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- July 05, 1982
- Vol. 18
- No. 1
A Royal Treat for England
A Thoroughly Modern Birth Adds a Chapter to the Storybook Life of Diana and Charles
The 7-pound 1½-ounce Prince is expected someday to rule the United Kingdom. He has already commandeered the attention of his future subjects from such concerns as the Falklands and Wimbledon. Even the newborn's father, normally the most serious of men, was transported by the event. According to his father-in-law, Earl Spencer, Prince Charles was "absolutely over the moon."
Dawn had barely broken on June 21, 10 days before the child's presumed due date, when Charles and Diana, accompanied by a personal bodyguard, left their Kensington Palace residence for the one-and-one-half-mile drive to St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington. As the Princess of Wales had planned, her child was the first royal heir apparent born in a hospital instead of a palace. Diana, who will be 21 this week, checked into a spare, white-and-rose, 14-by-14-foot room, with a $230 daily rate. It was the first day of summer, the longest day of the year—and, for the Princess of Wales, a very long day indeed. Like many first mothers, she experienced a long labor; more than 15 hours elapsed between her arrival at the hospital and the birth.
When the moment came, the royal gynecologist, white-thatched George Pinker, 57, reportedly presided with the no-nonsense briskness that is his professional trademark. Prince Charles was at his young wife's side throughout the delivery—the only British royal male in modern times to attend the birth of an offspring. (By contrast, Prince Philip played squash during Charles' birth in 1948.) Pinker apparently delivered the child in Diana's hospital room. For this most highly professional man, it was business as usual; for the father, on the other hand, it seemed to be a bit breathtaking. As he greeted the crowd outside the hospital after the birth, Charles admitted: "It's rather a grownup thing, I find, rather a shock to my system."
The rest of the royals took the birth with more blue-blooded reserve. Third-time grandmother Queen Elizabeth, 56, broke out champagne for her household staff but waited until morning to pay a bedside call. Grandfather Philip heard the news by phone while at a Cambridge University dinner; he toasted his new descendant with a postprandial brandy. Great-aunt Margaret was resoundingly applauded at the theater she was attending when the announcement was made. But it was the down-to-earth Earl Spencer who made the most universally recognizable gesture. After telling reporters, "The baby is lucky to have Diana as a mother," he excused himself, explaining, "I'm off to have a beer."
Diana surprised almost everyone when she took to her feet and marched home with her baby less than 24 hours after the birth—but then, the onetime kindergarten teacher has made it clear that her son's upbringing will be entirely nontraditional. Her reported decision to breast-feed means that the baby will stay close to his mother day and night and pipe up for sustenance every two to four hours, regardless of whether his parents are asleep or awake. For less vital duties, there'll be aides aplenty. The baby Prince will immediately command a staff of three in his nursery suite (day nursery, night nursery, nanny's quarters) in 17th-century Kensington Palace. Non-starchy nanny Barbara Barnes, 39, will take over his daily care after the first month (until then a hospital nurse will be on the premises), and a nursery cook will begin mixing cereals when his mother stops breast-feeding. A nursery maid will rinse his cloth diapers, tidy his toys, and keep ready his silk rompers and perhaps denim overalls.
Charles and Diana had boned up with baby books beforehand (almost certainly Spock, Gordon Bourne's Pregnancy and the works of British child psychiatrist D.W.Winnicott). They reportedly had been coached in delivery room techniques of breathing and relaxation by Mrs. Betty Parsons, a 66-year-old nurse who believes in "fearless childbirth with understanding."
The new Prince's first official duty will be his christening, probably in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, later this summer. Almost certainly the Archbishop of Canterbury will use water from the River Jordan, eliciting a tear or two, over the family's gilded lily font, designed by Prince Albert for his and Queen Victoria's children. The baby Prince is expected to wear a robe of Honiton lace, made originally for Edward Vll's christening in 1842.
Besides his family's freshly renovated town apartment on three floors of Kensington Palace, the new Prince will have a country home, Highgrove House near Tetbury. His nurseries at both places, done up by the Princess' favorite decorator, Dudley Poplak, are said to be furnished with cast-off, but hardly shabby, furniture from previous royal nurseries. At Kensington, Diana reportedly has lined up some of her own childhood toys in glass-fronted cupboards, and at Highgrove, the baby has his own washing machine. Diana may have chosen the cast-iron four-poster crib that the Windsors have used for the past 100 years. She might dust off the Queen's own 1926 Roay pram, refurbished and used by Charles and his siblings. Still, Diana is likely to employ modern-mum conveyances such as foldable umbrella strollers.
