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Sad royal secret in Eugenie baby joy
Sad royal secret in Eugenie baby joy avatar

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After a week of royal controversy, Princess Eugenie’s baby news couldn’t have come at a better time. But the happy news hide a sad secret.

Sound the official 21-gun salute in Hyde Park! Release the celebratory doves! Buy out Asprey of solid silver baby rattles! The Queen has just gotten her 17th great-grandchild!

On Tuesday, it was announced that Princess Eugenie, the Queen’s granddaughter and Prince Andrew’s daughter, had welcomed her first child – a son – with husband Jack Brooksbank.

Here at last was some good news after what has been a couple of choppy weeks for Buckingham Palace.

Firstly, they went toe-to-toe with Prince Harry over whether he might be able to hang onto his honorary military titles and then with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, over who was to blame for the Duchess’ given names being edited out of their son’s birth certificate.

This week only brought with it new woes, namely a damaging report from The Guardian which revealed that the Queen had lobbied the government to amend a proposed law so she could keep her “embarrassing” wealth hidden from the public.

Finally, with Eugenie’s baby here was a lovely dash of feel-good PR. No one, no matter how staunchly republican, can quibble over the unmitigated joy of a tiny bundle of squidgy newborn.

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However, something very curious has happened in the hours since the news of Baby Brooksbank’s entrance into the world was revealed.

See, the bub (whose name we still don’t know) was born at Portland Hospital where both Eugenie and her sister Princess Beatrice were delivered and which more recently helped Meghan and Harry welcome their son into the world in 2018.

Traditionally, arrivals of new wee members of the royal family normally make their public debut via some sort of formal portrait or press call where Fleet Street snappers can happily feast their lenses on the newest member of the Windsor troop.

But Eugenie decided to do things differently and marked her son’s arrival with an Instagram post, crucially before an official shot of the new family was sent out by the palace.

Precedent? Pish.

RELATED: Queen’s Prince Harry crisis intensifies

What is so remarkable here is that so far not a single commentator, royal pundit or social media user has, as far as I have seen, had a conniption over Eugenie’s cheerful flouting of royal custom.

Instead, the Princess’ decision to share an arty black and white shot of herself and her husband holding their new baby’s hand has been met with barely a raised eyebrow.

Imagine, just for a moment if, Meghan had the temerity to decide she had wanted to share the glorious news of one of her baby’s arrival via social media. The reaction would have been breathtakingly aghast, the move presented as further proof of her (supposed) independently wilful disregard for tradition.

The clicking tongues and chuntering would have been immediate and you would have been able to hear the pounding of aggrieved British commentators’ keyboards from here.

RELATED: Meghan expose threatens palace

To be fair, there is a bit of an apples and oranges dynamic here too – Harry is the sixth in line to the throne and was (at the time of his son’s arrival) a full-time working member of the royal family.

Eugenie, by contrast, is the second child of the monarch’s second son, and 10th in line to the throne and while she might very occasionally take part in official events she is not a card-carrying representative of the Queen.

Which is to say, she enjoys a certain latitude that Harry and his brother William (and both their wives) will ever be afforded.

There are two key takeaways here firstly and most obviously, that Eugenie is getting the sort of free pass that Harry and Meghan could only dream about and does not come down to hypocrisy but the unassailable fact that to be part of the royal family is to accept that there is no such thing as a level playing field.

No cousins, in fact no siblings, are dealt the same hand.

William and Harry were brought up side-by-side, loved, raised and taught identically by their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, and yet the elder Prince was always going to be treated substantially differently to the younger.

It is unfairness and favouritism predicated on only one deciding factor: How far away from the throne one might be.

Veteran royal biographer Robert Lacey, writing in last year’s excellent Battle of Brothers, traces a clear line from that youthful unfairness to the Sussexes’ sensational decision to quit the royal family last year.

In Battle, Lacey argues that while it was “William who had opened the first bottles behind the well-stocked bar in the cellar of Highgrove” and who led the “revels that would coax his younger brother … into errant and self-destructive ways” it was Harry who would be left to suffer the reputational damage and who was cast as the errant, party boy Prince.

“In this culturally distorted scenario it was evidently the predetermined function – the very destiny – of the son and younger brother to carry the can for his ‘exemplary’ elder sibling,” Lacey writes.

Similarly, while Harry and Eugenie might both be grandchildren of the sovereign, HRHs and former renowned ragers on the West London party scene, as adults and parents they face, and will perpetually face, vastly disparate rules, expectations and demands simply by dint of their birth.

Consistency just doesn’t enter the equation.

To be a member of the house of Windsor is to accept the profound, perhaps galling, inequity of the whole situation and poor Harry has spent much of his life consigned to the naughty corner for no other reason than the fact he had the misfortune to be born second.

When the palace and certain HRHs do things differently it is held up as fresh and modern, a savvy staying hip with the times.

For example, only last week Kate put out the first official royal selfie, sharing a video of herself wearing a puffer jacket and a beanie and talking about mental health in aid of children’s mental health organisation Place2Be.

The short clip has been viewed at least 3.5 million times and the charity reported a 700 per cent jump in traffic to their website, compared to the same week last year, after the milestone video debuted.

Again, pretend for a minute back in the day that Meghan (back when she was a 9-5 working member of the royal family) she had decided to support one of her patronages by sharing exactly the same sort of personal, straight-down-the-barrel video message. Such a move would have been read with a wave of furious criticism.

The most significant thing the Duchess of Sussex has been denied as a member of the royal family is not her first choice of emerald sparkler for her wedding (Tiaragate 2018: Never Forget) but the benefit of the doubt from some sectors of the media and the public.

Rather her every move has been interpreted as the Los Angeles-native’s one-woman quest to undermine the monarchy when all she really, I believe, was trying to do was her best at a bloody hard job.

Her gusto, creativity and pep were not taken as such but miscast as supposed solipsism.

In the coming hours and days, it is likely that Buckingham Palace will release some sort of charming official shot of Eugenie, Jack and their baby, along with announcing the little one’s name. There will be a surfeit of cute and heart emojis galore and not a skerrick of a controversy unless the couple name the tot something like Rocket or Cosmo or Eustace.

Here is one last, fun, game of pretend to play: The expressions of the official Buckingham Palace gift shop staffers as they try to keep a straight face as they slap ‘Onyx’ or ‘Abner’ on some overpriced porcelain baby souvenirs.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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