Baby fever caps image turnaround for UK royals
Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge react, as they talk to the media whilst holding the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, after posing for photographers outside St. Mary's Hospital exclusive Lindo Wing in London where the Duchess gave birth on Monday July 22. The Royal couple are expected to head to London’s Kensington Palace from the hospital with their newly born son, the third in line to the British throne. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
LONDON (AP) — A crowd cheered, hundreds of cameras clicked and an image of familial perfection was beamed around the world.
Prince William, his wife Kate and their infant son, the Prince of Cambridge, emerged Tuesday from London's St. Mary's Hospital to start a new chapter in their lives — capping a remarkable turnaround for a monarchy that had ended the 20th century at a low point of popularity.
The outpouring of public and official enthusiasm — including artillery salutes, marching bands and landmarks illuminated blue for the royal baby boy — showed that Britain's royal family is back in its subjects' affections, especially now that it has an adorable infant heir, third in line to the throne, who could be king into the 22nd century.
"It's had its ups and downs in public opinion," said veteran royal commentator Dickie Arbiter. "But in the last 20 years it has had more ups than downs."
Pictures of William, Kate and their baby, whose given names have yet to be announced, echoed a similar image taken 31 years ago, when Prince Charles and Princess Diana left the same hospital with baby William in their arms.
William and Kate looked much more relaxed than the awkward Charles and Diana, and within a few years the older couple's image of regal domestic bliss had been comprehensively trashed.
By the late 1980s and early '90s, the royal family was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. More often than not the stories were about marital troubles among the children of Queen Elizabeth II, especially for Charles and his unhappy wife Diana.
FILE - In this June 22, 1982, file photo, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and wife Princess Diana take home their newborn son Prince William, as they leave St. Mary's Hospital in London. It was announced on Monday, July 22, 2013, in London that Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, gave birth to a boy weighting 8lbs 6 oz. (AP Photo/John Redman, File)
The divorce or separation of three of the monarch's four children in 1992, along with a damaging fire at Windsor Castle, led the queen — in a rare admission of private feeling — to dub it a horrible year, her "annus horribilis."
Then in 1997 came Diana's death in a car crash — a personal tragedy that also became a crisis for the monarchy. Warm, glamorous and unhappy in her royal marriage, Diana had — in the eyes of many — been badly treated by the royal "Firm." The queen and other senior royals, caught by surprise by an outpouring of public grief at her death, appeared cold and remote.
But that image has since been transformed, partly because of the dignified endurance of Queen Elizabeth II, now in her 62nd year on the throne. At 87, she is the only monarch most Britons have ever known, a reassuring presence at the heart of national life who has in recent years given public hints of her private sense of humor — even agreeing to appear alongside Daniel Craig's James Bond in a short film for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.