Royal Ramblings: William and Kate are Having a Baby and Basically the Entire World is Excited

As you’ve probably already heard multiple times so far today (my Facebook feed certainly appears overrun with this news), their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have officially announced that they’re expecting a baby!

St. James’s Palace confirmed the news this morning – and you can see the official statement from Clarence House here. They further explained that part of the reason for the relatively rushed announcement is that the Duchess is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (acute morning sickness) and had to be admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in London where she’s expected to stay and rest for a few days.

The royal baby will be third in line for the British throne, after Prince Charles and Prince William. Thanks to some proposed radical changes to the current rules of the monarchy and its practice of primogeniture, the sex of the baby will not determine whether he or she wears the crown. (Also: that’s awesome.)

The people of England (and the world, really) are already celebrating the impending arrival of a royal heir, including myself and what appears to be nearly every person I know and interact with in any capacity on the internet. Why are we all – especially us Americans – so excited about the expansion of the British Royal Family?

Much like our fascination with British period drama, our love of the British monarchy is probably also tied into the fact that it represents a certain way of life that remains both familiar and alien to us as Americans. We understand how the monarchy the works in theory, but we’ve never had one ourselves. We’ve never had an aristocracy in this country at all, and our founding fathers explicitly rejected the British Crown in 1776. We’re all very proud of our nation’s history of course, but it would seem many of us are also still quite fascinated by the culture of the country we left behind. What’s it like to have a Queen? What’s it really feel like when you hear the announcement of a royal heir? We have no idea, because it’s really not part of our cultural makeup. But, clearly, a very large portion of our population is a little bit in love with the Royal Family anyway.  But, why?

Is it the celebrity? Is it because American culture is – to a large degree – obsessed with celebrity, and royalty is sort of the ultimate expression of that? Very few people can “achieve” royalty status (though I suppose Duchess Kate is, in that way, an exception); the vast majority are born into it, which creates a sort of stratospheric celebrity class that even Kim Kardashian can’t market her way into. Plus, you sort of can’t beat a title, right?

Is it the tradition? Is it because we love the tradition of the monarchy? Americans certainly seem fascinated with the pageantry, pomp and circumstance surrounding major Royal events and the solemnity that seems to be automatically attached to everything that the monarchy does. The weight of several hundred years of history being virtually baked into the institution is certainly hard to ignore and despite our own very American traditions about certain days and events, we have nothing that equals a Royal Wedding or the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Those of us here in DC know that Presidential inaugurations are probably the closest that we get to experiencing an event like that, ut the vibe still seems very, very different (not for the least of which reason is that whenever a president is inaugurated, some group of people is automatically likely to be unhappy about it, since they voted for his opponent).

Is it the princess thing? Is it because we still just really love the idea of Kings and Queens and Princesses actually existing in real life, even though we’ve never had one here in America ourselves? This is possibly the tiniest bit embarrassing (and maybe this is a gender thing?) but I still remember watching video of Princess Diana’s wedding and loving it. Honestly, it’s Disney that probably profits the most from keeping the whole “princess” idea front and center for millions of little girls every year, but it’s obvious (see also: William and Kate’s wedding last year) that people are still drawn to the fairytale nature of the Royals, whether or not that’s even a realistic representation of the Queen, her family or their lives at this point in their history.

Is it Queen Elizabeth? Could it possibly be that the Windsors just have an exceptional leader at this point in their history? Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne for sixty years after all – and seems to be from all accounts a fairly fabulous lady. (She basically became a Bond girl for the opening ceremonies of the London Olympic Games this summer. That’s hard to beat.) The queen also seems to possess a remarkable knack for figuring out what her subjects – and the world stage – need to see from her as a leader (a skill that’s been particularly improved since her well documented missteps following Princess Diana’s death in 1997). In truth, she has managed a particularly masterful rebirth of the Royal “brand,” if you will, in recent years. Perhaps it’s merely the force that is Queen Elizabeth that’s keeping us all so interested in her family – will we love King Charles as much? (Oddly, I do think we will all love King William, someday – he’s Diana’s son after all – but it will be interesting to see how Americans feel about Charles as a monarch.)

It’s hard to say – and the answers may be different, or multiple, for different people. All I know is that I’m embarrassingly super excited myself for William and Kate, and am already looking forward to taking part in some sort of pool wherein we try to guess the name of this new future King or Queen of England. (And I think they’re going to have a girl, just to get my prediction out there early.) Would love to hear your thoughts - why do you think Americans care so much about the British Royal Family?