This was the week that the country finally went completely insane. I mean, babblingly, frothingly, totally berserk. This was the week of The Baby. For what seems like a lifetime, the press have been trying to whip up a frenzy about the perfectly ordinary occasion of a woman giving birth. They threw everything they had at it, mostly because there wasn't any other news worth reporting, apart from the various wars, famines, financial collapses and disasters, none of which could eclipse this delirious occasion.
All of the rest was swept away for the most hysterical coverage of any event that this country has witnessed in a long time. Not since Princess Diana's death, in fact, which was a huge media event because she had been a part of everyone's life, whether you were interested in her or not. For years, she twinkled from the front page of every magazine and newspaper that valued their circulation. Having her torn from us like that was a bit like losing a family member but Pippa's sister giving birth was not like that at all. We had little emotion invested in her or this child and so the press had to do all the heavy lifting to get the nation whipped up. They would have no second chance to get such a huge draw in the silly season and so they pulled out all the stops, wheeled out the big guns and went completely over the top.
Before the big day, reporters were camped out in front of the hospital they thought would be the venue. And they were outside the hospital they thought would be the back up, and outside the house from which Will's wife would be spirited, and outside Buckingham Palace, which she wasn't even in.
Entire news rooms were decamped to give rolling coverage of... well, nothing. One channel's main anchor was uprooted to appear outside the facility that Kate eventually stayed in. After a full half an hour of studio based chattering about only this story, they cut to him standing to attention outside the hospital and he delivered the line that summed up the event to that minute: "Still no news here", he said.
No news is still good news if you have 24 hours to fill and no plans to cover anything else, whether there was something to say or not. There were reports of increasing desperation from observers and experts who pontificated about the decoration in the playrooms at Kensington Palace, the type of car and route it would take to transport the scroll to be unveiled upon The Ceremonial Easel, come the glorious moment. There were odds on names and musings on how Wills would cope, what with having a proper job and if it would all be a strain for Katherine. They bleated on about the role of the grandparents and great grand parents, about what the child might be dressed in and who he might look like.
When the issuance occurred, the television news kicked up to a level of hullabaloo seldom seen outside the circus. Often the picture belied what the presenter was describing. "Here are the crowds thronging outside Buckingham Palace" described a desultory 50 or 100 people at best, most of whom were press photographers straining to get a shot of the signed announcement. They described the world in celebration over footage of half a dozen takers of tea, who looked like they had been asked to sit there for the cameras, in an English themed eatery in New York. In New Zealand a multi-gun salute was performed for an audience of no-one and a town crier, who looked like a theatrical costumers had thrown up on him, shouted about the baby to an empty street, save for the press corps recording it.
A day after the birth and the parents emerged to a wall of flash bulbs that could have illuminated a Rolling Stones' concert. By this time, the news channels had talked of nothing else, except the weather, for about three days straight and had little left to say. Which they did. At length. On and on they chirruped about the importance of the new baby as though they were trying to convince themselves. No news organisation based in this country wanted to be the one to break ranks and allow just a hint of perspective to creep in. Even the Independent, which led on another story, could not bring itself to keep it off the front page.
The world did not celebrate. The world did not care. If anything at all, it was mildly diverted at the prospect of another chapter in that long running saga of dysfunctional folks at the end of The Mall. So ingrained is our national sense of superiority that we bulldozed over their indifference to co-opt the rest of the planet to extol the event. A few weirdos drummed up for the camera in America and France do not a world-wide party of exaltation make.
The newspapers filled in the stories and the speculation that the TV news could not be bothered to. Not when they had video feeds of closed front doors to put on air. To say that they went overboard would be to put it mildly. The biggest beast on Fleet Street spent its first nineteen pages on it.
The Sunday papers will present an especially arduous challenge to the nation's paper boys this weekend, with their "collectable" supplements and their "expert" analysis. All the columnists will be dragooned into pouring positivity over the event like their jobs depend on it, which they will. No sour note must be heard, no perspective will be allowed to encroach. Not yet anyway.
Give it a week, when the papers have exhausted their faux delight, when they can't think of a single thing that has not been said and they will start to turn. How much did it all cost, they will ask, what's the point of the monarchy, is Kate a good roll model and how are her mothering skills? This story will run and run. Unlike the monarchy itself, perhaps. Its time must surely be almost up. In two generations, when the freshly named baby may ascend to the throne, is it likely that there will be any sort of role for him to play? It seems hard to believe that all this pomp and preposterousness could continue another fifty years.
Maybe this was a last hoorah for the press, one last chance at a free story that can fill a whole issue. It will not be a sudden loss of interest. A slow fade out of public amusement and genuflection is more likely. When the old dears that pack their Thermos flasks to come and wave flags at passing cars are gone, it is hard to believe that the new savvy, connected, seen-it-all generation will replace them.
In the meantime, however, this new boy will present the press with the easiest story at their disposal, just like Di did. New clothes, trips out, haircuts, first day at school, friends, girlfriends - they will all be front page fodder as they try to keep up the flagging interest.
He will be the most pried on and spied on person on earth, outside of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, or whoever are their equivalents in a few years time. To be born to such desperate hysteria may be good for the sales of newspapers, but you almost feel sorry for the entitled, cosseted, privileged and fabulously wealthy little lad. If only he knew what awaited him, he might not have come out so soon.