Monday, 22 July 2013
As royal baby hysteria reaches fever pitch, Lucy Mangan ponders the big question on everyone's lips: how does one give birth like a princess?
1. Marry a prince. The importance of this really cannot be emphasised enough. Very first step. Marry a prince. Unless you’re the daughter of a queen, of course. But if you’re not, remember, if you do nothing else, marry a prince.
2. Until Diana chose to have William in a hospital, royal princesses had always given birth at Buck House, or whichever other palatial pile they called home. So, if you are a rabid traditionalist, you need to plan, early and well. Exactly how you are going to effect your break-in to the Windsors’ official London residence (the country’s best-guarded and most popular tourist attraction) when you are approximately twice the width of the average early Victorian window and have about as much chance of shinnying up a drainpipe in glass slippers as you have of fitting into your skinny jeans any time soon. If you do get inside, make sure you’ve Googled how to remove stray bodily fluids from a variety of fine 18th-century furnishings. And if one of the Queen’s corgis ends up getting tangled in the wires of your Tens machine and doing itself an injury, I just hope you can live with the guilt.
3. If, however, you prefer a more modern approach, you have three clear choices: 1) the private Lindo wing of St Mary’s (where Wills and George were born); 2) the King Edward VII hospital (where Kate was treated for severe morning sickness at the beginning of her pregnancy with George); or 3) the hospital where Kate and Pippa were themselves born, the Royal Berkshire. So it really depends on whether you want to have your baby in a place inextricably linked to the Spencer clan, a notoriously unfaithful libertine or go to – shudder – Reading. It’s up to you.
4. Whichever setting you choose, be sure to arrange suitable transportation to it. An onion-shaped coach and galloping horses is a must if you’re the fairytale kind of princess. Though obviously have a care if you’re intending to go into labour anywhere around midnight. Nothing more embarrassing than inadvertently losing half a dozen mice in a hospital corridor when the clock strikes 12. Though, I suppose a pumpkin might do double duty as a birthing ball. But if you’re aping the Royals rather than the fairy folk, I suggest a gold phaeton. In an emergency, of course, you’ll have to use an ambulance. Just make sure someone whizzes round with a cashmere J-cloth and a spritz of eau d’inherited privilege for that new palace smell before you’re stretchered in. And that instead of blaring ‘Nee-naw, nee-naw’. It simply says firmly, ‘Out of one’s way, please. Chop-chop!’.
5. Wave graciously to nursing staff as you’re wheeled to the labour ward.
6. Positively resist the urge to ask any newborns you pass, ‘Have you come far?’.
7. Do not let standards slip. Very unprincessy. Remember, it’s not ‘Gemmethedrugs’, it’s ‘Get me the drugs’. You’re dropping heirs here, not Ts.
8. No grunting, for goodness sake. Terribly vulgar.
9. Bear in mind the old adage: ‘Horses sweat, men perspire, ladies glow.’ Which means that as a princess in labour you are aiming for a lambent glimmer: a slight hint of a rose-hued, otherworldly radiance at most. In other words, make sure you have an epidural. Ideally at about 20 weeks. Good luck.
10. Remember too that princesses do not swear. Nary an expletive should cross your lips (even at the point when you are pushing baby from your personal seat of power). I recommend genning up on some more appropriate alternatives for truly desperate, third-stage moments, such as: ‘Crumbs!’, ‘By jingo!’, ‘I say!’, ‘Gosh, that smarts!’ or ‘Odds bodkins, my liege, this is an unpretty thing!’
11. At the moment of highest drama you may wish to vent a profound antipathy towards the notion of your husband coming near you with his orb and sceptre ever again. Don’t fret, such outbursts always warrant a royal pardon.
12. An overnight hospital bag is a right of passage for any mother-to-be. But remember, as a princess you are an ambassador now too, so be a good girl, and buy British. If you forget anything (a velvet robe to drape across your nether regions, or a medley of silken ropes to keep well wishers at arm’s length?), then place a call to your first lady-in-waiting (sister, mum, BFF) and demand that they deliver it post-haste.
13. Long gone are the days when a princess could send all those she felt had betrayed her to the tower and, shortly thereafter and without the trouble of a court case, to the chopping block. Alas, all you will be able to do with any member of the medical team slow in coming forward with the drugs, sympathy or Ladurée macarons, is mentally cast them into the outer darkness and consign them to the fiery pits of hell.
14. If you have a C-section you may like to put in a request for the incision to be a monogram of your initials, or perhaps a nice fleur-de-lis pattern. Bring a picture of the family crest with you, just in case your surgeon has a particularly steady hand or a City & Guilds in needlepoint…
15. …and if you don’t. Well, best of British (which of course you are) with that non-swearing thing. And don’t try too hard to keep a stiff upper lip. Remember, you’re trying to dilate. No need to make things harder for yourself.
16. Whatever your birth plan, it might be worth asking beforehand if there’s any secret alternatives on offer, known only to the select few. This might not be as daft as it sounds, you know – the rich and powerful usually find a way round tricky situations. After all, they built a special spur off the Circle line to Buckingham Palace so the Royal Family could be shifted to safety during the Cold War. And there’s a network of tunnels under Westminster designed to allow the government to function in the event of national catastrophe. ‘Don’t ask’ doesn’t get – and you never know your luck.
17. When it’s all over, get your hair done, and Mario or Patrick in immediately to take some super snaps for Vogue. Certainly before the post-partum oxytocin high wears off and your styling team has to start dragging you off the floor, mopping pools of tears and forming a chain gang in order to keep you sufficiently supplied with bars of Green & Black’s Butterscotch chocolate, and a selection of Highgrove’s hand-baked organic shortbreads.
18 Make sure your house is full of servants too. Trust me, you won’t be able to live without servants.
19. Furnish your home in suitably royal style. Because trust me, if there’s ever a time for returning to a home full of velvet cushions to sit on, this is it.
20. If you are hellbent on living the dream, then put the baby’s name down for Eton if it’s a boy, Miss Doily’s Academy of Smiling and Breeding, if it’s a girl. Do this on day two.
21. Do nothing for the rest of your life (unless it’s for charity, of course). Unlike some of the royal entourage I could name and shame, you’ve earned it.
Illustration by Jenna Lee Alldread