LONDON – William and Kate’s new daughter is the first British princess who won’t face royal discrimination because she’s a girl, but that doesn’t mean her life will be a fairy tale.
Thanks to a change in the centuries-old rules of royal succession, if Princess Charlotte has a younger brother, he won’t overtake her in line to the throne.
But in a world where girls are encouraged to embrace pretty-in-pink princess imagery from birth, the royal daughter born Saturday is bound to face a level of scrutiny her elder sibling Prince George won’t have to worry about.
Claudia Joseph, author of “William and Kate’s Britain,” said that as a future king, third-in-line-to-the-throne George can expect a life of “duty and responsibility.”
His sister “will have a more carefree life, but on the other hand, we live in a world obsessed with looks. Nearly every woman nowadays is constantly under scrutiny.”
The experience of Kate — and, even more, of the baby’s late grandmother, Princess Diana — suggests the level of interest the princess can expect. Every outfit, every hairstyle, will be recorded, commented on, copied. Even her name, announced Monday by her parents, was the subject of much speculation.
The royal birth was greeted with an explosion of pink, as Tower Bridge and other London landmarks were bathed in magenta light.
Not everyone was delighted.
“Are we really still in the 1950s with gender norms?” tweeted Laura Sheldon, a 16-year-old student.
“I don’t like the way the media are emphasizing the baby is a girl and companies exploiting this in their marketing,” Sheldon told the AP in an email. “The whole ‘pink for girls’ and ‘blue for boys’ thing is so outdated and too conservative for what should be a progressive society.”
Royal historian Robert Lacey said princesses face a different burden than princes.
“There’s so much enduring sexist comment,” he said. “It remains legitimate for the media — and social media even more — to comment on women’s dress and appearance.
“And the coverage veers so precipitously from adulation to scorn. Beatrice and Eugenie are examples of that.”
Prince Andrew’s daughters became media figures of fun for wearing elaborate fascinators to Kate and William’s wedding in 2011.
Still, society has changed enormously in the past few decades — and so has the royal family.
For centuries, the law gave preference to male heirs, so a first-born princess would be leapfrogged in the succession by a younger brother. As a result, there have been some 35 kings of England since the Norman Conquest in 1066, but only seven queens.
In 2011, the leaders of Britain and the 15 former colonies that have the queen as their head of state agreed to establish new rules giving female children equal status with males in the order of succession.
It took several years to amend the statutes, some of them centuries old. The Succession to the Crown Act came into effect in March, just in time for the new princess.
She becomes fourth in line to the throne, pushing Prince Harry down to fifth. The change means she’ll keep her position even if she has a younger brother, though if George has children one day, they’ll move ahead of her.
It’s a small step, perhaps, but it symbolizes a more modern, equal-opportunity monarchy.
Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret were educated at home, but the baby princess can expect to mingle with non-royals at an ordinary — though expensive — school, attend university and have a career.
While royal duty, celebrity, and questions of security will affect the princess’ career choices, there’s nothing to stop her from joining the military, as her father and uncle did, or becoming a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot like her dad.
“I think the royal family has changed a lot over the last few decades, and William and Kate are very 21st century,” Joseph said. William is a more engaged, hands-on parent than his father, Prince Charles, or ancestors.
“I’m sure (the princess) will inherit Kate’s evident love of photography and art. And she has an older brother — I’m sure she’s going to love ‘boys’ toys,’ too, and inherit some of her father’s loves.”
Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless