The childhood of King George

Not yet a week old, the tiny heir to the British throne has already caused a frenzy with his arrival. So what will his life be like?

George Alexander Louis Windsor will suffer for the want of nothing in life; but his existence in the gilded cage that is the British royal family will bring with it its own challenges.

Unlike his father, William, the new arrival can expect a more rounded upbringing than has been offered to any previous heir to the throne, even if it is one still blessed with privilege.

His parents, Kate Middleton and Prince William, appear idyllically happy; while both have been careful to keep their lives as normal as possible during the first two years of their marriage.

His father was not blessed with such a childhood, growing up in the fractious relationship that existed between his own parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and their later separation and divorce.


However, Diana set down a few rules that will, undoubtedly, be followed now, believing that her children needed to get as many hugs as could be offered in the day.

It was not always so.

Prince Charles became the first royal to be sent to school outside Buckingham Palace, first to Cheam Preparatory School and later to Gordonstoun, which he loathes still to this day.

His eldest son, William, followed in his footsteps, though the school chosen – Mrs Mynors’s Nursery School in London – had all of the softer frills that were expected by Diana, who had looked after other children in such places.

Prince George’s first day in preparatory, or “prep” school will occur in late August 2018 when he is five, as required by the British education system.

Steep learning curve
However, British children normally start nursery school from the first September after their fourth birthday, though this may be a steep challenge for a July baby.

Whenever it happens, it will be a day that – if the Cambridges can control matters – will be kept hidden from the cameras. They have shown that they recognise that the royals need the press, but only up to a point.

At 13, William went to Eton. It is a route that is likely to be followed by his son, if only because, whatever else his parents will try to do, he remains part of the British Establishment.

Nineteen British prime ministers have gone to Eton, or “Slough Grammar” as it has been nicknamed; though Kate went to the co-educational but equally upmarket Marlborough College, so that is likely to feature on the shortlist when they get around to thinking about such matters.

Unlike other British parents, who face months, and sometimes years, of worry about where their children will attend school, it can be assumed that they will not have trouble getting young Windsor accepted to the establishment of their choosing.

Once he has finished secondary school, the heir to the throne will embark on his university years from 2032, perhaps at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland, where his parents met during their own college days.

However, there is the possibility that the Scots may no longer be part of the United Kingdom by then, even if next year's independence referendum fails to win a majority.

For those fascinated by the British royal family it is as well that they enjoy the current, often frenzied, coverage of the royal birth that has kept them glued to their televisions over recent days, while it infuriated many others.

The next chapter will be long delayed.

It will be a generation, at least, before the baby Prince George produces his own heir, and stands a proud new father outside the Lindo wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.

Indeed, it could be longer than 30 years since both men and women in Britain continue to marry later, putting off the day when children might arrive.

How will Prince George’s life compare with those of baby boys born around the world this week?

Under China's one-child policy, the arrival of a new baby is a huge event. The most popular names for baby girls in China are Jing Jing, which translates roughly as "quiet", and Xue, meaning "snow". The biggest question for Chinese parents regarding newborns is whether to buy imported milk powder or to use domestic formula, which has been the focus of food-safety scandals.

Boys are preferred in the countryside, where female infanticide still happens, because girls are considered less useful in the fields. But the increased migration to the cities and a stark rise in female participation in the labour force has seen a change in attitudes to girls born.

China’s national fertility rate is about 1.7, way below the replacement level of 2.1. Couples who break the one-child policy rule have to pay a fine, the “social maintenance fee”, but lose education and health benefits.

With the Chinese population greying, the government is moving to make the one-child policy more liberal, allowing urban residents to have more than one. For example, Beijing couples made up of two who were only children, who have a second child, will be charged fines only if the mother is under 28 years old and the second child is born within four years of the first.

The baby we met has no name yet. Her parents both work and live in Changchun in Jilin province. Their child will go to a regular kindergarten that is not too expensive: fees in Chinese cities can be about €2,500 a month, which is far more than the average monthly wage. Once the child goes on to primary school, costs come down. Chinese state schools in a city such as Beijing cost about €5,000 a year; international schools typically cost a lot more, about €23,000.

The parents we spoke to want their daughter to learn music and will be happy if she gets into Chinese university, with the aim of getting into college in Beijing.
Clifford Coonan
in Beijing

The future of a child born in Johannesburg this week would very much depend on who their parents were, given the level of inequality that exists in South Africa's two-tier society, 20 years into democracy.

