Kate Middleton’s pregnancy will be the most scrutinized, most photographed and most copied pregnancy the world has ever seen.
In this celebrity-obsessed, internet age, it is certain that every decision mother-to-be Kate Middleton makes until her baby’s birth will prove to be a trend-setting one – analyzed and imitated across the globe.
Kate Middleton’s bump itself will become the focus of attention for a gawping world as people look for scintillas of cheer among stories of economic austerity and international sabre-rattling.
Indeed, the little prince or princess will have considerable influence even before they take their first breath in the land over which they’ll one day reign.
Long gone are the days when well-heeled women chose to hide during their so-called “confinement”.
When Kate Middleton married into the Royal Family, she accepted that her every move would be forensically watched.
As such, she will doubtless be cast in the leading role as Queen of the Yummy Mummies.
The Duchess can therefore hardly resort to the occasional slummy day like most mothers-to-be – wearing a “tent-dress” to cover a growing tummy, or pulling on a size 14 jumper over maternity jeans.
In any case, the figure of the naturally svelte Kate Middleton will for some months be considerably slimmer than the average woman’s, so she won’t have to wear maternity clothes for a good while.
When she does want to adapt her wardrobe, she can conveniently turn to Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen – her wedding dress designer who is due to have a baby in February. If anyone can make fashionable coats and dresses with a tactfully high waistline, it is her.
But more thorny issues will eventually arise – for no one’s decisions are more contentious than a pregnant mother’s. Natural birth (probably) or Caesarean? Home (highly unlikely) or hospital?
William and Harry were born in the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s in Paddington, West London. Kate Middleton is expected to follow suit by using the private wing of an NHS hospital, and the Lindo has just been refurbished.
The private Portland Hospital in central London is the celebrity favorite but doesn’t have the adult intensive-care facilities of a large teaching hospital. No risks, however tiny, are going to be taken here.
Once the birthing suite has been chosen and Kate Middleton has a few months on her hands, there will be plenty of other choices to make concerning the care of the newest heir to the throne.
The royal nursery at Apartment 1A, Kensington Palace, is probably being refurbished at this moment – overseen by Kate.
Among the apartment’s 20 rooms, which once saw late-night louche parties hosted by Princess Margaret, there is plenty of room for live-in maternity nurses and nannies.
These might play a less central role than they once did in royal circles, as hands-on parenting will be Kate Middleton’s goal, but they will still be on call.
They will perhaps be vetted by the upmarket firm Kensington Nannies, which charges a finder’s fee of £2,500 ($3,800), but ideally will come with word-of-mouth recommendations.
William and Kate could talk to soon-to-be near neighbors Hugh and Rose van Cutsem. He is a financial consultant, and their daughter Grace was a bridesmaid at William and Kate’s wedding.
Rose van Cutsem had a third child in January. Or they could consult the Duchess of Cornwall’s children, Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Lopes, who both have children and live in West London.
Then there is the question of a Christian name, and several middle names, for the future monarch. If it’s a girl, will Diana be in there somewhere? Or Carole? The chosen moniker will spawn endless imitators, while the Christening will be a national event.
Prince William was christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, and we can expect something similar this time. Two tiers of Fiona Cairns’s wedding cake from 2011 are waiting.
The role of godparent will be hotly contested.
The couple will probably choose five or six from three groups: royal relations, trustworthy Sloane friends and media-savvy celeb types.
The obvious choices are, of course, that glamorous pair Pippa Middleton – no one can plan the infant’s parties better, and don’t forget the Baby Shower range from her parents’ firm Party Pieces – and Prince Harry, the racy uncle incarnate.
Farther removed but still in the royal running could be a Spencer relation, such as Diana’s brother Charles’s blonde daughter Lady Kitty, or Princess Beatrice or Eugenie.
From the second group, there’s Hugh van Cutsem or his three brothers – long-time pals of Wills and Harry – who are all tall, handsome and reliable. There are the Waley-Cohens – Gold Cup-winning jockey and dental entrepreneur Sam and his wife Bels – and Thomas van Straubenzee, William’s lively surveyor friend from Ludgrove prep school who is engaged to aristocratic tennis coach Lady Melissa Percy.
This tweedy lot can lay down fine wine and polish up the guns for the royal youngster’s first shoot.
But if the Cambridges want a “fun” choice, they might ask nightclub owner Guy Pelly or Richard Branson’s daughter Holly, who would ensure a lifetime of discreet holidays at her father’s retreats in Verbier and on Necker Island.
In the meantime, there will be no more desirable product placement than on this celebrity royal baby.
By Royal Appointment or not, firms will be queuing up to send their cashmere outfits, sheepskin-lined papooses and eco-friendly baby bottles to Kensington Palace, in the hope they may be photographed with the royal tot – sparking a sell-out in the process.
So what will catch Kate Middleton’s eye as she flicks through the catalogues?
A West London baby can’t show its face without a Bugaboo pram, starting at more than £700 ($1,000). And if any baby should have a top-of-the-range version, with alloy wheels and “sports-car fabric” designed by Viktor & Rolf, surely it’s this one.
That said, it would be a shame if the infant did not also have a traditional Silver Cross “Balmoral” pram – the type Prince Charles was wheeled around in by his nanny – for strolls in Kensington Gardens.
Here, Kate Middleton could participate in organized buggy walks (to keep you fit), or she could go to South Kensington for Gymboree – music and play.
The vast U.S. retailer Whole Foods Market in Kensington High Street sells all manner of organic baby food, chlorine-free baby wipes and socially acceptable snacks, such as organic rice cakes. Minutes from Kensington Palace, this is the mothership of organic health-food shops – where else for baby’s first mango mash?
One of the defining issues for the Duke and Duchess will be where to send Junior to school. West London mothers will be talking of little else for years to come – local applications will spike on the merest rumor.
Nurseries and schools will be deciding whether to gently suggest a visit or to wait for the Palace to call.
Nurseries within walking distance of Kensington Palace are The Minors in Pembridge Square – William went to the original establishment in Chepstow Villas, then called The Mynors – and Ladbroke Square, a long-established safe haunt of the British upper classes.
There is the celebrity-friendly Acorn in Lansdowne Crescent but it is a bit further away and may be a little glitzy for the Cambridges.
Then, after two years in a gingham smock, infant Wales will have a choice of prep schools to scoot to.
For single-sex, there is William’s old school, Wetherby in Notting Hill (much more academic now than it ever was in William’s day) and its sister school for girls, Pembridge Hall.
Both are familiar paparazzi territory: the school runs have featured Elle Macpherson, Elizabeth Hurley and Claudia Schiffer.
Their children have now moved on but the Beckhams went on a tour last week.
After drop-off, the mothers who don’t work pile into the coffee shops on Notting Hill Gate, where they discuss each other. The gilded educational establishments their children attend require application at birth, but William and Kate could shock us all and go for a state school such as St Mary Abbot’s, a C of E primary that is probably the closest school to Kensington Palace and attended by the children of David Cameron and Michael Gove.
Depending on your viewpoint, sending a Wales there would be admirably unsnobby or the taking up of a place by someone whose family could easily afford to opt out of the state system.
Forget George Osborne’s Autumn Statement and manufacturing-output figures. Buggy makers, private schools, and bootee peddlers are all hoping that Little HRH might give the British economy the boost it so badly needs.