Almost as soon as Kate Middleton married Prince William and became the FUTURE QUEEN (consort) OF ENGLAND in 2011, the watch on her waistline began. For those eager for a royal pregnancy, the wait is over: Buckingham Palace confirmed today that Kate and William are expecting their first child.
As frantic tabloid editors brainstorm for the best headline and maternity-clothes designers plot to get their labels on that royal bump, Kate’s pregnancy is a reminder that, no matter how modern this royal couple may be, it’s impossible to wrench their role away from its ultimate purpose: to produce an heir and a spare to the British throne.
Yes, there’s still something amazingly retro that it’s actually Kate’s job to get pregnant. William and Kate may have the love match William’s father and mother didn’t, and, with the news that Kate has morning sickness so severe that she was hospitalized for it, the monarchy may not ask its employee to continue the kind of grueling publicity tours Diana undertook when she was pregnant with William. But those are minor modifications to a very, very old-school public ritual.
There is, however, one very big twist: No matter the gender, Kate’s baby will be heir to the British throne. Six months after William and Kate’s wedding, the British Commonwealth countries finally scrapped the rules that gave boys precedence over girls in the royal line of succession. So if this royal baby is a girl, Will and Kate won’t have to get to work on a boy immediately—or ever.