Royal baby dispatches: Birth brings out the republicans

It’s not all love for the royals, Katie Engelhart reports from London

Sang Tan/AP

Hours after the royal baby took in his first lungful of air, the scene in London closed with some poetry: the sun set and, to cackling thunder, the skies opened up and unleashed an apocalyptic downpour.

To assume the crowds would have thinned overnight would be to gravely err. This morning, the road was thick with journalists, curious passersby and frothing-at-the-mouth tourists—more, even, than yesterday. But something has changed: the baby has arrived. The “Great Kate Wait” is over.

Unexpectedly, a good number of British broadsheets were unabashed in their enthusiasm: their front pages a gluttonous tribute to all things majestic and Britannia. The conservative Daily Telegraph celebrated with ‘It’s a boy’ on the cover, and a long string of articles, including one about a woman who gave birth in the same hospital wing as Kate Middleton did—11 years ago. But The Daily Mail took the celebration cake with a whopping 20 pages of breathy coverage in its Royal Baby Souvenir Special, which showcased a jolly “grandpa” Prince Charles. (Interesting tidbit from those pages: “At 8lbs 6oz [Royal Baby is] the heaviest future king in 100 years.”)


Elsewhere, however, headlines were more subdued, a nod to a republican sentiment than holds steady. The Independent—notorious for eschewing royal coverage—opted not to put #RoyalBaby on the cover. Instead, the front-page story was about Prime Minister David Cameron’s “war on internet porn.” That will probably appeal to the 17 per cent of Brits who want a Republic as opposed to the 77 per cent who actively wish to retain the Monarchy.

For some, the occasion of the royal birth—and the imperial deference it has inspired—is cause for republican grief. Republic, a leading anti-monarchy league, used the Royal Baby hype to promote its new #bornEqual campaign. “This is an opportunity,” its campaign manager Graham Smith argued, “to consider whether this circus is the best way to run things.”

Yesterday, the Guardian tempted online readers with a “Republican” button which, when clicked, stripped the homepage of all reference to the royal babe. The Guardian for its part, was tempered in tone; Royal Baby made the cover, but with a modest four pages of coverage. For the most part, the Guardian has maintained its more-virtuous-than-thou sheen by going meta. Its lead story discussed how content-starved journalists were celebrating the birth of some real, concrete news.

Indeed meta-reporting is the theme du jour. Coverage of the coverage of the royal baby coverage is commonplace. Journalists are endlessly interviewing journalists. This morning, a Canadian reporter was interviewed by a Guardian correspondent who cheekily asked what it was like stake out the hospital for weeks on end.

Today, we await the emergence of the duchess herself, though Buckingham Palace has warned that Kate will not appear before 6 p.m. London time, if she appears at all.

We also await the name. Today’s odds are on George. Already, we have craned our necks for the arrival and departure, by taxi, of the beaming Middletons.

When Kate does head home, the streets will finally clear and we can move on to more pressing issues, like when Kate will lose her baby weight.

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