For King and Country: the duty to conceive

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
December 04, 2012 /

Click here to view original /

News of Kate’s morning sickness was packaged with royal-watchers reminding us that it was always her duty to produce an heir. That it’s happy news, but predictable.

One of the first messages I received on the topic was an “OMG, her duty” text. And my factitious response was that if you’re going to marry into a crime family then you know the score; has The Sopranos taught you nothing?

The conception does, of course, raise some interesting issues for feminists.

From the moment the duo wed in the April extravaganza that introduced Pippa’s rear-end to the world, speculation started to swirl around when Kate would get herself in the family way. Whenever she elected to drink water, to dare eat a carb and get “pasta belly” or don a slightly billowy frock, the media went into overdrive.

Evidently she and Wills needed to get a bonkin’-for-England. It was their duty.

I don’t have kids, I don’t think I want them and if I decided to get married and had friends and relatives hounding me about reproduction I would be snarky at best. But I’m not a royal.

Sure, on one hand it does feel a little retrograde that getting a ring on her finger meant that her prime worth centred on serving as an heir incubator, but equally worth thinking about is who are we to a) judge this or b) fight Royal protocol?

Kate is not some babe-in-the-woods who has woken up and found herself betrothed to the future King of England. According to the folklore of their romance, she set eyes on him like a ravenous dog as a 10-year-old and made it her mission to gnaw away. By 13 a soothsayer laid it all out bare (cue the appropriate Simpsons episode).

Not only did she know what she was getting into, but she was always abreast of the very specific requirements of marrying into a dynasty. To go forth and multiply was a given. A given like her taking Princess Diaries-style deportment classes and learning how to correctly eat a grape. A given like elocution lessons and getting all those vowels properly rounded. A given like her losing her ability to pop down to the high street in a tracksuit.

Not only would she have been briefed, but she chose this life. That’s not to say there won’t be downsides – rarely, for example, are we asked whether we still consent once things have begun – but this is a life she entered into. That she chose.

Similarly, who has the right to criticise her decision to devote herself to popping out babies and serving her king? Feminism is about the right to choose. To choose education or a career or to glowingly barefoot it around Kensington Palace.

Of course, the pregnancy – and this necessity of Kate having to conceive for king and country – does provide Australians an opportunity to reflect. When any big-ticket story of Royal shenanigans hits the headlines Down Under, we like to ask ourselves whether we want to stay in the shackles of our colonial past.

While the republic question will inevitably get asked, just as inevitably it will be drowned out by infotainment. The more a Royal story can be framed as celebrity pap, the more it can be all about the young and happy “new” face of The Family, and the more quickly politics gets pushed to the backburner. With such likeable faces at the helm, it almost seems uncouth today to ask about whether we find royalty antiquated and whether there’s something vaguely gratuitous about palaces, lineage, family jewels and that heinous word “commoner”.

I might not be a fan of The Family, I might be able to think of a few better uses for tax payer dollars than paying Liz’s electricity bill, but Kate’s pregnant so that’s another thing she can tick off her to-do list.

And I’m not above saying congratulations.

© Lauren Rosewarne