This time last week, I was waiting with the world to hear the outcome of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy. Was she giving birth to a future king or queen? Would the souvenir mugs and tea towels be pink or blue?
In the evening I got my first experience of being crushed in a crowd as I pressed forward with hundreds of others to get a glimpse of The Easel declaring that HRH had been safely delivered of a son.
Today I am in Norfolk at the beginning of a week-long Christian youth festival called newday. None of the 6,000 young people camping around me made the international news when they were born, to the best of my knowledge. None of them are commemorated in tea towels or mugs available on every High Street. None of them have had their steps dogged by reporters at every turn. They’re just normal teenagers.
I’m thinking a lot at the moment about what gives a person his or her significance and value. As William and Kate acknowledged when they introduced the future King George VII to the world, the feelings and emotions they were experiencing were no different to those felt by every parent anywhere in the world.
A baby is a miracle. Every baby is, but your own is especially. Having never experienced it, I can’t begin to imagine what it is like to finally meet the child you’ve been incubating and nurturing for so long.
Yet while each child starts the same way, not every child can expect to receive the same opportunities or advantages in life. And while some people, myself included, celebrate a royal birth, many rage at the inequities the little prince reminds us of. He will have his pick of the best schools in the world. He will never know true hunger or thirst. If he falls ill he will be attended by the best-qualified medical teams, and he will be showered with gifts and attention wherever he goes. In a world torn between the competing values of equality and meritocracy, this undeserved favour strikes many as deeply unjust.
The title of this piece comes from an episode of the British historical comedy Blackadder. Set in England in the early 19th century, the third series of the programme follows an earlier Prince George – the one who was appointed Regent during his father, George III’s, mental illness before finally becoming king himself. A profligate, fun-loving party animal, George was, shall we say, less than adored by his people. In Blackadder he is portrayed as rather stupid and doesn’t realise the extent to which he is disliked. Hearing the people shouting in the streets, he thinks they’re calling ‘We hail Prince George’, and his butler, Edmund Blackadder, corrects him: “‘We hate Prince George’, sir. ‘We hate Prince George’.”
The new Prince George hasn’t yet revealed his character to us. Will he be noble, generous and wise, discharging his duties as though they are joys and giving his people cause to cheer at his every appearance? Or will he be selfish, cantankerous and conceited, concerned only for himself and his own advancement regardless of the cost to others? Will he be hailed or hated?
We can’t know. One of the things people love about babies and children is their potential. Whenever we hear of the tragic death of a child, someone will always tell the reporters, ‘He/she had so much potential’. Children are seen by our society as little packages of hope. The world is before them, they could do anything, be anything…
…and of course, that ‘anything’ could be negative, too.
One of the things I love about the youth event I’m at is seeing teenagers learning how to put their potential to good use, not bad. In a world where teens get very negative press, and where many of them do feel a sense of hopelessness, the majority of these 12-19 year olds are choosing to reject those negative projections.
Learning from the example of the earlier Royal Baby, King Jesus, they commit to modelling his selfless, sacrificial love on this earth, and to following him wherever he leads.
They may never hit the headlines, they may never be hailed, on earth, by anyone, but that doesn’t bother them. They do not find their significance in what the world, the media or even their friends think of them; they find it in what God thinks of them. In his eyes, each one who has accepted his forgiveness and committed their lives to following him, has been reborn into the ultimate Royal family, and has all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of first born sons – yes, even the girls.
And that is worth all the mugs and souvenir tea towels in the world.
Picture Credit: From the home page of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge