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The Royal Fetus: A Guide to Britain’s Most Famous Not-Yet-Person

So, Kate Middleton, now formally known as the Duchess of Cambridge, finally went and got herself knocked up. For the last month, the royals have been sorting out issues involving Kate’s health and well-being and what will be done about her planned engagements for the next year. Finally, it’s getting to be time to talk about the royal fetus, and I’m here to answer the most popular questions about this blessed unborn royal heir!

The parents of the royal fetus, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, share a kiss after their wedding in 2011.What will the fetus’s title be once born?

HRH Prince or Princess Firstname of Cambridge. According to the 1917 Letters Patent that most recently laid out procedures for royal status, HRH (His/Her Royal Highness) status and the title of Prince/Princess is reserved for children of a monarch, children of a monarch’s son, and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (the traditional title for a monarch’s eldest son). However, Buckingham Palace has indicated that since the laws of succession are being changed to allow girls and boys equal rights (in the past, boys came first and a girl could only become the monarch if she didn’t have any brothers) the eldest child of Prince William, regardless of gender, would be entitled to the HRH. They will be known as a Prince/Princess of Cambridge as their father is the Duke of Cambridge, like how the Duke of York’s daughter is Princess Beatrice of York.

When will the royal fetus become King/Queen?

Well, after Queen Elizabeth dies, and Prince Charles dies, William will become king. The royal fetus will be William’s heir apparent and enjoy the title of Prince/Princess of Wales. When William dies, then the royal fetus, which presumably will be a person by then and not just a fetus, will ascend to the throne.

But what if the royal fetus is still just a royal fetus and everyone ahead of it in the line of succession is dead?

This would be an interesting scenario, one that is basically without precedent in British royal history. If Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Prince William all died before Kate gives birth, would the throne pass to Prince Harry (the next heir, after his older brother) or would there be some sort of interregnum period to wait for Kate to give birth so her child would become the next heir? Royal forums have given this topic much discussion and debate, without a definitive answer coming forward. Situations like that have arisen in other countries, but not Britain, though the question has popped up any time a monarch died without a son and a wife who was theoretically still young enough to be pregnant, but without a definitive answer in the forms of Letter Patent addressing the hypothetical situation. In 1831, a Regency Act was written up addressing the possibility that King William IV would die while his wife, Queen Adelaide, was pregnant. That Regency Act devised a procedure where Princess Victoria, William’s niece and the then heir presumptive (which means an heir that could be displaced by the birth of another closer to the throne, different from an heir apparent like Prince Charles who could not be displaced by the birth of anyone else), would become queen but only until Adelaide gave birth, at which point she would lose the throne and it would be treated, as far as the succession was concerned, that she had died and been seceded by the royal baby. It’s a rather unusual solution, and one that was devised up for that specific scenario, it only applied to those people named in the act. When staffers to King George VI were asked about a hypothetical situation like this in the 1930s, they said that it would be impossible to give the throne to an unborn child because they are not acknowledged as legal entities, but that it would be possible to put something in the proclamation naming the new monarch (in this case Prince Harry) displacing them from the succession upon the birth of a posthumous child. But lawyers for the crown clarified that because “the King never dies” and one monarch is always automatically succeeded by another, an unborn heir would not be a factor in the succession at all.  One fundamental difference from the 1831 issue is that the other heir (Prince Harry) is an adult, who would not require a regent, whereas Princess Victoria was at the time only twelve, and would have required a regent. Her uncle and her mother were in the midst of one of the many epic feuds of royal history, and thus that situation had a lot of baggage a hypothetical throne-fight between Harry and the royal fetus wouldn’t. In all likelihood, Harry would become king, and the royal heir would grow up for the rest of their life dreaming of what could have been.

Other than that crazy scenario, does this mean Harry will never be king?

Some Harry fans seem strangely disappointed about Kate’s pregnancy because they fantasized about Good King Harry. Harry could only become king if he outlives his grandmother and father (he probably will), his brother (could happen), and all of William’s heirs (including the royal fetus, but only if they’ve been born by then, any hypothetical siblings of the royal fetus, and any heirs of the royal fetus and the aforementioned hypothetical siblings). Or, alternatively, if any of those people abdicate. Like if, say, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Prince William die and then the royal fetus (who is an only child) decides that, fuck this royal shit, they’d rather move to Hollywood and marry Mason Disick. Or more realistically (and tragically), if Kate had a miscarriage or stillbirth and found herself unable to have children afterwards. Then Good King Harry will probably happen. But Harry doesn’t want to be king, so his fans should just be happy for the family.

Will Kate have a nanny?

Inside sources suggest she’s not planning on it, but a lot of royal historians insist that she will discover she basically has to have one if she intends on doing royal engagements after the baby is born. A possibly alternative solution that has been proposed is that Kate’s mother and/or sister might move in with them and help take care of the baby until it’s old enough to go to school. There’s a lot of speculation that Queen Elizabeth will force Kate to have a nanny, but knowing a bit about the family dynamic, I don’t think that’s likely and the decision will probably be made only by the parents involved. If Kate chooses to have a nanny, remember that that doesn’t make her a bad mother or say anything about her love and commitment for her child. Princess Diana had nannies because, though she would have preferred not to, she found that she and Charles were both extremely busy and others were needed to make sure the kids were looked after well. But Diana’s family was not as close-knit as the Middletons, so Kate may do what many other mothers have done and let her family help with the childcare. Charles and Camilla might also help out to some extent when they don’t have their own engagement.

