x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Newsmaker: Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge is a future king with a familiar tale

The latest addition to Britain's royal family may not be able to see all the colours of the rainbow yet, but his future in the great order of the world appears bright if somewhat predictable. James Langton looks into the crystal ball.

Patrick Morgan for The National
Patrick Morgan for The National

Sweet baby George. A newborn is a thing of innocence and infinite potential. Fresh to the world, a blank canvas on which life still has to be drawn. Nothing is certain, everything is possible.

But there are a few exceptions to this rule.

As he lies in his royal crib this morning, Prince George sleeps blissfully innocent of his place in the great order of the world. It is a condition that will not last long. Soon he will discover that his entire life is mapped out. This is a child who had his own Wikipedia page even before he was born.

One day, all will culminate at Westminster Abbey, seated on the Coronation Chair, which holds the ancient Stone of Scone, by legend the Biblical pillow used by Jacob, grandson of Abraham, as he dreamt of a ladder between Heaven and Earth.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will then place the coronation crown on his head, as the congregation cry out: "God Save The King."

All this is as certain as the motion of the moon and the stars. Only the date is unclear. Before King George VII, there must be King Charles III and King William V.

The third in line may wait awhile for his day in court; the current Queen Elizabeth is hale and hearty at 87, her mother lived to 101. Prince Philip, the new royal's great grandfather, is a vigorous 92. They make old bones, do the Windsors.

So the infant prince may be well in middle age by the time he becomes king, with children and perhaps grandchildren of his own, all future kings (or queens, since the principal of primogeniture was abolished for his birth) of Great Britain and 15 other Commonwealth nations. To look into the eyes of baby George is to glimpse a lineage that began more than a thousand years ago and now reaches into the 22nd century.

Many things must happen before that day, but most of them are already known. The christening will take place in Buckingham Palace, probably in February, with the baptism performed in the Music Room. Baby George's outfit is already chosen. He will wear a replica in silk and lace of the robe worn for the christening, in 1841, of Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of the imperial queen of the same name, the infant prince's great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother.

The weight of tradition steers the British crown, yet baby George's life decisions will be made under the lens of the world's media. Even the slightest deviation from the perceived norm will make headlines.

Starting with school. The new family has a small two-bedroom cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace, the former home of the new prince's late grandmother, Diana (how odd that sounds). By the new year, they are expected to move to the much larger 20-room apartment in the Palace formerly occupied by the Queen's sister, the late Princess Margaret.

Either way, sometime in 2016, at the age of three, Prince George can be expected to be packed off to one of those smart London nursery schools. His father was sent to Jane Minor's posh nursery in Notting Hill's Pembroke Square. The duchess could walk it in less than 15 minutes, although an official car seems more likely.

Then comes pre-preparatory school, with those adorable uniforms. Perhaps the prince could brave the state sector. St Mary Abbots is a local Church of England school with an "outstanding" Ofsted, but almost certainly it will be private. His father attended nearby Wetherby, as did Hugh Grant and the writer of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes. The blazers are grey with a scarlet trim and charming little matching ties.

"Prep", or preparatory school, is next. Daddy went to Ludgrove, a boarding school in Berkshire with a strong sporting tradition but also a good track record in gaining admissions to the better public schools. His mother went to St Andrews, nearby in Pangbourne. The two schools sometimes compete at sports.

For those crucial examination years, the best bet is Eton. Grandpa Charles endured the rigours of Gordonstoun in the Scottish Highlands and hated it (he reportedly called it "Colditz with kilts"). For William, he picked Eton College on the banks of the Thames, with a reputation for moulding leaders and building character. It also gets outstanding academic results. Places are tight but it helps that he will one day be king.

Expect one of the top universities for Prince George. Once it would have been Oxford or Cambridge but daddy chose St Andrews. It was where he met mummy. Still, he will need good grades, or at least credible grades, to win a place in these more egalitarian times. There might be a gap year, although one filled with good work in one of the poorer Commonwealth nations rather than a 365-day party on the wilder beaches of Thailand.

It is now 2034. Grandpa Charles will likely be king, although now in his 80s, in which case daddy will be Prince of Wales, the title held by the heir apparent. Now in his early 50s, Prince William may find himself on the same seat in the royal waiting room that his father occupies now.

But for young George, the world is opening up. University is followed by the military training college at Sandhurst. The prince looks good in uniform, the only question is which one. Grandpa Charles served in the Royal Air Force and the Navy, daddy was a helicopter pilot in the RAF. Perhaps it is the army's turn. A Guards' regiment?

Whatever he chooses, there is no question of combat, no matter what small wars Great Britain is involved in as the middle of the 21st century approaches. Perhaps there might be a younger brother to cast in harm's way if there is the need.

But there will be royal duties, having accompanied his parents on overseas trips as a boy, but now, as a man, travelling overseas as the king's representative. The prince will also have his good causes, probably something with a strong environmental bent, the result of happy hours spent with Grandpa on his organic farm.

Now in his mid-20s, George will be the new Prince Charming, enjoying - if that is the right word - the same obsessive media attention once directed at his father (whose long-retreated hairline is now the subject of quiet mirth). There will be girlfriends - nothing serious at first - but then, as the prince approaches his third decade, the expectation of a royal bride.

Long gone are the days when a prince had to marry a princess. Grandma Diana was the daughter of an earl, Grandpa Michael and Grandma Carole set up the successful party business now run by Auntie Pippa, who never did find the right man.

A marriage to a commoner - that curious English term for those who are neither in the nobility nor the priesthood - is therefore most likely. She will be pretty and presentable with no skeletons in the cupboard. But do not expect a royal bride who is anything but white. And probably not a Muslim.

Now it is the early 2040s and the bells of Westminster Abbey ring out as the carriages and gloriously uniformed cavalry set off down the Mall. The country can barely afford it, but a royal wedding is not an occasion for penny pinching, and the tourists love it.

Fast forward two years later, give or take. Outside the Lindo Wing of London's St Mary's Hospital, the crowds and media gather as the due hour approaches. The announcement comes the old way, on official notepaper posted on a gold easel outside Buckingham Palace, but disseminated in a billion ways in a billionth of a second. People chuckle when they recall the clunky old days of Twitter and Facebook.

Inside, hidden from the world for perhaps the first and last time, is the new royal baby. Boy or girl, it does not matter. God save the king (or queen). In the House of Windsor, it is all just part of the longest-running game of thrones.



October 924 Athelstan, son of Edward, becomes the first recognised king of England

March 1702 Anne becomes the first monarch of the Kingdom of Great Britain

May 1876 Victoria becomes first Empress of India

1917 Because it sounds too German, the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha changes its name to Windsor

November 1948 Charles, Prince of Wales, is born

February 1952 Elizabeth becomes queen

June 1982 Prince William is born

April 2011 Marriage of William to Kate Middleton

July 22, 2013 Birth of George Alexander Louis, third in line to the throne of Great Britain



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