Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Dorothy Byrne: It’s all been about Willie and Harold but little George needs our attention

© Jonathan Brady/PA WirePrince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, accompanied by their parents the Prince and Princess of Wales
Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, accompanied by their parents the Prince and Princess of Wales

No child’s future should be determined by accident of birth. That was one of the key reasons slavery and bonded labour were banned; it was manifestly wrong that a baby should inherit the legal status of its parents.

But there is one child in this country whose destiny is thus determined; Prince George Alexander Louis Arthur of Cambridge. Or, as he will be one day, King George VII. I believe he is the person we should be thinking of if we want some good to come out of current royal rows and revelations.

How many times have you asked a little boy or girl: “What would you like to be when you grow up?” The question is predicated on a presumption the child is a free human being. I bet nobody asks it of George Alexander Louis Arthur. Surely it’s wrong in 2023 that a little boy should have his future mapped out.

It’s clear that both Prince Harry and Prince William have been damaged in different ways by their royal status in childhood. Consider just one awful event; no normal family would have permitted their young children to parade publicly through the streets behind their mother’s coffin, watched by hundreds of millions round the world. King Charles, too, has always looked like he has just sat on something painful but he is 74 and the damage is done. Prince George is just nine.

Already, George and his siblings are shown off like the progeny of a thorough-bred horse. The heir to the heir to the throne appears regularly grinning to camera and wearing weird posh-boy shorts and strange mini-versions of adult suits. But even the fact that I am commenting on a small child’s clothes and smile is wrong.

Why am I seeing him at all? He can’t yawn or grimace without it appearing all over the papers. As a child, he has no capacity to choose how his parents show him off in public. Only if he was 18, or at most 16, could he genuinely give his permission to have his privacy encroached upon as it is. I understand his father is only doing to him that which was done to him. But is it right?

I don’t personally support the idea of monarchy but most of the population disagrees with me and I accept that. However, Harry’s revelations of the damage it can cause to children must lead us to revise how it works. For starters, we need a public debate about whether these little children should be photographed at all but, more importantly, it should not be assumed that the eldest child of the reigning monarch will ascend to the throne one day.

George should be free to decide that for himself when he grows up. If we want to maintain a hereditary monarchy we could adopt the system used in a number of other countries in which the new monarch is chosen from among the wider family or even, heaven forfend, the public. Perhaps we could vote in a royal reality show and, perhaps, Harry might even win.

Of course, the royal families of Europe are all related so we could open the competition up to the lot of them. After all, the Danish royal family supplied Prince Philip’s grandfather King George I to the Greeks. The Greek National Assembly voted for him after they had gone off King Otto, the previous monarch who had been supplied by the Bavarians. So we could have a Eurovision Royal Contest to get ourselves a new monarch, although my money would remain on Princess Anne to win any public vote.


Dorothy Byrne, former head of news at Channel 4, is president of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge