Sorry, Royal Baby: 5 Reasons It’s Not So Great to Be King

Sure, everyone’s excited to meet you, kid, but it’s the worst time ever to be the King of England.

Sorry, Royal Baby: 5 Reasons It’s Not So Great to Be King

The #royalbaby has arrived, and alongside the heralds blowing long brass trumpets, he’s getting wall-to-wall coverage on daytime TV and a trending hashtag on Twitter.


Fast Company wishes him all the best, and doubtless his life will be enviable by any reasonable measure. Yet the irony is not to be missed. By the time this young man comes of age, being a Prince of the House of Windsor, fourth in line to the throne of all England and what remains of the British Commonwealth, may be a less significant and pleasant fact than at any time since the first King of England, Athelstan, took the throne in 927 AD.

Here are a few reasons why:

1) The world is becoming less Anglo.

In the royal baby’s lifetime, China, a country that owes nothing to the United Kingdom, will be the world’s largest economy. The number of people who speak English as a first language is actually shrinking, and most of the world’s population has already shifted well outside the purview of Anglo-American culture. There were no official words of congratulation on the royal baby’s birth from China or even from India, a former British colony where they’re still big into cricket.

2) The world is becoming less hierarchical.

Most of the world’s monarchies are either the constitutional variety, with elected governments relegating the crown to a mere figurehead (Canada, U.K., Japan), or oil-soaked redoubts (Oman, Jordan, Saudi Arabia). While the progress of democracy has been checkered over the past decade, according to the Nobel Prize foundation, six countries are becoming more democratic (Togo, Bhutan, Maldives, Pakistan, Thailand, and Montenegro) while eight have become less democratic (Gabon, Lesotho, Mauretania, Senegal, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain, and Jordan), and nations like Brazil, Turkey, and Egypt are all in upheaval. The arc of history seems to bend toward rule by the people, not by the crown.

3) The world is becoming more meritocratic.

This is the first successor to the English crown to be born into a world where educated people increasingly take for granted that everyone deserves an equal chance at achievement, regardless of the circumstances of his or her birth. Diversity of opportunity isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the strategic thing to do.

4) Celebrity culture has gotten so extreme, it’s actually interfering with the fun of being a celebrity.

The royal baby is famous from birth, in a world where almost everyone wants to be famous. Being famous, though, just isn’t as fun as it used to be because of the insane nonstop press coverage. The press has been camped out on ladders for days awaiting the arrival of the newest member of the royal family, whose mother is estimated to be the most photographed woman in the world. Princess Diana, this baby’s paternal grandmother, died in a high-speed crash in 1997 while fleeing paparazzi in Paris. Rather than chastening the press, that awful accident created an international sensation that has only fed public fascination with the royal family and press intrusiveness into their lives.


5) Even being a boy is not the automatic privilege it once was.

Whether you phrase it as “The Case for Girls” or “The End of Men,” women are increasingly dominating everywhere from empathy to educational attainment, and their empowerment is seen as key to economic success both for corporations and nations. Being a prince rather than a princess puts the royal baby closer in line to the throne, but considering that his job for the foreseeable future is basically going to be smiling and looking pretty, maleness may not be the best qualification.

[Baby Royalty: Khamidulin Sergey via Shutterstock]

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.