Credits: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Files
How quickly glad tidings can turn to dust.
No sooner had the joyful news been announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge -- Will and Kate -- were expecting their first child than tragedy struck.
Jacintha Saldanha took her own life after fielding a call from Australian radio pranksters.
Her death will forever cast a shadow over the child’s birth, a sombre reflection that one foolish action can turn joy to tragedy overnight.
When news of Kate’s pregnancy first broke, it marked not just the expected birth of a new heir -- the third in line to the throne -- after Prince Charles and Prince William, it ushered in a radical new era in succession laws.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Australia last year, David Cameron persuaded heads of the other Commonwealth countries with the Queen as head of state -- including Canada -- to agree that the 1701 Act of Settlement, the 1689 Bill of Rights and the 1772 Royal Marriages Act should be amended so that a girl, if firstborn, should become Queen.
While this hasn’t been finalized here yet, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated that this country will “move quickly” on these changes.
Frankly, the change is long overdue. Some of the best monarchs -- Elizabeth I, Victoria, Elizabeth II -- have been women.
Sharp-eyed Hello! UK reporter Judy Wade has covered the Royals for decades.
While the pregnancy news took some off-guard, it wasn’t a huge surprise, she says.
Royal watchers have been studying Kate’s waistline since her wedding last year for any sign of a pregnancy “bump.”
Wade says as recently as two weeks ago, Kate was looking too thin to be expecting.
“But in Cambridge, when William was given a romper suit with the words ‘Daddy’s little co-pilot’ embroidered on it, his reaction really made us think they were expecting,” Wade told me via e-mail.
“He danced around with delight.”
The veteran reporter covered William’s mother, Diana, and notes the similarity between Kate’s sickness and Diana’s.
“Diana used to stagger through jobs looking grey-faced and fragile,” Wade recalled.
As for Kate, she says the Duchess had been losing weight, not gaining, because of the morning sickness.
“I also noticed that a few days earlier when watching Wales play New Zealand’s All Blacks, William and Kate sat giggling and whispering together as if they had a wonderful secret.”
The shift in family life will present some domestic problems for William, Wade says.
The Cambridges live in a remote part of Wales, where William is stationed as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. That may change.
“This month he must decide whether to quit his job as a search and rescue pilot at RAF Valley in Anglesey, devote himself full-time to royal duties, or get another helicopter pilot job closer to London.”
She says William has said that he can’t cope with the five hour drive to London every week for meetings and official duties.
“Apparently, he is not allowed to borrow a chopper to commute.”
The Queen, 86, and the Duke, 91, are now cutting back on their duties. Charles and Camilla’s schedule is packed and they simply can’t fit in any more.
Prince Harry is in the army -- in Afghanistan -- so that leaves William to pick up the slack.
William loves his real-world job in search and rescue and feels he’s making a valuable contribution.
A skilled helicopter pilot, William spends his time plucking shipwrecked sailors from the turbulent Irish Sea and injured tourists off bleak Welsh mountains.
He has been trying to postpone full-time royal work as long as possible.
He feels he’s doing something valuable and knows once he starts, there’s no going back, Wade reports.
Add to that their own housing crunch.
The London home they plan to move into, Kensington Palace, needs extensive renovations. It won’t be ready until late 2013.
Wade says surprisingly there aren’t many royal mansions vacant.
“Sophie and Edward (the Earl and Countess of Wessex) had terrible trouble finding a home -- ended up near Windsor in a Victorian mansion so big they couldn’t afford to furnish all the rooms,” she says.
Of course, Kate’s pregnancy will trigger a whole new scrutiny of her maternity clothes.
She’s been a big boost to the British fashion industry. She only needs to model an outfit once -- and it flies off the shelves. She even showcased Canadian designer Erdem on last year’s Royal Tour.
All the same she’s remarkably sensible, wearing many high street fashion looks that average women can afford.
Last week wasn’t the first time William has learned the high, tragic price of privacy. William’s mother Diana died being pursued by paparazzi in Paris.
Watch them close ranks to protect this new royal child.