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03/04/2013

Royal tot-to-teen: genetic preview

Royal_baby_with_crown2
Will Will ‘n Kate’s offspring look like this? (Illustration by Raffi Anderian)

Millions couldn’t wait for news of the British Royal Bump. Now the most impatient can get a prenatal preview of Will ‘n Kate’s offspring’s appearance up to the teenage years.

That’s thanks to South Africa-based geneticist Suretha Erasmus, who put together scientifically-parsed portraits of the future heir or heiress.

The good news is that he or she will almost certainly be pretty. That’s important because unlike absolute monarchs of the past, who were fully employed with weighty decisions – banning their subjects’ religions, sending them to die in foreign countries and the like – nouveau royals mainly have to look good, even while dispensing bounty to charities and making worthy speeches overseas. And they have no mandate to behead those who tweet about their physical shortcomings.

According to the royal-watching Daily Mail, a little princess (or duchess) would have big blue eyes (a Diana legacy), and would save the taxpayer many pounds on cosmetics with naturally thick lashes and “defined” eyebrows (Kate). A princeling would get his father’s teeth and strong jawline. But alas, both sexes could only be bottle blonds.

The new generation of royals has glammed up since the prohibition on marrying commoners – or less lofty aristocrats – has lapsed and let in some genetic sunlight. Princess Anne’s son, banker Peter Phillips, even married an attractive Canadian, Montrealer Autumn Kelly.

That’s just as well when you scan the royal portrait gallery. The public might not favour an heir who took after, for instance, Ethelred the Unready, whose drooping nose and chin weren't helped by an unfortunate haircut and a snarly expression.

King Stephen was moon-faced and cross-eyed. Shakespeare’s heroic Henry V had a scary, skinhead look that lacked only a nose ring. And Henry VIII, a.k.a. Hal, would have been lucky to garner even one wife in an era that favours buff, not bluff.

But why the rush to get a glimpse of the babe-to-be?  The modern royals are famed for their longevity. Will and Kate may not ascend the throne until their 60s, and their kiddy until she or he is the same age.

The British public shows overwhelming support for Queen Elizabeth, according to recent polls, but far less for her successors. Only 48 per cent want Will on the throne, and 39 per cent his father, Prince Charles, the current heir apparent. Enthusiasm for the monarchy is sliding among the young, and only 36 per cent of Scots find it relevant. Good breeding may take the institution only so far.

Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights as a correspondent and bureau chief from the former Soviet Union to the Balkans, Northern Ireland, the Middle East and South Asia. She was European bureau chief based in London from 1997-2002.

 



   




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