By George! Britain's little prince gets a name
LONDON (AP) — The little prince was in need of a name, and now, by George, he's got one.
Make that three: George Alexander Louis.
The announcement Wednesday that Prince William and his wife, Kate, had selected a moniker steeped in British history came as royal officials said the new parents were seeking quiet family time away from the flashbulbs and frenzy that accompanied the birth of their first child.
While the news put to rest intense speculation over what name the couple would choose, the extreme interest around it illustrated how the 2-day-old future heir is already on his way to a lifetime of fanfare and public glare.
Kensington Palace said William and Kate were “delighted to announce” their son's name, adding that the baby will be known as “His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.”
The name George — borne by six kings — befits the boy now third in line to the British throne and was a favorite among British bookmakers, evoking the steadfastness of the queen's father, George VI, who rallied the nation during World War II.
Alexander is a name shared by three medieval Scottish kings, and Louis could be a tribute to Lord Louis Mountbatten, uncle to the queen's husband, Prince Philip, and the last British viceroy of India before it gained independence in 1947. William's father, Prince Charles, was close to Mountbatten, who was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army in 1979.
The announcement of the name, just two days after the baby's birth, was quick by royal standards. Queen Elizabeth II and Philip took a month before settling on the name Charles for the Prince of Wales. Charles and Princess Diana took a week before settling on William's four names.
While a king usually rules under his given name, precedent shows that the prince is not hidebound by George. The first name of George VI was actually Albert, but he picked his fourth name to use as sovereign in honor of his father, George V.
For now, palace officials say, William and Kate are spending “private and quiet time for them to get to know their son.” Some of their discussions may revolve around how to shield him from the media.
The young prince's relationship with the media appeared to get off to a good start — an encouraging sign for a royal family that has had tense moments with the press.
The baby slept through his first photo op Tuesday outside London's St. Mary's Hospital, while his parents beamed as they chatted easily with reporters.
“I thought, ‘Is this an Oscar-winning performance?’” said Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine. “But I think they were so genuinely overjoyed that they wanted to show off the baby.”
After leaving the hospital, the couple introduced their son to his uncle, Prince Harry, and to great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, who was keen to see the baby before she starts her annual summer vacation in Scotland later this week.
Then they headed to see Kate's parents in their village near London — pretty much like any regular family.
There has been so much royal drama in the last few decades that it's easy to forget William had, by royal standards, a relatively normal childhood.
His parents’ troubled marriage may have ended in divorce, but Charles and Diana were devoted parents who tried to spend as much time as possible with their children, albeit with an assist from nannies. While the queen was sometimes away on official tours for months at a time when her children were young, Charles and Diana took William along on a tour to Australia when he was just 9 months old.
The queen was educated at home, in keeping with royal tradition. But she sent her own children to boarding schools, and Charles and Diana did the same with William and Harry — choosing Eton, one of the most prestigious boys’ schools in the country.
“William's childhood was normal by upper-middle-class standards — private schools, expensive holidays, McDonald's in a smart part of town as opposed to a grotty part of town,” said royal historian Robert Lacey. “I think, really, one is going to see more of the same.”
Lacey said Kate's middle-class background will also help ensure her son gets a broader world view than some of his royal predecessors. The baby's maternal grandparents, Carole and Michael Middleton, are self-made millionaires who run a party-planning business from the village of Bucklebury, west of London.
“From Buckingham Palace to Bucklebury — these are the two elements that will be in this child's upbringing,” Lacey said.
Lacey noted that on Kate's side the baby prince had “a grandfather who started off dispatching aircraft from Heathrow Airport and a grandmother who started out as a flight attendant and grew up on a council estate, who came from coal-mining stock in Durham” in northern England.
“That is all funneling through,” he said.
William's childhood normality was possible because the palace struck a deal with the media: privacy in exchange for a number of agreed-upon photo opportunities at birthdays and during school holidays.
Seward said Kate and William will try to arrange a similar deal for their son. “When they have got time to think, they will have to do some kind of deal with the press,” she said. “In return for some really beautiful photographs, they will be left alone.”
British media adhered to the agreement while William and Harry were children. But once they reached adulthood, all bets were off. Photos soon appeared of Prince Harry on drunken nights out, or wearing a Nazi outfit to a costume party. Tabloid reporters were also secretly hacking the mobile phone voice mails of royal aides to get scoops.
The revelation of the scale of that illegal eavesdropping — on celebrities, politicians and crime victims, as well as the royals — horrified the British public and chastened the rambunctious press, although that may be a temporary state of affairs.
Palace officials still have some sway over newspaper editors. When they complained about photos of William and Kate walking on a beach near their home in Wales, British newspapers did not run them.
The foreign media is much harder to control, as the palace learned when an Italian magazine ran topless pictures of Kate taken during a holiday in France.
Still, Lacey points out, the media scrutiny can cut both ways.
This baby will be the first future monarch to grow up in the era of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, giving him “an incredible insight into how the country and population he is supposed to represent live and breathe,” Lacey said.
“In the Middle Ages, we have legends of idealistic princes who would dress in ordinary clothes and go out into the streets of town after dark to see how their subjects lived. The electronic media, for all their hazards, do offer this new dimension to an heir.”
While Kate and William get to know little George away from the media frenzy that surrounded his birth, there is one royal appearance on the horizon: The new parents are expected to soon choose a photographer for the baby's first official portrait.