If the Princess of Wales, a passionate shopper, has picked up little silky and stretchy baby duds during her pregnancy, the merchants of London are keeping wisely silent. One shop-keeping couple suffered profound mortification after offering the royal pair the gift of a nursery full of furniture, then leaking the Princess' choices to the press in great detail. (Diana chose a frilly canopied crib, with matching linens in a rosebud print, plus assorted accessories—about $2,100 worth.) The talkative merchants found the furniture back on their doorstep with a tart note from a royal staff member about the "breach of understanding" concerning this "private matter." Though Prince Charles dressed in silk dresses for some time, his son may not be so formal around the palace. Clothes won't be a problem. Not long after his birth (whose date he shares with actress Jane Russell and the late philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre), the little Prince had received close to 2,000 gifts—mainly knitted things from sentimental souls around the world.
If the new Prince's routine follows his father's as a baby, he will have settled into a schedule by the age of 5 months. Up at 6, little Prince Charles ate cereal and milk for breakfast and had three more meals, several long naps, two baths and two airings in the royal pram before retiring at 10 p.m. He got his first savings account at 2 months, his first haircut at 9 months, and had taken a few steps by his first birthday.
As a toddler, Charles dragged around a favorite elephant-on-wheels, loved candy and television, and in time ate all his meals at a tiny table and chair, never a high chair. The royal fashion then was to call one's parents "Mama" and "Papa." He was protected, but never pampered. Royal children are brought up plainly, even frugally, to keep them exemplary and unspoiled. Charles had a large wardrobe for a little boy, but some of the exact same items showed up on his little sister, Anne, two years later.
The new Prince's upbringing will be no less strict. Nanny Barnes won't wear a uniform and likes to be called by her first name. But she is, one friend has said, "a real no-nonsense nanny, strict as they come and very hot on good manners." Charles and Diana found Barnes through the nanny network. The Honorable Colin Tennants (he once owned the Caribbean island of Mustique; she is a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret) were giving her up after 14 years because their children were off to boarding school. Proudly untrained by any nanny school, Barnes rejoices that Diana wants to be closely involved with the rearing of her children. (She and the Prince are said to want three.) "I think it would be a great help," Barnes has said. "They are not my children, after all." A firm believer in fresh air, Barnes will probably entertain the baby from the start with strolls in Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park, trailed by bodyguards everywhere they go. If Barnes follows the example set by Charles' nannies, Helen Light-body and Mabel Anderson, the public will be allowed to look at the baby, but not pinch his cheeks.
Though the Prince probably won't be able to toddle off to nursery school for security reasons, he'll share the Kensington Palace courtyard with the children of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Cousins Zara Phillips, 1, and Peter Phillips, 4, will no doubt pop over occasionally.
Diana's intention to be more present than most royal mothers is supported by the Queen, who has reportedly said that "it is important that she stays close to her baby while she can." Elizabeth contracted measles when Charles was 2 months old and was isolated from him for three weeks. When he was 3, she ascended the throne, but she tried to see him for at least an hour a day, including his evening bath.
Diana, whose role in British government is less arduous, will no doubt have more time. But she'll be a working mum if she keeps up the pace she did before the baby's birth. While Queen Elizabeth ducked public engagements for the last five months of her pregnancy with Charles, Diana emerged in late January after a two-month bout with morning sickness. She resumed public appearances, making an informal one at the Royal Ascot race meeting six days before the birth. Her bright and enviable maternity wardrobe, done by moderately priced designers Bellville Sassoon Ltd. and Jasper Conran, included four winter coats, an evening cape and three high-waisted gowns with distracting decolletage. In early May she wowed crowds by coming to a polo match in red pants and one of Charles' oversized sweaters with a koala bear on the front and a map of Australia on the back. Through it all, she was elected to the international best-dressed list, with a demurrer for her hats.
Dianamania in Britain, as elsewhere, has been heightened by the birth. A British doll firm already has 4,000 orders for a commemorative number of Diana holding the baby in a christening gown. A video tape of Diana's life is selling for more than $50, and there are no fewer than nine biographies of her in the works or in the bookstores. In May a South African witch doctor, passing through London to promote tourism, scattered bones, shells and twigs on the floor at Heathrow Airport and predicted the baby would be a girl. (The young Prince was born on the last day of Gemini, and astrologers surely will be charting his stars.) An American entrepreneur brought out a Chuck and Di Have a Baby Paper Doll Book, and made-for-TV biographies of the Princess' life are in the works on both sides of the Atlantic. (One airs later this year on CBS.)
Diana reportedly has been lobbying to break tradition and pack the baby along on her travels. So far the palace is stiffly pointing out that this has never been done, that an official schedule is too rigorous, and that flying is too dangerous for a royal heir. Some observers feel that compromise is possible, and that the Prince might go on trips made aboard the royal yacht Britannia.
Like all new mothers, the Princess now faces the problem of reclaiming her waistline, perhaps the same way she trimmed down for her wedding—with three ballet classes a week and daily massages. And she must sort through the baby gifts to decide which booties, bunnies and bears she'll keep and which she'll give to charity. Still, postpartum life won't be all drudgery. Being the Princess of Wales, she'll escape at least one chore that makes exhausted new moms groan: Her ladies-in-waiting have already begun writing the 2,000 thank-you notes.
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