What names are allowed?

William and Kate will be allowed to pick the names themselves. While there is historical precedent for the monarch and others in the family having a strong say in the naming of a royal heir, Queen Elizabeth has so far been very hands-off in William’s personal life. William probably knows better than to pick a name that’s extremely unusual or likely to be offensive to the royal family, but the decision is up to the parents. An interesting example from another royal family is the naming of Princess Estelle, the daughter of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Estelle is not a conventional royal name, or a traditionally Swedish name, but it’s the name the parents chose for their daughter, who will one day be queen. A lot of speculation has already been done on the royal baby’s name (especially the possibility of a female child being named after Diana) but we really don’t know what names are being considered. Royals do normally honor members of their family, so expect to see at least one name from the royal family, and probably one from the Middleton family, in the baby’s name. My bet for a royal girl’s name is Mary (Will and Kate are Downton Abbey fans), Philippa (for Kate’s sister), Diana (for William’s mother), or Elizabeth (for Queen Elizabeth).

How many names will the royal baby be given?

I would say at least two. Queen Elizabeth has three names, William and Harry both have four. King Edward VIII had seven, but I don’t see William and Kate doing that to an innocent child. My money is on four. Royals, in recent years, have only been known by their first name, but in the nineteenth and early twentieth century some royals used double names (like Prince Albert Victor, King Edward VII’s eldest son) or were known by a different middle name than what they used publicly (Prince Albert Victor went by Eddy).

What happens if there are two (or more) royal fetuses?

The first baby out is the heir! If it’s a c-section, then things get really awkward, but by all accounts the rule would still stand so whoever gets pulled out first is heir. Efforts would have to be made to keep track of which baby is which from the first moment.

Could the royal fetus marry the Kimye fetus and become the greatest power couple ever?

By the time the royal fetus is old enough to get married, all of the people who would have a problem with that will be dead, and there’s nothing that would bar a royal heir from marrying an American commoner, or rather American media royalty. So, feel free to ship away! Ironically, the proposed “royal” ship of Princess Estelle/Royal Fetus would be more problematic because both Princess Estelle of Sweden and the royal fetus would be heirs which would make things very difficult once they both ascended to their respective thrones.

8 replies on “The Royal Fetus: A Guide to Britain’s Most Famous Not-Yet-Person”

Tiny nitpick – why is it “Will Kate have a nanny?”. Surely arranging for childcare is both parents’ responsibility?

I’ve seen the c-section question come up a lot, and I have to say I’m confused by it. It’s not like the surgeon makes the incision any old where, rummages around, and grabs whichever baby s/he finds first.

You’re absolutely right, William also has a role in that decision. I guess I didn’t mention him simply because every source I’ve found only addresses Kate and her role in the decision. It’s biased, and a form of sexism.

Well, the doctor will, indirectly, be choosing the royal heir, but the family will try and stay out of it best they can. It would be a first, though, and I think the odds of having twins and a c-section are about the same as the odds of the weird scenario where everyone dies before Kate gives birth. There was a noble family that actually decided who the heir would be based on birth weight, but there is no precedent for that in regards to royalty and I don’t think that kind of decision making would be allowed.

“It’s biased, and a form of sexism”. Easily combatted by editing the post :)

What I meant by the c-section comment is that a lot of (perhaps most?) c-sections for twins are done because of their position (i.e.: not both head-down, or the presenting twin – the one closest to the cervix – isn’t head-down). The best place for an incision is the lower uterine segment; one twin is nearly always going to be nearer to the incision site than the other, and therefore the one that will be delivered first; that’s not something the surgeon determines (the position of the incision of course is). Of course there are other reason to do a section (e.g.: pre-eclampsia, monoamniotic twins) but the position thing would still apply, I think.

I’m so glad they finally changed the rules so that a firstborn daughter can inherit even if she has a younger brother. The media speculation about twins mostly annoys me because they’d have been able to tell that from the first ultrasound and would presumably have announced it as such, but it’s still cool to know how it would have worked in that scenario.

Actually, she may not announce twins this early on because at this point she could still easily miscarry and their could be problems with one/both of the fetuses. Many recent celebrity pregnancies that involved twins have not announced that it was twins at the same time the pregnancy was announced. Also, they may want to get confirmation in regards to some sort of letters patent confirming how the succession will be handled. I mean, we know what the current policy is, but at different times the royal family has seen the need to alter/clarify royal protocol for situations that are highly unusual. Despite media speculation, I find twins pretty unlikely. The media has brought up repeatedly that there are twins in both families, but in Kate’s case it was a grandfather and great-uncle and in William’s case they were cousins that are widely believed to have been artificially conceived and then someone far more distant. I mean, twins are possible, but I don’t think Will and Kate are necessarily more predisposed to twins than any other couple.

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