This must be feeling like the Royal Wedding all over again for Prince William. The public obsession, the minor decisions analyzed by millions, all the gawking, breathless adoration, vicarious excitement and media storm surrounding ... his wife.
Like any groom, William found himself in his stunning bride's shadow on their wedding day. And, like any husband, he finds himself there again as his wife delivers their first child. Of course, the notable exception in William's case -- that this child happens to be royalty and will one day become the King of England -- only pushes Dad further into the margins of this event.
No, there were no "Countdown til Will's a Pop!" clocks on TV or "The Royal Dad: 21 diaper bag must-haves for a dude's day of lawn bowling!" magazine spreads. Headlines unfailingly designated the heir as "Kate Middleton's baby" despite there being overwhelming medical evidence that the creation of a human being does indeed require male involvement, too.
Yes, from second fiddle on his wedding day he's dropped down another peg and is now third wheel on his son's birth day.
But as the Duchess becomes a mom, let's not forget that ol' Wills is now a father. (Also let's not forget that Harry is now an uncle. Please. Do not forget this.) The British monarch whose own birth was celebrated as an international event is now on the other side of the nursery room looking glass, and while he has yet to assume his ultimate royal title, he's already earned an even more important one: Dad.
A traditional royal dad? Let's hope not
As a royal, William the Dad doesn't have a very high bar to clear. Throughout history, in fact, some of the very worst dads were royals. In many best-case scenarios, a child was viewed mainly as a tool with which to forge political alliances through marriage. Better if it was a boy, but a girl could be useful, too.
That charming perspective was still preferable to the royal view of children as potential rivals, future challengers to the throne. Why invest all that time teaching your kid to walk, talk, lead a fox hunt, berate the help or sit still for justonesecondalready! for a family portrait if all they'll ever do to express their gratitude is raise an army against you or rally conspirators to help seize your crown? Ugh. Kids.
But I think we can safely expect much more from William the Dad. Not only because of the shifting (shifted?) attitudes toward dads and the expectations for them, but also because of the example set by his own father. Not to say William's already publishing the first post on his parenting blog (which I would definitely read, by the way) but the examples of a world swelled with involved, hands-on "what-kind-of-cheese-do-you-want-on-your-sandwiches-this-week" dads should inform a much better idea of how William will approach his new role than the examples of his 18th century predecessors.
Dealing with a soiled 'nappy' unlikely
Prince Charles was a thoroughly modern monarch in this respect. After the births of William and little brother Harry, Charles reportedly rearranged his schedule to block out more time to be with his children -- even if he did head out to a polo match less than a day after Harry was born.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles traveled with the children on official trips overseas as well. As The Telegraph's Penny Junor recently wrote of Grandpa Charles, "There have always been hugs and kisses for his sons; and he would readily fool around with them, pull funny faces or put on silly voices to make them laugh. Today their relationship is still very easy and loving, with plenty of banter and teasing."
Of course, royal households being a bit different than what you and I may be accustomed to, she also explains how both young princes spent about as much, if not more, time in those early years with their nannies -- who often woke them in the morning and tucked them in at night -- than their parents.
And that's the thing, I suppose, about being a royal dad versus a regular dad. The domestic ecosystem into which your child is born is centuries-thick with defined roles and customs, most of which fairly well guarantee that even a well-intentioned William will never be changing a soiled "nappy."
But even within these confines, there's still excessive room for William the Dad to bridge that "Royal-Regular" divide and display inside Kensington Palace the same excited embrace of fatherhood we've seen in the world beyond its walls as well.