Skip to main content

How to raise a royal baby

By Deborah Cohen, Special to CNN
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Tue July 23, 2013
The Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand is lit blue on Wednesday, July 24, to celebrate the birth of a baby boy to Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. Catherine <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/22/world/europe/uk-royal-baby/index.html'>gave birth to the boy at 4:24 p.m.</a> July 22. He weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces. A name has not been announced for the child, who is third in line to the British throne. The Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand is lit blue on Wednesday, July 24, to celebrate the birth of a baby boy to Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. Catherine gave birth to the boy at 4:24 p.m. July 22. He weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces. A name has not been announced for the child, who is third in line to the British throne.
HIDE CAPTION
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Photos: Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
Reaction to royal baby's arrival
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a boy on Monday
  • Deborah Cohen: Everyone's got advice for new parents, but the royal family has been mum
  • She says Kate and Prince William reportedly want a "normal" childhood for their child
  • Cohen: For extraordinary people to make themselves ordinary is a conjuring act

Editor's note: Deborah Cohen is the author of "Family Secrets" and professor of humanities and history at Northwestern University. Follow her on Twitter: @DeborahACohen

(CNN) -- At long last, the royal baby has arrived! The queen can finally depart for her summer holiday at Balmoral. The paparazzi who have been littering the streets in front of St. Mary's Hospital can now train their long lenses on a topless (albeit nursing) mother. To Kate and William, I pass on the most consoling words I received when my daughter was born: The first month of parenthood isn't for the faint-hearted.

Everyone's got advice for new parents. The French -- we are told -- raise happier and better-behaved children, thanks to their self-assured authority and bans on snacking. Tiger moms, so the legend goes, breed successful children because of rigorous discipline and unflinchingly high standards. Gwyneth Paltrow's children prosper because they are deprived of carbohydrates.

But in a clamorous field of conflicting advice-givers, the members of Britain's royal family are notable no-shows. While many have an opinion about how the new royal baby should be brought up -- nanny or no nanny, Charles and Camilla or the Middletons holding grandparently sway -- there is no volley answering back from the Palace. Little wonder, since a Royal Guide to Parenting sounds like a Monty Python skit, with the dotty royal ancestors alternately misplacing their progeny and browbeating them for breaches of arcane infant protocol.

'Wicked' author: Royal baby stands for hope

Deborah Cohen
Deborah Cohen

It's not that royal parents lack a plan. Kate and Prince William reportedly want a "normal" childhood for their offspring. Prince William's mother, Diana, said the same thing. For Diana, that meant unscheduled playtimes, the occasional meal at McDonald's, nursery school with other children.

But if a trip for the royal heirs to Disney World was a novelty, the longing for ordinariness -- or seeming ordinariness -- is in fact a much older aspiration. It was Prince William's great-great-great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria and her German consort, Prince Albert, who recognized the adulation that might be inspired by a royal family (the term was Albert's own coinage) cast in the mold of middle-class virtues.

Unlike her dissipated uncles, Victoria and her family would be paragons of bourgeois domesticity. Albert was present at the birth of his children. The education of Bertie, their second-born son and heir, was approached with the utmost seriousness. Distrustful of the lax and inattentive royal parents of the past, Albert elected to superintend every detail of Bertie's upbringing himself.

Opinion: Why I wouldn't want to be royal baby

Still, all of this parental care came, as Jane Ridley's fascinating new biography of Edward VII reveals, at a high price. Bertie could never live up to his parents' expectations of him. He was rebellious, a slow learner and -- or so his father feared -- marked by the congenital weaknesses in Victoria's line. In the hope of instilling regular habits, Albert spied on his son constantly. Both of his parents issued a constant stream of corrections, Tiger Mothers before the fact. "I had no boyhood," Bertie later lamented.

Town crier announces birth of royal baby
The royal baby: What happens next

From Victoria and Albert onwards, contemporary claims to normality and ordinariness jostle up against retrospective assessments of secrecy and isolation. Was Charles' father, Prince Philip, really doing a "splendidly modern job on the upbringing of his son," as the Daily Mirror reported when Charles was 13: "No effete, out-dated Eton, with its tailcoats, fancy waistcoats, slender watch chains and high-pitched accents"? Or was young Prince Charles, as is now often suggested, the hapless victim of distant parents who subjected him to an education unsuited to his personality?

Opinion: Baby helps make a monarchy better

As Prince Albert presciently recognized, family life does provide common ground, even a point of identification and sympathy, between royals and their subjects. While few live in a castle, the vast majority of us have parents of some sort.

But contrary to Albert's fond hopes, the royal family has proved itself most normal in the late 20th century not by exemplifying middle-class virtues but by enacting the same fallout from the sexual revolution as most other Western families: adultery, divorce, confession and intergenerational conflict. That sort of normality, however, doesn't endear you to taxpayers.

For extraordinary people to make themselves ordinary is a conjuring act, one that requires a certain suspension of disbelief on the part of their audience. It's role-playing on our part as well as theirs.

So, Kate and William: We wish you many perfectly ordinary sleepless nights, changing diapers and worrying over test scores. But we'll only know you're really normal when you tell the rest of us how to raise a baby -- and, on the basis of results achieved, some are willing to listen.

Follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Deborah Cohen.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 9:40 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT