The news that Pippa and Carole Middleton, not Prince Charles or the Queen, were the first family members to see the new Royal baby, was greeted with weary but resigned sighs by traditonal members of the British upper classes, a great number of whom openly resent the fact that the new generation of the Royal family seems to be becoming more middle class than ever.
In the old days, the upper classes frequently married the middle classes (for money). The middle class heir or heiress would then swiftly adopt the mores of the upper classes, and their non-courtly upbringing would be forgotten as quickly as possible (often, even parents were forbidden from making anything other than epistolary contact to aid this process of genealogical whitewashing).
In William's case, the reverse has been true. Rather than Kate marrying into his family, it is increasingly apparent that he has married into theirs, and is infinitely more eager to embrace their values than force his own upper class way of doing things on Kate.
The new Royal baby has brought the new middle class tendencies of the Cambridges into sharper focus than ever.
Kate, for example, was discharged from hospital just ten hours after giving birth. Going home the day of giving birth is unimaginable to traditionally-minded, rich, upper class new mothers. They still routinely spend two or three nights in hospital. Going home the day of the birth, by contrast, is the new middle-class orthodoxy. In fact the majority of new mums in the UK are now sent home just six hours after giving birth. Kate may not have actually used the National Health Service, as other middle class mums would do, but she is clearly abiding by its thrifty values.
Another extraordinarily deft little ‘common touch’ was applied over the run-up to the birth, when pastries and coffee were sent one morning to the ‘superfans’ camped on the street outside the hospital.
The cakes and the pastries were sent on Kate’s command, sources say (and not as many ill-informed commentators have said, based on pure speculation, on the orders of palace PR man Jason Knauf). Another of the well-known superfans, Terry Hutt, was sent an 80th birthday card signed by the ‘Kensington Palace team’. These ‘superfans’, it should be noted, have previously been rewarded by the palace old guard for their devotion by rolled eyes at best and questions about their mental health at worst. But to Kate, the simple values of her middle-class upbringing – and to hell with protocol – come first.
The same middle-class values were on display again on Sunday as Pippa and Carole sped into Kensington Palace in their sleek Range Rover on Sunday afternoon, almost an hour before Prince Charles arrived to see the new fourth in line to the throne.
Here was an unmistakeable message that the British Royal family has now been completely Middletonised.
Although there is no official protocol in such matters, there is little doubt that it should have been the Queen or Prince Charles who was the first to see the baby who may, one day inherit the throne, or (to take a less dramatic scenario) see her children inherit the throne.
In many ways it was a replay of the birth of Prince George when it was Carole and Mike who were first in the doors at the Lindo Wing after the birth.
Prince Charles was not invited to visit until after Carole had left, and had his ego soothed when the hospital ordered all the nurses to form a clapping phalanx of adulation for his arrival (the stern admonitions that this was ‘a working hospital’ conveniently forgotten for a few minutes).
This time round, Charles and Camilla followed the Middletons into the new Princess of Cambridge’s London home by just an hour, but this only served to emphasise the fact that he was being snubbed. Charles and Camilla were not even given a private audience with the new child and happy parents; having made the trip all the way to London from his home in Gloucestershire, he may have been rather surprised to find Kate and Pippa cooing over the crib when he arrived.
He shouldn’t have been. In middle class families it is always the mother of the mother who is first on the scene.
And the truth is that in the space of the four years since they were married, Kate has completely transformed the next generation of the British Royal family from being an upper-class one into a middle-class one.
They give their Christmas presents on Christmas day, not Christmas eve. They unload the dishwasher themselves. They drive themselves from A to B. They do without hot and cold running servants. Sources say that they insist that their staff call them by their first names, William and Catherine.
Kate knows that to reign in the 21st century, Kings and Queens must be of the people, not apart from them.
Much as the old guard may decry it, William is smart enough to understand that his wife is right.
This transformation, effected almost entirely by Kate, is entirely neccesary if the Royals are to survive to see Prince George - or his sister - on the throne in sixty years time.