There may be tribe, perhaps living in the steamy depths of the Amazon, who are as yet unaware of the imminent arrival of its diminutive highness: the royal baby. Then again, that seems more and more unlikely with every passing day. Media coverage of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy has reached such relentless, sycophantic heights that no member of our species can now be ignorant of it.
Photo: Huffington Post
Much of this coverage, the less egregious elements of which may be kindly described as over-excited, leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It increasingly comes across as being exploitative. Kate is photographed from every angle. The details of her birthing plan are held to be common knowledge. Her health is discussed as if she were an intimate family member of each of us. Recall that Hilary Mantel was pilloried in some sections of the media for pointing this out back in February. Nothing since then has proven her wrong. The Duchess is the public interest.
Like Diana before her, Kate sells. Newspapers and magazines, now more than ever, exist to make a profit. The royal baby is the media’s shale gas: a rich source of near-limitless content that is guaranteed to bring in handsome returns for the foreseeable future. This tendency to monetise the monarchy is also evident in the widespread appearance of appears to be called memorabilia. HRH babygrows, anyone? A personal favourite is a mug bearing the words ‘Hooray for Will & Kate!’, a message that seems to congratulate two people for the simple act of procreating – something that ordinary folk manage to do everyday quite of their own accord.
By treating the Duchess in this way we reduce her role to that of tawdry celebrity. The birth of the royal baby becomes indistinguishable from that of the recently born – and creatively named – Kaidence Donda West Kardashian. The media claim to care deeply for the Duke and Duchess, but we treat them similarly to any other famous-for-something celebrity. Topless photographs are rightly considered to be a gross invasion of privacy and are deemed unfit for publication. But they are only marginally worse than laying out to prurient public excess every other aspect of Kate’s life. It’s not respectful: it’s demeaning. Covering the unedifying spectacle with the fig leaf of admiration and poorly confected concern only serves to make it all the more nauseating.
Anyone who is genuinely concerned, whatever that means, about the Duchess would do well to leave her alone. That may mean foregoing the opportunity to gawp at pictures of her birthing suite, but is that really such a loss to our lives? Taking an interest in somebody, particularly in our future queen, is fair enough. But sometimes the best way of doing that is by backing off.