Since the birth of the ‘royal baby’ on Monday I have been battling with myself over one question: is he the most privileged in Britain, or the most restricted? On some levels this is a ridiculous question to ask. This child will never know hunger, homelessness or poverty, unlike hundreds of other children also born on 22nd July 2013. He will live in the lap of luxury, his every need and want will be granted, he will have the most expensive and privileged education this country can offer. He will travel the world and meet people I can only dream about meeting, possibly all before I graduate. He will also be surrounded by a stable, loving family, and be worshipped by millions of adoring ‘subjects’.
Children born on the other side of the coin, however, face a hugely different future to His Royal Highness. The UK has one of the highest child poverty rates in the industrialised world, with 4 million, or 1 in 3 children living in poverty. The Government’s recent ‘bedroom tax’ policy and proposals to restrict benefits to teenage single mothers mean that a third of the prince’s 2000 ‘date twins’ will probably suffer malnutrition, homelessness and inconceivably difficult home lives. Their educations are likely to be fragmented and sporadic, their aspirations limited, and mental and physical health at extreme risk. I doubt many of these children will have the opportunity to leave their housing estates and cities, let alone travel the world in their own private jet.
Some people try to spin the myth that modern Britain is now a classless society, but these statistics show otherwise. The class system rests on the simple and odious belief that some people are worth more than others, and that your personal value is based upon the purity of your blood. Why else would a 4 day-year-old baby be the third in line to the throne, destined to become the head of state? He has no qualifications other than his heritage; in other words, his blood is worth more than any other potential candidate.
Putting aside reality for a moment, imagine that one of the other children born on the same day as George defies all the odds, and makes it all the way to University, then grafts for years and years, aspiring to become the head of state. They could be the most intelligent, compassionate, diplomatic and exciting candidate, who would represent the country with dignity, pride and passion. They would have worked exceptionally hard all their life to fulfil their ambition, a goal which most importantly they chose to pursue. They will have had to fight against institutional classism, and possibly sexism and racism as well, (George will one day be an old, rich, white man, don’t forget.) Yet all of this would be pointless, and currently impossible, due to the constitutional monarchy.
As glorious as the picture I just painted is, it isn’t going to happen. Instead the 4 day-year-old ‘royal baby’ will fill this role, even if he is the most stupid, incompetent, vile person in the world. This is not to say that he will be, but that he could be, and we commoners would just have to live with it, whether we like it or not. There is another aspect to this which also fills me with a horrid sense of injustice, and has led me to ask, and I reiterate, whether this baby is the most privileged or restricted child in Britain. This child’s entire life is already planned out for him, regardless of what he would really like to be. As with most lucky, middle class children, such as myself, I have been able to decide for myself how I want to live my life and earn my living. I have had the opportunity to grow as my own person, and decide for myself my own political beliefs. George, however, will not have this choice.
As king, he will be Commander-in-Chief of the British army, which he will be expected to serve in, even if he is a pacifist. He will also be head of the Church of England, even if he were an atheist, a fact that would grieve both believers and non-believers in equal measure, I expect. He will be totally restricted in who he can be as a person. I wonder (with dread) what would happen if he were gay, or gender non-conforming, both of which are very possible. How would such a traditional and archaic institution accommodate this child? The intense media coverage of his birth and Lord Tebbit’s ridiculous worries about a potential ‘lesbian queen’ give some indication of the uproar this would cause. And underneath all this uproar would be a vulnerable child, unable to express or be himself. I pity George, to a point, and I think it is unbelievably sad that both he, and every other child who shares his birthday, are restricted in their aspirations and freedom by this outdated and undemocratic institution.
Image Credit: Philip Stevens