A senior researcher with the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town, Katharine Hall, says if the child was born to relatively wealthy parents they could expect to enjoy “many of the same comforts that the latest addition to the British royal family will experience as he grows up”. If, like the majority of children, they are born on the wrong side of the social divide, the first 20 years of their existence will be extremely difficult.

“The difference in the standards of living between poor and rich people here is vast,” says Hall. Statistics show the average South African child has a 5 per cent chance of dying before their fifth birthday, a reality linked to poor public healthcare and the fact only 50 per cent of children have access to adequate sanitation and clean piped water.

Those who survive past five years of age are expected to reach 60, on average, but the hurdles they face during their teen and pre-teen years are daunting. According to the Children’s Institute, 35 per cent of South African households have no adults in employment, which plays havoc with early childhood development and education. In addition, nearly one in four children grow up without either parent, due either to HIV/ Aids or to the need for adults to migrate to find work.

A total of 97 per cent of South African children are enrolled in primary school, but fewer than half of them make it to the end of secondary education. The few who make it to university also struggle. Data recently published by the Council on Higher Education shows that 46 per cent of all students who started studying three- and four-year degrees in 2005 had dropped out by 2010.

There is hope for South Africa, though, says Hall. "There is a willingness among academics, civil society and government to explore and use innovative models of intervention in relation to health, education and societal development."
Bill Corcoran
in Cape Town

If Jorginho Alexandre Luiz wanted any proof that life for a "moleque" born this week in the favela of Varginha will be very different to that of a British royal, he need only do the maths. One of his parents on Brazil's minimum wage of €250 a month would need to work for almost two years before being able to afford a night at the Lindo wing of St Mary's hospital in London.

Life is tough in the Rio de Janeiro slum Pope Francis visited on Thursday. Huge strides in pre- and postnatal care in an otherwise precarious public health system means Jorginho (Little Georgie) now has a far better chance of reaching Brazil’s life expectancy of 73 years – so long as he survives his dangerous teenage years.

The country is one of the most violent “peacetime” societies in the world, especially if you are young and black. As a teenager and young man, Jorginho is more than 50 times more likely to die violently on streets fought over by violent drug gangs and one of the world’s most lethal police forces than if he had been born in the UK.

Statistically, Jorge will be born into a smaller family than his parents were, with the average Brazilian family now about two children. Such numbers hide fragile family structures in slums where many children do not know their absent fathers.

If his mother has regular work as a cleaner in what favela residents refer to as “the street” – the formal city – he could spend his childhood roaming Varginha’s alleyways unless extended family can help out. This is because public schools in Brazil take children for only a half day each day, for instruction by low-paid and often poorly trained teachers.

With little chance of social mobility in a city with huge racial and social barriers to advancement Jorge will probably be tempted to abandon school as soon as possible and start earning some money as a delivery boy perhaps dreaming of becoming a bus driver. He could though come under the wing of the small but growing number of favela residents who demand a better life and struggle against enormous odds to make it to university. If he did that, in 20 years, Jorginho could even become one of the articulate community leaders who are demanding a better deal for communities like Varginha.
Tom Hennigan
in Rio de Janeiro

A child born in Ireland this week is in good company. About 200 children are born every day in the country with he highest proportion of children in the EU.

If he’s a boy, his name is unlikely to be George (or Alexander). Jack is consistently the most popular boy’s name these days, while Emily tops the poll for girls.

Despite all sorts of social upheaval in recent times, family will most likely consist of a married mother and father and two children. Both parents, increasingly, are likely to be working, or seeking work, earning an average of €40,000. The youngster can expect to spend time in childcare, of which childminding, rather than a creche, is the most popular form.

Education will more than likely involve a primary school under the patronage of a religious denomination. Some 90 per cent of national schools are owned and under the patronage of the Catholic Church.

The child’s parents would do well to get their name down for a secondary school. The second-level school-age population is set to increase by anything up to 20 per cent by 2026, according to projections by the Central Statistics Office.

Skills and education will be key in the new economy. Most students are likely to progress to third-level by the time the teenager finishes school. A job in the knowledge-based industry seems likely, according to future-skills reports.

At least the economy should be in better nick by the time our young man (or woman) considers entering the workforce, in 2033 or later. Strong population growth and a shrinking population in parts of Europe mean our workers are likely to be in demand. The CSO suggests our working- age population may increase by about 8 per cent over the next 15 years; the EU’s is set to decline by 3 per cent.

On the downside, work will go on for longer than previous generations. Pensions won't be payable until at least the age of 70. But then again, retirement will be longer. Children born today are more likely to live well into their 80s or early 90s.
Carl O'Brien
Chief Reporter