Skip to main content

How to raise a royal baby

By Deborah Cohen, Special to CNN
July 23, 2013 -- Updated 1549 GMT (2349 HKT)
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
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT