Royal baby faces a brave new future

By Joanna Mathers

William and Kate’s baby will have the best of everything to prepare him or her for being a monarch.

There was a baby and a bee, a new princess and her prince, an enraptured public, and a media juggernaut. It was 1983 and the royals were in town.

Anyone old enough to remember the early 1980s will recall the hoopla surrounding Prince William's first trip to New Zealand. The visit of the second in line to the throne offered the royal-obsessed opportunities to add a plethora of baby pics to their scrapbooks. The nation oohed and aahed over images of baby William playing with a buzzy bee toy on the lawn of Government House. The nation oohed and aahed over images of baby William playing with a buzzy bee toy on the lawn of Government House.

This was a good time for the British royal family. The preternaturally single Charles had finally married in 1981; a crowd of 600,000 lined the streets of London to get a glimpse of his flaxen-haired bride. Prince William was born a respectable year later in 1982, followed by Harry in 1984. Diana was basking in the love of an adoring public. It all seemed too good to be true.

Sadly it was. After years of bitterness, acrimony, affairs and eating disorders the royal fairy tale was ended by Diana's death in a French road tunnel on August 31, 1997. The "Queen of Hearts"was gone and the royal family faced dark days.

It's been 30 years since Charles and Di's celebrated New Zealand visit.

While the subsequent years haven't been the best for royal PR, the marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton has done much to reconcile brand Windsor to the public. The forthcoming royal baby - officially due on July 13 - looks set to further engender general approval.

If the baby lives to be Queen Elizabeth's age, 87, he or she could be the first ruling monarch of the 22nd century. How will change in that time affect the monarchy? What will the world look like when baby Windsor is an adult? And how has the world changed since our reigning queen was born?

Enid Burke is sprightly, intelligent, and 87 years old. A Manukau resident, she's the same age as Queen Elizabeth.

"I really think she has set such a good example," Burke says. "She has had her problems but she has handled them with dignity. And her husband has decorum - I've always admired the Duke."

Enid was a child during the Depression. She remembers Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as "lovely little girls. They always had such pretty dresses, I was very jealous".

The royal family feature in one of her earliest and most enduring memories. "It was 1936 and I can remember sitting in a little boat shed by the TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown. People kept coming into the shed and saying 'have you heard; have you heard ... the king is dead. It was a real tragedy for everyone.

"I always marvel at how the news travelled through word of mouth in those days. There was no television back then of course. And we still found out what was happening!"

Enid's comment is pertinent. The explosion of media and technology since the early 20th century has enabled the pomp and pageantry of royal life to be broadcast to wider audiences. The marriage of William to Kate in 2011 attracted a viewing audience of 36.7 million, with 72 million tuning into the royal channel on YouTube.

According to Sean Palmer of Monarchy New Zealand, the royals have long used technology to their advantage. "Technology has permitted the royal family to be so much closer to the people."

Palmer feels the internet has overcome tyranny of distance, and this will help ensure that the royal family remains part of the Commonwealth's political and cultural life. "The royal family is really on top of the technology and this will continue as the royal baby grows up."

The royal baby may grow up in an increasingly connected world, but will we still be interested in what they have to say? And what role will they play in New Zealand life?

Lewis Holden is the chair of the New Zealand Republican Movement. He says many New Zealanders, and other Commonwealth citizens, support the change from a monarchy to a constitutional republic.

"I believe that within the next 50 years New Zealand will be a republic. When the Queen was crowned she was head of state of over 30 countries. Now she is head of only 16."

only 16." New Zealand has had a stable democracy for more than 170 years, he says, and there needs to be an informed debate around becoming a republic. This would mean that a New Zealander would be elected as head of state.

This being so, Holden is not so sure about the monarchy being disestablished in the United Kingdom. "The monarchy has far more cultural significance in the UK," he says. "It has a lot to do with British identity."

Though the continuation of our constitutional monarchy may be a moot point, it's undeniable the royal baby will grow up in an era of unprecedented change.

Foresight analyst Robert Hickson specialises in the study of future innovations. He says the next 50 years or so will be a time of "extraordinary transition - technologically, socially and environmentally".

It's likely that humans will work more closely with nature to develop new technology that doesn't damage the environment, he forecasts.

"One example of this is the work being done in forestry using pine to create biodegradable plastic. Wood could also be used to create renewable energy sources and even food products."

Food production is set to be one of the biggest issues facing the world in the forthcoming years. By the time the royal baby is 50, the world's population will be approximately 9 billion. The realities of feeding such a huge population is a topic being studied by some of the world's leading thinkers, including Professor Jacqueline Rowarth of Waikato University.

Author of the book Future Food Farming, she is well aware of the issues facing our growing population.

New types of food will be developed." We will see a rise in products made from such things as algae and turned into meat substitutes."

Climate change is also likely to alter the face of the planet. In a Herald article last year, Dr James Renwick, associate professor of physical geography at Victoria University, said world temperature would increase by at least a degree, leading to more droughts, forest fires and a rise in sea levels.

However much crystal ball gazing we partake in, it's impossible to predict the exact shape of the planet in 50 years. When the Queen was born, television didn't exist and people were dependent on radio and newspapers for news. When William was born in 1982, the internet and mobile phones seemed the stuff of science fiction.

Robert Holden sums it up well. "The next 50 years will be less dependable than the 50 years we've just lived through ... and therein lies big opportunities and big risks."

Whether the soon-to-be-born royal baby (and the monarchy as a whole) makes of the most of these opportunities or risks remains to be seen.

Timeline

1926: The year Elizabeth was born

• John Logie Baird demonstrates a mechanical television system, and the first transatlantic phone call is made.

• Francisco Franco becomes General of Spain.

• A British General Strike is called to support coal miners, culminating in the declaration of martial law.

• Roald Amundsen flies over the North Pole.

• The sudden death of Hollywood sex symbol Rudolph Valentino, 31, old causes mass grief and hysteria around the world.

1948: The year Charles was born

• Warner Brothers shows the first colour newsreel, the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl.

• Mahatma Gandhi begins his fast-unto-death in Delhi, to stop the communal violence during the Partition of India. Two weeks later, he is assassinated.

• The first monkey astronaut, Albert I, is launched into space from White Sands, New Mexico.

• President Harry Truman issues the second peace time military draft in the US, starting the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

• Australian Don Bradman, playing his last Test cricket match, is bowled by England's Eric Hollies for a duck.


1982: The year William was born

• The Commodore 648-bit home computer is launched in Las Vegas, becoming the all-time best-selling single personal computer model.

• Michael Jackson releases his second album, Thriller, the biggest selling album of all time.

• Sony launches the first consumer CD player.

• The leader of Poland's outlawed Solidarity movement, Lech Walesa, is released from 11 months of internment near the Soviet border.

• The blockbuster movie E.T. is released by director Steven Spielberg, surpassing Star Wars to become the highest-grossing film of all time - a record it held for 10 years until Jurassic Park.

• Argentina invades the Falkland Islands, starting a two-month war with Britain claiming more than 900 lives.


2013: William and Kate's baby is due

• A meteor explodes over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, injuring 1,491 people and damaging more than 4,300 buildings.

• It is the most powerful meteor to strike Earth's atmosphere in over a century.

• Benedict XVI resigns as Pope, the first to do so voluntarily since Celestine V in 1294.

• Two bombs explode at the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, killing three and injuring 264 others.

• An eight-storey building collapses near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, leaving 1,127 dead, 2500 injured and scores more trapped. It is the world's deadliest building collapse.

- Herald on Sunday

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