The Royal Baby was born this week, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few royals secretly sighed in relief that he was born male. Although for the first time in history, due to the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, it wouldn't have mattered if Kate gave birth to a boy or a girl, I imagine there are some who still prefer the traditional - a male heir - over the unorthodox.
Put me in the opposite camp. Of course, a baby of any gender is a blessing, and a healthy baby is the greatest blessing of all, and so on and so forth… but darn it, I wanted a girl!
Maybe it's because I know of three other babies born in the last few months, all of whom are male. Adorable, cuddly, pooping bundles of joy all, but I wouldn't have minded a little variety. And the fact is that a male heir to the throne suddenly seems so… standard. Normal. Unexciting.
After a history of watching the Brits hold their breath for a prince, a princess would have been quite the announcement.
Then there are the more practical concerns. For example, names. There's been much speculation, but many news sources are reporting that George, Alexander, James, and Henry are the frontrunners for the Royal Baby name. Now, don't get me wrong; those are good, strong family names. But imagine if the baby were a girl. The possibilities are, dare I say, much more exciting. Some traditional and/or royal British names for you to chew on: Beatrice, Eugenie, Matilda, Sibylla, Frederica, and, of course, Diana.
Then there are the clothes. Sure, my mom amused herself by dressing up my brother in suspenders and newsboy caps when he was little, but I imagine she had a whole lot more fun dressing me up! In fact, family lore has it that my mom used to change my outfit multiple times per day because I had so many cute clothes.
I'm sure Kate and William are overjoyed with their newest addition, but at least for me, the blessed event was a bit of a letdown. Maybe it's because I was one, but I think there's just something about a little baby girl.
Being the father of a girl and a boy, I am in no position to express a preference in response to Claire's piece. All I will say is that a healthy baby of either gender is a great blessing… on that she and I clearly agree. I am quite certain that the Royal Family collectively share this view. Every loving couple who ever lived breathed a sigh of relief when their newborn was cleaned up, inventoried, and found to have the requisite number - no more nor less - of body parts.
The English royals have not always been so blessed. Shakespeare depicted Richard III as "deformed" and "unfinished." When his skeleton was discovered last February, curvature of the spinal column confirmed the Bard's description of the Fifteenth Century monarch, slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
King George III was mad. The monarch who presided over the loss of the 13 American colonies suffered deteriorating mental health, as depicted in 1994's "The Madness of King George," which featured Helen Mirren as his hapless queen. Of course, insanity came later in life. Some say arsenic, not heredity, was the cause. Bad Helen?
Speaking of disabilities, physical and mental, I was taken to task following last week's column by a former Jim Thorpe neighbor of mine for my characterization of the old folks next door as "a few cards short of a full deck." She observed, "Everyone knew they weren't playing with a full deck, but to put something like that in the paper-come on. Just my opinion and I had to get it off my chest."
Whether it be Claire's comments about the new Pope - which raised more than a handful of hackles some months ago- or my (rather gentle, I thought) reference to the capacities of neighbors no doubt dead for decades - it is never our intention to offend. To the contrary, my point - lost, I fear, on at least one reader - was that small town tolerance in the 1950s extended even to the mentally ill, and even when they raised and slaughtered chickens in their back yard.
I have learned across those vanished decades, during which I have authored a column more often than not, that disabilities of all sorts are a serious sore spot with many, many readers. The attack dogs are always on the alert, ready to slip their leashes, at the least hint of negativity regarding persons with disabilities. And, as Claire learned from her Pope piece, the same may be said of criticism of religion… almost any religion.
This may be a cultural artifact of American society. The Brits, no doubt, would take great umbrage were we to make fun of the royal newborn or his parents. Were I to say that Prince William for his part always appears to have just caught a sniff of raw sewage, many an Englander would be deeply offended, I presume.
The Brits, by the way, are often offended by what they perceive as impertinence, even if not directed at their own ruling class. I once wrote a column about the late Supreme Court Justice Renquist's alleged dependence upon painkillers. The editor of an English legal journal, who had previously published my work, rejected the article in disgust. Such disrespect! (An American magazine happily snapped it up, by the way.)
So… to sum up… I'm pleased as Punch (the British magazine published from 1841 to 1992) would be that the Little Prince has all his digits and organs. And let me attempt to make it up to the world's thousands of O'Donnells - for the negative comment directed at their namesake last week - by publicly acknowledging that the name derives from Domhnall, which meant "world ruler" in Old Irish. Now how great is that? Hey, William and Kate, how about Domhnall for your baby's name?