Skip to main content

Baby helps make a monarchy matter

By Tom Rogan, Special to CNN
July 30, 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
  • Tom Rogan: The British royal family is enduring; can it maintain relevance in 21st century?
  • He says how new royal parents, son reflect modern world to Brits is key to answer
  • When queen's reign ends, Will, Kate will need to show worth, be relatable but distant, he says
  • Rogan: New prince is an incarnation of royal tradition gelled to social modernity

Editor's note: Tom Rogan is a conservative writer for TheWeek.com and The Guardian. Although he's American, he grew up in London, England.

(CNN) -- The Windsors, ruling House of the British royal family, have endured world wars, personal tragedies and highly public scandals. In the 20th century, through moments of pain and joy, they provided the British people with a fixture of redoubtable comfort, an unchanging physical constitution in a world fraught with uncertainty.

But how will the British royals face their greatest challenge -- maintaining relevance in the 21st century?

The new prince born to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and her husband, Prince William, will be a critical part of the answer.

Tom Rogan
Tom Rogan

It may be true that the royal family remains ingrained at the heart of the British establishment. The title ER (Elizabeth Regina) adorns the helmets of British police officers, the laws of Parliament still require royal assent and the monarch remains technical head of the UK armed forces.

But things change.

'Wicked' author: Royal baby stands for hope

Next February, Queen Elizabeth II will have worn the crown for 62 years. She's 86 and her public appearances are becoming less frequent. Elizabeth's reign will one day end. And without the princess who won hearts in war and then became a queen in peace, the royals will have to re-win the public's affection. And they'll have to do so by navigating a changing British society; one more socially liberal and less predisposed to tradition.

Recent history suggests it won't be easy.

Consider the queen's experience following Princess Diana's death in 1997. Facing intense pressure to show personal emotion in the face of a loss that was felt widely, the queen hesitated. Public expectations conflicted with her conception of royal purpose, that of a stoic, unmovable figurehead. Her inclination was to mourn in private, allowing the politicians to provide the public face of suffering. Eventually though, realizing that times had changed, the Queen of England bent to the will of her people.

She recognized the intrinsic truth of her throne, one that the future king, William, and his son (the future king) will also have to grasp: that their royal adornments of power exist subject to the grant of their British subjects.

Opinion: How to raise a royal baby

Royal baby excitement
Will Queen Elizabeth step down?
Cameron: Royal birth is 'wonderful news'

Ultimately, in an era increasingly defined by vigorous social entrepreneurship, institutional relevance is determined less by history, than by a perception of worth. It's in this sense that change, the ability of the royals to evolve and find sustaining worth, will determine whether they rise or fall.

So far, it seems that William gets this. When, on their wedding day, the future king and his wife drove down The Mall in an open-topped Aston Martin, the watching throngs reacted with elation.

Why such glee?

Because the crowds perceived a royal interpretation of cool Britannia; both seemingly natural and delicately informal. A simple act hinting at the prospect of a modern monarchy. Representatives to be proud of.

This success is crucial. Where royals are regarded as living in an overly insulated bubble, major problems arise. Just look at the outrage that has followed the recent outing of Prince Charles' (next in line to the throne) tax planning.

For royalists then, it's fortunate that the just-born prince defines royal change. He offers a royal family that is both necessarily distant and semi-relatable, an incarnation of royal tradition gelled to social modernity. In short, a prince for the present and a king for the future. But just as he'll live without worldly want, the prince won't be afforded a normal life.

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

As his parents and uncle have repeatedly found out, the media has little interest in royal privacy, especially for a royal destined to one day become monarch. Just as the spotlights of the world fixed on his birth, so too will they follow him in life.

That's the price of modern royalty.

And British history has begun its latest chapter.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tom Rogan.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT