“It’s a Girl!” the Daily Mirror trumpeted last week in its front-page headline.
In the buildup to Monday’s birth, the British press was falling all over itself to cover every possible detail, seizing upon casual comments or reports from semi-reliable witnesses as evidence.
The mistake stems from the Duchess of Cambridge’s July 16 visit to Grimsby in northeast England. She was handed a teddy bear and a witness reported her saying “Thank you, I will take that for my d—” And then she stopped herself. When pressed, she denied that she was going to say “daughter.”
Unfazed by the lack of specific facts, the Times and the Sun similarly trumpeted the “hint” from the Duchess.
The media’s fascination with the royals feeds the public’s frenzy. The U.K.-based Centre for Retail Research predicts that Brits will spend £243 million (or $372.6 million) in retail celebrating the prince’s birth, according to the Christian Science Monitor’s website. Spending will include everything from party supplies to merchandise (e.g., cups, plates and keychains) and, of course, media (including books, DVDs, magazines, and newspapers).
And betting companies are now raking in the dough as they place odds on names for the little prince.
There’s an endless supply of hoopla, but there might have been even more if the Mirror was right and it was in fact a girl.
Since the baby is a boy, the royal family avoided the possibility of changing centuries of history. A girl baby would have been a precedent-setting successor to the throne. Previously, the British throne was inherited by the oldest boy, even if he was not the oldest child. Queens Elizabeth I and II became monarchs because they had no male siblings.
That ruling was changed in October 2011.The equal-rights new rule required an act of parliament, with leaders of 15 other Commonwealth countries also weighing in. They simultaneously decided the monarch or future monarch can marry a Roman Catholic, something else that had previously been banned.
For the last century, the British royals have proven themselves expert at working with the media. There are 10 royal families in Europe, but most people in other countries can rattle off the names of the Brits, and a few folks in Monaco, but would be hard-pressed to name someone from most of the other families.