Send in the crowns

ARMY OF ME - The Philippine Star

After waiting, it seems, on diaper pins and knitting needles, the world finally got its glimpse of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s newborn baby early this week. Buckingham Palace broke with tradition and first announced the arrival of the royal infant, a boy, by e-mail before a written announcement was sent by car to be posted on a gilded easel behind the palace railings.

George Alexander Louis, third in line to the throne, also known as His Royal Highness, Prince of Cambridge, received his first official welcome with a 41-gun salute in London’s Green Park. Bridges across the Thames and fountains at Marble Arch and Trafalgar Square were illuminated in blue to mark the occasion. The Royal Mint also gave away 2,013 silver pennies to babies born on the same day, July 22, as the newest blueblood. As folklore would have it, offering the token is a way of wishing them a life of health and prosperity.

The birth of Baby Cambridge follows the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton two years ago, and the Olympics and the Queen’s diamond jubilee last year. All combined, the series of events has provided Britons with more flag-waving opportunities than they would care to admit, especially in these austere times. But beyond the froth and celebration, the global mania surrounding this latest chapter in the history of the British monarchy — and of the United Kingdom as a whole — is yet another example of soft power at work. 

Cultural influence

The concept, developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University in 1990, describes the ability to produce outcomes through attraction rather than coercion or payment. In 2012, Monocle’s “Soft Power” issue named the UK as the most powerful nation in the world in terms of cultural influence, displacing the US.  

While CNN’s cost-benefit analysis of maintaining Britain’s monarchy estimates “the total long-term outflows associated with having a royal family at £7.6 billion,” roughly $11.6 billion, the value of the House of Windsor as a brand, according to David Haigh, founder of the London-based consultancy Brand Finance, is £44 billion or $70 billion. “Just the media coverage they generate internationally is worth hundreds of millions in free publicity for the country,” he told CNN’s Business 360 in May 2012.

Tradition and permanence

The qualities that make Queen Elizabeth II and her royal retinue superfluous and outmoded to British anti-dynasty campaigners — tradition, heritage, permanence — are the very things that make them appealing to those outside the country. The latest heir, the great-great-great-great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, is set to become the 43rd British monarch since William the Conqueror in 1066. When he becomes king — perhaps in the 22nd century, after his grandfather Charles III and father William V — the child will be the sovereign head of state for 16 countries, as well as that of the Commonwealth, which covers 54 nations and two billion citizens.

“It is hugely exciting to have three generations of boys in direct line to the throne, and within this reign — the first time since 1894,” said royal expert and author Hugo Vickers in Women’s Wear Daily. “There is also a slight fin de siècle hint of sadness and transition. We know that the present reign cannot last forever in its present form.”

Brand Britain

In September 2003, Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark recapped the interwoven histories of Europe’s royal families for Vanity Fair. “Some voices whisper that, sooner or later, European monarchies are doomed by their very dustiness. I do not agree,” he argued. “At a time when many values are collapsing… a system that embodies continuity and stability, a person and a family that show heart… have a future, and can surely play an important role.” They simply don’t make institutions like this anymore.

“Can an infant affect the global power of a nation in the 21st century? He can if he is a Windsor born in Britain this week,” says Nye in a piece for the Financial Times. British culture has dominated the global conversation for centuries because its brand was intrinsically strong. As it stands, the interest around little Prince George is proof that it still is. Just imagine if William and Kate had twins.

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E-mail: ginobambino.tumblr.com

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