The birth of a royal baby has sparked a debate about who Prince William should look to as his parenting role model—his mum or his dad?
Lady Di’s son, Prince William, became a new father for the first time this week when his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to a baby boy.
Like his father and grandfather, Prince Charles, this particular royal baby is destined to become King, not just of Great Britain, but 15 other nations around the world. The British monarch is also head of the Commonwealth of Nations, which comprises more than 2 billion people in 53 countries including Australia, Canada, India, Jamaica and South Africa.
Whether he likes it or not, Prince William cannot avoid being a global role model, so what kind of father does the world need the future King to be? And interesting debate has begun to emerge in the United Kingdom about whether William should look to his father or his mother as his parenting role model.
To give you a flavour of this debate, here we summarize two commentators who have speculated on Prince William’s parenting potential. Both think he has a great parenting role model, but they don’t agree on who that role model is.
Penny Juror in the traditionalist, right-wing Daily Telegraph was full of praise and optimism for royal fathering writing last month that Prince William has had the benefit of an excellent role model in Prince Charles:
“There is a Father’s Day saying: ‘’Small boys become big men through the influence of big men who care about small boys’, she wrote.
“To many people’s surprise, Charles turned out to be a rather good father – in very difficult circumstances. Charles was a big man who cared about his small boys and had a lasting influence over them. The question is, will William follow his father’s model of parenting, albeit with a happier marriage (we trust), or will he want to give his own child something rather different?”
A liberal perspective comes from fatherhood commentator Jack O Sullivan, who disagrees with Juror and says Prince William should strive to be a different kind of Royal father, saying:
“The traditional alpha male, militarised version of kingship for which royal men are trained, has long been irrelevant. In a democracy we don’t want an “Action Man” ruler in the Palace.
“So, what would be the best training for modern kingship? Not helicopter-flying or shooting the Taliban. Becoming an involved, hands-on parent is the perfect induction course. Raising children is a great way to gain the emotional intelligence that is a must-have for royal success in 21st-century Britain.
“The Windsors’s aristocratic notions of gender roles are unlikely to encourage such behaviour from a “real” royal man. They are still turning out alienating, militarised men, Pythonesque parodies weighed down by ridiculous medals.”
According to the Juror, the description of Charles as an alienating, militarised man couldn’t be further from the truth:
“The private Prince has always been very much more relaxed than the public one,” she says. “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.”
Juror also reveals some of the problems that Charles’ hands-on parenting style caused his valets over the years —not a problem many dads have to contend with!
“One of the biggest challenges his valets used to have when the children were small was cleaning sheep droppings from his suits,” she writes “Whenever he arrived at Highgrove by helicopter, it landed in a field by the house where sheep grazed. The moment the boys heard it coming they would excitedly rush out to meet him. They would race into the field and leap into his arms for a hug, smearing his suit with everything they had trodden in on the way.”
This contrasts sharply with Jack O Sullivan’s account of the hands-off parenting style of the Royal Baby’s great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II:
“Who can forget her returning from a five-month Commonwealth tour and greeting her young son and heir, the four-year old Prince Charles with a gloved hand to shake?” he asks.
According to O Sullivan, the world needs William to be a hands-on dad and spend more time with his child than his father spent with him saying:
“The first few months after the birth are crucial. That’s when hands-on skills and confidence in this realm are established. If Will misses the opportunity, he’ll be poorly qualified for the day job of understanding a nation. In setting limits on work and exploring the world of children and family, William would also be a leader for change, a role model, echoing the aspiration of today’s dads – and mothers – trying to do the right thing for their children and each other.”
Juror argues that Charles did do right by his children in difficult circumstances saying
“You just have to look at William and Harry today – confident, caring, well-grounded, hardworking – and the warmth of their relationship with Charles, to know that he got it more or less right.
However, Juror agrees with O Sullivan about William being a more involved father:
“If there is one caveat, it would be that Charles didn’t spend enough time with William and Harry when they were growing up – and I imagine William will strive to make sure he has more time for his child,” she says.
But O Sullivan is adamant that Charles is not the man to model his parenting on, saying that the key to William being a good father, is to be more like his mother:
“He has a great asset. Unlike older Windsors, William was well mothered. When Princess Diana went on long trips, baby William came too. A memorable film clip shows a generational shift—Diana arriving back on the Britannia, greeting her boys with outstretched arms. Diana hard-wired William to be the Royal family’s first modern king. He could, unlike his own father, make himself fit for purpose as a 21st-century monarch and not leave it up to Kate.”
In discussing this idea with friends, very few sided with Charles or Di? Most responded in one of two ways. They either side neither parent was a good role model, or that both had something to offer.
In reality, all parents have a mix of qualities and one of the challenges for any new parent is to acknowledge the good qualities we inherit from our own mothers and fathers and build from there.
As an heir to the throne, Prince William has a life packed with duties and responsibilities for which he has been trained and prepared. The main advice for the prince from all sides of the debate seems to be, make sure you make time to be a dad too.
Photo credit: Flickr/UK_Repsome