Ever since it was announced that Duchess Kate was pregnant and suffering an extreme form of morning sickness I haven't been able to sleep. No, I'm not lying awake at night in sympathy with the poor retching Duchess, nor am I trying to win the betting on the name chosen for our future monarch.
I'm actually pondering what will happen if the royal couple find out they're having twins, which more often, I'm told, results in the type of morning sickness the Duchess is experiencing.
Twins? The more the merrier, right? An heir and a spare, something all fruitful royals aspire to.
Ah, but no. Twins would be a disaster, double trouble. Not even Bond, James Bond, would be able to dive through the murky complexity the birth of twins would set up.
This could be a more serious threat to the throne than poor Catherine of Aragon's inability to provide a male heir to Henry VIII. (And no, it hasn't escaped me that the royal mum is also named Catherine, nee Kate.)
Here's the crux of the problem: Twins are often delivered by c-section, which means instead of the certitude that comes with a definitive first born (even if by minutes), there would be the disconcerting situation of a royal gynecologist (there is such a thing!) choosing the next heir to the throne. Since there is quite a huge difference in the status of the first-born child of a monarch compared to his lowlier brothers and sisters, this would be rather earth shaking.
Loyal British subjects believe in the divine right of kings, whether or not they want to admit it. They may be atheists, or even Irish, but still, they are fairly certain that despite a rather shaky family tree, the true, rightful heir to the throne is the person who currently sits on it. The very idea of a monarch rests on the fact that destiny is not negotiable, and that might equals right. (Unless you want to marry a divorcee, of course. Then your destiny lies somewhere in the south of France.)
I've had conversations before with Brits, and when I pose a counterfactual such as Harold winning the Battle of Hastings, I get blank looks. They wouldn't have happened, I'm told, since William the Conqueror was always the rightful king. That was no chance arrow in the eye.
(Insert the sound of me retching.)
I think it's all nonsense, but then I'm American, and my forefathers rebelled against the idea of a divinely settled monarch rather strenuously.
I suspect a monarch chosen from an open womb by a gynecologist, in whichever way they choose such things, would force the British people to examine the whole question of who sits on the throne in a way that the recent constitutional upgrade, re: female progeny, never could have. First born means first born, but first chosen? First pulled?
How could such a thing possibly be, well, fair? (We'll leave off the idea that anything at all about the British aristocracy is fair.)
Perhaps they'd have the gynecologist wear a blindfold, hoping his hand—or whatever tool they use for such purposes—would be divinely guided.
Perhaps they'd have a committee (I hear Lord Leveson is available), peering over the operating theatre, tasked with the charge of choosing the infant who's to inherit the throne, relegating the other to a life as spare, rather than heir.
But there would always be questions, questions a little more perplexing than the possibility that a sheep farmer in Australia, a descendant of James II, is actually the true King of the Commonwealth.
I'd be pretty pissed if I were the child not chosen. Or maybe it's the other way around—Harry always seems to be having a much better time than Wills.
You see why I lie awake at night. This is the perfect plot for a novel. Passed-over: the Story of the Last Twin. Or alternately, The Princess Who Came First. High concept, family saga, glitz and glamour, all in one.
Maybe a mini-series? Julian Fellowes wouldn't touch it, unless we could work the Titanic into it somehow. Perhaps the "rightful" heir could be lost at sea, and return wearing a bandage around his ravaged face.
Seriously. Someone needs to amend the constitution before such a contrived situation is again thrust upon the world.