On Monday, July 22, 2013, the heir to the throne of England was born. George Alexander Louis, to be known as His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge, has been a flashpoint of media attention since the news reports first surfaced that Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton were pregnant. Monarchs have been born in England for millennia, but this one was different. This child was born in the age of social media, and everything about the pregnancy and birth was impacted by this.
The hashtag #RoyalBaby trended on Twitter any time there was news concerning the baby or the pregnancy. Princess Kate went for an ultrasound? The news reported it, and immediately, people across the world took to social media to debate the sex of the child. The child wasn’t delivered on the expected due date? People flocked to Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere, and anywhere else that they could discuss the topic, and whether it was planned, or if the date of conception was wrong, or even launch conspiracy theories about the baby and the pregnancy.
This situation isn’t unique to the royal baby; Kim Kardashian and Kanye West created a social media firestorm with their child, North West. But what’s truly amazing in this day and age is the lengths that the royal family went to so as to not participate in the social media frenzy, and the respect most news outlets had for this. In Great Britain, it is against the law to use the images of the royal family without their permission, and special treatment is given to them in the news. As such, social media lead the charge in the news cycle, followed by mainstream media, instead of the other way around.
While Prince Charles and Princess Diana chose to try and raise their children, Prince William and Prince Henry, out of the media spotlight, this task will be nearly impossible with young Prince George. Though anti-paparazzi laws are gaining in popularity throughout Europe, there will still be those, especially random citizens with camera phones, who will try and catch or document the young prince’s entire life.
The royal baby was more than a media draw; it signifies a new chapter in the history of Great Britain. This child will, most likely, one day be King. While the powers of the monarchy have been greatly scaled down, they are still the head of state not just in Great Britain, but Australia, Canada, and many more protectorates. This king will grow up in a world where he is hounded like a celebrity, and his entire life will be well documented, only putting more weight on the head that will wear the crown. Time will tell what impact this will have on him, but it won’t be a private life.