he’d heard the baby was black.

I don’t get the interest in the plethora of mundane detail, either; how heavy it was, whether she had an epidural or not, whether or not they needed those tongs to pull it out and so on. I suppose, in a somewhat sinister way, it is all a portent for what the child will have to live with in future; the sheer unending avidity of national and international curiosity. I scoured the early newspaper reports for information which was of genuine value, i.e. which actually told me something which a) I had a right to know and b) I couldn’t have guessed and c) mattered.

The only thing I found was a piece by the Daily Mail’s astrologer, Jonathan Cainer, which I have to say rather worried me. ‘Children born in the few hours just before the moon becomes precisely full tend to grow up troubled but talented.’ I had not known this. Is it true? Nor, indeed, the more momentous news that the royal child had been born in something called ‘The Watery Grand Trine’ which is being formed in the sky between Neptune in Pisces and Saturn in Scorpio and which, Jonathan averred, would give the new prince ‘a lifetime opportunity to heal the world’. Go, young Prince, go and heal. Yikes, etc.

I used to think that the behaviour of the country at times like this was the sort of thing detailed by Wilhelm Reich in The Mass Psychology of Fascism; that it is a whipping up of mob fervour by the maleficent agencies of an overbearing state. But it’s not that, really, is it? That’s a juvenile and very hoity-toity leftist analysis which, when you look at it, does not bear scrutiny. And whereas previously I thought that the newspapers were pushing this stuff on people who were not on the whole quite as interested in the whole business as the editors thought, now I am not so sure. From snatches of conversations overheard on public transport, people seem to want to know even more superfluous detail: they cannot get enough. The editors have if anything underestimated the interest. And perhaps it is simply snobbishly bien–pensant of me to remain aloof from it all. It’s me that’s lacking, not them.

Nor, incidentally, do I buy into the fashionable theory that this mass outpouring of attention is something which has only happened post-Diana, that her death marked the moment when we felt the need to emote, happily or otherwise, in public. I remember the wedding of Diana and Prince Charles, back in 1981. My girlfriend at the time, Shazza, was a supporter of the Socialist Workers Party, whose in-house paper had commemorated the royal wedding with the fabulous headline: ‘A fairytale comes true — Big Ears marries Noddy’. And so, returning from work on the day of the wedding, bored out of my mind by the endless coverage, I looked forward to a rigorously socialist evening when it would not be so much as mentioned. But in the living room there was Shazza, sitting on the floor surrounded by discarded chocolate wrappers, glued to the box: she’d watched every moment, from nine o’clock in the morning. ‘Doesn’t she look lovely?’ she simpered.

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  • george

    Rod: On behalf of 30-year-old women everywhere that are dewy and unlined yet already worrying about aging, may I thank you for speaking of a 31-year-old as you do. But then again, 31 is the new 17, is it not?

    As for the all-consuming interest, I don’t get it, either. But the interest is something I do get, because I have it: and that is that they are all so gobsmackingly, unfathomably privileged. Consider the mother. Most mothers with any brain and sensitivity worry, quite rightly I’m afraid, about how they will be treated by the nurses, the doctors, the hospital schedule, the insurance plan they’re under, etc. When it hurts, will the nurse say ‘what did you expect?’ as one said to my mother. If they don’t want to be cut open like a watermelon, will they be told that they’re selfish to think of their own tender self, and be threatened later with prosecution for not doing what the doctor wanted, etc.? But we all know that Kate would be treated with only the greatest respect for her every wish and her every need; that this brutal natural process would be softened for her by every device man and woman could devise. And we look on and wonder that mere mortal could be so lucky, knowing it could never be us. The rest of us must endure pain with our insults, and insults with our agony.

    Now consider the baby. He will never see the inside of a public loo in his life. I’ve just been on a long road trip through three American states, and I can tell you that using pristine private lavs is a blessing not to be dismissed.

    And then there are the accommodations. Hands up those that consider Kensington Palace a vast improvement on everywhere they’ve ever lived. (I’ve got two hands up and a leg for emphasis.) To say nothing of the hairstyling and designer clothing. If I had access to a royal stylist, I’m sure you would be astounded at the transformation. Instead of saying, “Here comes Candy Floss Head, decked out in Victoria’s Secret cheating polyester-cotton blends”, you’d be saying “Hello Stranger, what rocketship did you zoom in on — from planet Venus?” (Well, you might, after I’d fed you three of my devastating* ultra-Texan postmodern margaritas.)

    *I know, I know: the correct word is ‘decimating’.

    • Augustus

      When it hurts, will the nurse say ‘what did you expect? Giving birth to a baby wearing a crown is hard work!’

    • simhedges

      “He will never see the inside of a public loo in his life.” – So when Diana used to take her kids to Thorpe Park, do you think they had to find a private loo at all times? I doubt it. When kids have to go, they have to go.

      And though most mothers in the UK do worry about how they will be treated by the doctors, nurses, midwives, etc (you think Kate wasn’t at all worried?) – but not “the insurance plan they’re under” – unless they’re rather well off.

  • sunnydayrider

    If your readers think the press made a “Full English” with extra Black pudding out of this birth, wait and see how they carry on when your fellow Pulitzer contender Pippa finds someone to take her to stud. Mind you, of course it will be The Speccy, not Hello mag. that gets the picture exclusive.

  • Shoe On Head

    mass media consumption is like any other product. steve job’s, who’s arguably changed culture more than anyone in recent times put it best:

    “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
    Steve Jobs.

    considering economists consider what consumers want to be god-given and would say no, the media are giving people what they want…this is deeply profound.

    job’s would say you are showing them what they want

    • You’ve misunderstood Jobs. Yes, it is up to the entrepreneurs to show people what they want BUT it they get it wrong they fail – and many more fail than succeed.

      ‘Big Media’ is guessing what the people want and if they get it wrong (consistently) they too will fail.

  • Frank P

    Sorry to intrude upon this debate about what you DON’T care about – i.e., the success of a fairly benign dynasty to perpetuate itself in a country that hasn’t yet discovered a better way to maintain its constitution – but I need to alert your intelligent readership about something that has been – and still is – happening: something that they SHOULD care about,

    Forgive me, but the management, staff and editors of this magazine rarely, if ever, show an interest in the phenomenon discussed in the following link, or kick off a chance to expose it,

    I chose your platform because you are obviously the most popular contributor to the magazine, hence my somewhat rude non sequitur (in order to achieve maximum dissemination):

    Thanks for the ride.

  • john

    The main reason is that it is incredibly easy and cheap time filler for the media (UK and worldwide). With endless channel time to fill, there is a constant demand for soft news. Waiting outside a hospital and showing pictures of Buck House is about the softest news imaginable and so it went on and on and on – and will pick up again on “Prince’s first outing” and “Prince’s first school days” etc

  • Mr Grumpy

    Having just read Mary Wakefield’s excellent IQ piece I’d guess this is down to our genes as well. We’re designed to live in communities of such a size that every birth is genuinely a matter of personal interest. Though presumably there was already a certain percentage of us curmudgeons in the Paleolithic.

  • HJ777

    I’m with you on this, Rod.

    There just isn’t that much that you can say about this baby that couldn’t have been said before it was born (other than the sex and name). So we were treated to endless banalities by the press and news media in general.

    Of course it was newsworthy, it’s just that once the fairly simple facts have been reported, what was there really to say?

  • AtMyDeskToday

    William poked Kate, they had a baby. News?
    BTW…I’m a right wing conservative.

  • The_greyhound

    Try to look at the upside, Rod.

    The fact that the baby is is white and male irritated the hell out of the obnoxious Joan Smith on TV the other night.

  • Noa

    Oh yes, I’d almost forgotten about Nelson Mandela and the tunsami of media sycopnancy that the eventual unplugging of this venerated terrorist will induce.

    At least though it will temporarily curtail the floods of royal afterbirth we are currently enduring.

  • Augustus

    The Sun said: “Incredibly the visit by Charles was the first time the first, second and third in line to the throne had all been in the same room for nearly 120 years.” Or as Prince Charles no doubt noted, ‘119 years, eleven months, one day and three hours.’

  • Daniel Maris

    Ok, let me try the “Betjeman Thesis” on you…is this a case of “keep a hold of nurse for fear of something worse”? In other words, is the monarchy being held on to with an increasingly desperate grip by people in this country because they fear what is happening to that country. They no huge demographic and cultural changes are in play…it’s frightening and so people cling to the monarchy and all its trappings….

    The feeling is perfectly genuine but is, in a sense, a part of the problem, as it probably encourages to avoid addressing the issues we have to address.

    • simhedges

      Actually, I’d rather address the issues we have to address, rather than get stuck in a debate about the monarchy. If we were starting from scratch, would I choose a monarch as our head of state – no I wouldn’t. But at present, it pretty much ain’t broke – so let’s fix something that needs fixing – like our electoral system.

  • TonyB58

    I am not particularly anti-Royal and good luck to baby George, but I do find the silly hats, flag waving and fawning sycophancy, from public and media, nauseating On a more serious note surely the embarrassing public “emoting” on the death of Diana was a significant milestone in this country’s seemingly unstoppable decline?

  • Robert Taggart

    The only consolation for this Republican ? – one does not expect to be around upon Georgie boys ascent to the throne – nor any innocent issue on our account !

    • Lungfish

      Barring accidents or plague of course