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An American's guide to the second royal child

Kate Middleton and Prince William pose with baby George in 2013.
Kate Middleton and Prince William pose with baby George in 2013.
Anwar Hussein/Getty

Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, announced on Monday that she is pregnant with the couple's second child. The news sent people who care about the royal family into an excited frenzy. If you're not one of those people, you might be annoyed or confused by the excessive attention being paid to the two Brits and their pregnancy.

Here's everything you need to know to understand the next royal baby, and why people care so much:

1) Is the Duchess of Cambridge pregnant?

The official Twitter account of the British Monarchy announced early Monday morning that William and Kate are expecting their second child.

She is less than 12 weeks pregnant, a source told the Royalist, but she is already experiencing the same morning sickness that hospitalized her during her first pregnancy. The couple's first child, Prince George, was born on July 22, 2013.

Grandpa Prince Charles announced on his website that the second royal child will be born in April 2015.

2) Where does this baby fall in line for the throne?

The future baby will be the fourth in line to the throne behind his or her grandfather, father, and brother, in that order.

Having a second child when you are in line for the royal throne is sometimes referred to as creating a "spare heir." The idea here is that if anything were to happen to the first heir, a second child would be there to take the throne. It is, however, unlikely that a second child would ever become a monarch. Because of the way the line of succession works, any children that George has would be placed higher up in the line than his younger sibling. Prince Harry, for example, is now fourth in line for the throne behind his one-year-old nephew, George, and will get booted to the fifth spot upon the birth of the new baby.

"Spare heir" also refers to the way second children in the royal family are treated. Because they are very unlikely to ever be monarchs, younger siblings are less important to the public. Already, questions are being raised about whether this pregnancy is as important as George's was.

Arguably, this allows the younger sibling to live a freer life because they are not destined to be monarchs. While William has gotten married and had a kid, leading a responsible royal life, Harry has romped around Vegas and dated at least 7 women. The case holds true for Prince Charles and his brother Prince Edward (who is perhaps best know in the United States for his marriage to Sarah Ferguson, a.k.a. Fergie). The next baby may never rule, but he or she could easily have more fun.

3) What is a bump watch?

Kate Middleton pregnant

Kate Middleton pregnant with George in April 2013. (WPA Pool/Getty)

People critique Kate's body all the time because she is a famous woman and that is what happens to all famous women. Recently, for example, she was called too skinny. During pregnancy, that scrutiny is called a "bump watch." It is a way to comment on Kate's body under the guise of caring about the future baby.

"It may be that the whole phenomenon of monarchy is irrational, but that doesn't mean that when we look at it we should behave like spectators at Bedlam. Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty. It can easily become fatal," Hilary Mantel wrote for the London Review of Books. "We don't cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago."

During Kate's last pregnancy, the bump watch was also a way to examine her very expensive pregnancy fashion. The duchess, whose every look is dissected, was complimented for her Mulberry coats, MaxMara dresses, and (controversially) LK Bennet heels.

4) Are bump watches only for royals?

Nope. When any female celebrity — from Kim Kardashian to Hayden Panettiere is either confirmed pregnant or rumored to be, paparazzi attention can be sent into overdrive. Tabloids such as US Weekly and gossip blogs like Perez Hilton keep careful, intrusive tabs on these women. If a woman is seen eating a big lunch or appears a little bloated, rumors immediately circulate that they are pregnant. Some celebrities cannot escape the attention: Beyoncé, for example, is almost always rumored to be pregnant. Similarly, Kate has been dogged by pregnancy rumors from the moment she and William married in 2011.

5) Are Kate and William conforming to expectations?

kate and diana side by side

Kate Middelton and Princess Diana present the new royal babies (Anwar Hussein/Getty)

Mostly, yes. But they are doing things in their own way and at their own pace. As William is the second in line to the royal throne, it was hoped and expected that he would have a child in order to continue the royal family. He did, in 2013.

But William and Kate symbolize, for many, progress in the royal family. They are almost constantly compared to Prince Charles and Princess Diana, even down to the presenting of their first child, Prince George, to the masses. But in reality, William and Kate did not follow the exact footsteps of his parents. The two met in college, but did not marry until she and William were 29 years old. Diana was 20 years old when she married Prince Charles. When William and Kate married, they chose to drop the promise for Kate to "obey" William from the marriage vows. Though the church officially dropped the phrase in 1922, William and Kate were the first royal couple to leave it out of their vows. That doesn't mean they're the most universally relatable couple in the world, but it could signify progress.

6) Is the hoopla around royal pregnancies a product of the internet age?

diana baby

Princess Diana and Prince Charles pose with William as a baby (Anwar Hussein/Getty)

Not at all. Royal families have always been subject to baby watches. Think about King Henry VIII. His entire 30-year reign during the 16th century was famously shaped by his desperate search for an heir to the throne. Wives were cast aside in pursuit of that single goal. Royal pregnancies weren't formally announced in the 1500s, but news often leaked and a ruling family's subjects obsessed over when the next heir would be born. A royal baby, then and now, was important because he was the next ruler of the country. More recently, the 1982 birth of William, Princess Diana and Prince Charles' first child, garnered plenty of attention and publicity.

7) How many Americans care about the royal baby?

Most Americans don't really care about the royal baby. According to polling by the Pew Research Center, a quarter of Americans paid "very" or "fairly" close attention to the birth of Prince George in 2013.

pew research interest in royal baby

(Pew Research Center)

The largest group that did care was the 55-64 year old range, at 36 percent. This may be due to hold-over from the early death of Diana or because that group of people were old enough to watch Diana and Charles wed, reproduce, and split. According to Pew, 85 percent of Americans closely followed the death of Diana. That's 50 percent more than any other event in the royal family since 1992.

8) So why is this such big news?

kate peopel covers

Kate Middleton on the cover of People

Kate is an international celebrity. Since the royal wedding, she has been on the cover of People more than anyone else, and everything a celebrity does in American and British society is publicized.

On top of that, the press, particularly the British press, notoriously pays particularly close attention to the royal family. Everything she does, every appearance she makes, is photographed and publicized. Rumors swirl that she has gained weight, lost weight, is fighting with William, and is fighting with the queen. Every move she makes is documented. She's not the first. When Diana died in 1997, after her driver crashed her car into a wall while they were being followed and harassed by paparazzi, her brother accused the press of having "blood on their hands."

All of the attention lobbed at Kate is a symptom of a bigger problem with press regulation in the United Kingdom. In 2011, thousands of people, from celebrities to everyday citizens, revealed startling press intrusions into their lives. More than 200 leaders in arts and academia signed a declaration asking for higher press regulation. A judge later ruled that the press had "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people."

9) Didn't we fight a war to be free of these damn royals?


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