Lucy Worsley: Prince George has it easy compared with his royal ancestors

"In the 17th century, the mother of an heir to the throne was required to give birth in front of an enormous number of witnesses - there might be 40 dignitaries invited into the bedchamber to watch!"

imagenotavailable1

Prince George was the most famous baby on the planet eight months before he was even born, so the media storm focused on St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington last week came as no surprise. 

Advertisement

And to coincide with the latest addition to the royal family, now at home with his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, historian Lucy Worsley is comparing his birth with that of past English monarchs. 

“Obviously there’s a huge amount of interest today, but in a sense the stakes are lower,” she tells the new issue of Radio Times. “Because until relatively recently in the history of the monarchy, a royal baby would have been viewed as the physical embodiment of the nation.”

Looks like baby George Alexander Louis had it easy compared with his ancestors who were denied even basic privacy in the royal delivery chamber…

“In the 17th century, the mother of an heir to the throne was required to give birth in front of an enormous number of witnesses,” explains Worsley. “There might be 40 dignitaries invited into the bedchamber to watch!

“The birth of the current Queen was the last remnant of that tradition. The infant Elizabeth was only third in line to the throne, but the home secretary still had to come to the house for the birth. I don’t believe he was in the bedchamber, but he had to set eyes on the baby before he could formally inform Parliament she had been born.”

The TV historian also passes judgement on the bedroom antics on King Henry VIII, who is famously remembered as a serial womaniser, but Worsley claims was in fact a “serial monogamist”. 

“All this attention on Henry VIII’s sex life! People do think of him as this consumer of women, a kind of Bluebeard ogre-adulterer. But really, he didn’t have all that many mistresses – not, for example, compared to his contemporary, Francis I of France. I think that each time Henry really wanted to devote himself to one woman, but it just didn’t work out that way.

“If Catherine of Aragon had given him a son, he would probably have been happy.”

The new issue of Radio Times is out on Tuesday, priced £1.60


Advertisement

Britain’s best-selling history magazine has gone interactive!  BBC History Magazine have updated their iPad Edition and include fantastic interactive content in the September issue. Try it now with a FREE 30 day trial – simply follow this link.