The relentless global commentary around the Duchess of Cambridge's second pregnancy and birth had me in a spin. This poor woman effectively had a gazillion people sitting outside the labour ward (physically and figuratively) as she pushed out the next member of royalty. When she emerged from St Mary's Hospital a mere 10 hours after giving birth, how vibrant she looked, what she wore, and how her hair was styled were all dissected.
Kate accepted a position of importance and overwhelming expectation when she married into the Royal Family, and certainly approached it with her eyes wide open. Yet the expectations placed upon that adorable new royal, Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, piqued my curiosity. Before Charlotte greeted the world, there were bets on her gender, weight, date of birth and name. You could wager who would be holding the baby as the Duke and Duchess left the hospital. There's actually a live timer running entitled "Time since Kate gave birth to Princess Charlotte". Really.
Once the birth was announced, Britain's landmarks turned pink in her honour. Charlotte's great grandmother, The Queen, also wore pink after the baby's birth.
Royal protocol, etiquette and expectations aren't new. This fresh, scrumptious tot doesn't know it yet but she'll be expected to sit still and behave in a way our children do not. She, like her big brother George, like her royal cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents before her, will learn to keep quiet and try to look interested through lengthy engagements. I love the photo of four-year-old Prince Charles at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, looking more bored than Santa Claus in June (above). His mum may have been getting herself a sparkly new crown in historical splendour and pageantry, but like all children at that age, Charles clearly thought the adults talked too much. He probably wanted to get home so he could change out of those high pants.
Despite a slimmed-down, modernised version of the monarchy replacing the pomp and ceremony of previous generations, the English continue to be besotted by the Royal Family. Charlotte has already boosted the British economy by an estimated 80 million pounds in the two days she's been around, through commemorative merchandise. Tourists visiting the country are also bringing in a double-decker busload of cash.
As much as William and Kate attempt to normalise the upbringing of their children, George and Charlotte have been born into a world of great royal expectations. Charlotte will run around with the weight of a hefty title on her shoulders, a true princess, not simply one dressed up in a Disney costume. She'll grow up with a world watching her every move, her every outfit and hairstyle - within hours of being born there were predictions of her becoming a fashionista like her mum, and speculations about what Charlotte will look like as a teenager.
She will be taught a poignant lesson about discretion from her Uncle Harry that what happens in Vegas doesn't necessarily stay in Vegas.
To a lesser degree, we all do this (no, I'm not referring to nude photos of a red headed royal). We wonder what our unborn baby will look like, we guess or confirm gender and then apply a whole range of ideals and expectations upon that child. Some of us are more fluid in our thinking – open to a son that may prefer to read than kick a ball, a daughter that may find stomping in muddy puddles immensely more joyous than skipping in a fairy dress (Princess Anne, anyone?). We wonder whose personality traits our child will adopt and which physical features they will be blessed (or cursed) with. As parents, we have hopes and dreams for our children, some of us are more stringent about the path they will follow. Expectations of behaviour and of responsibility combined with realistic limitations are true of all children growing up, not simply the royals.
We may not have a monarch as a great-grandmother, or regal titles; we may not live in a fortress with 24-hour security, but we are all raised with the weight of expectation. If we're lucky, we all grow up with adoring parents who guide and support us through those expectations.
I just hope Charlotte, and George, will be allowed a muffled giggle when they fart at the dinner table.