LONDON—Sunday was the hottest day of the year in the U.K., with the BBC reporting at one stage that the temperature at Wimbledon’s centre court had reached 95 F and was expected to get as high as 104 F.
Yet despite the ice-cream melting conditions, Prince William and Kate Middleton shoehorned their eldest son into a dark two-piece suit and tie for his first ever visit to the legendary tennis championship in southwest London.
Although a reporter for the Sun overheard Prince George telling his dad it was “too hot,” the impeccably behaved young prince barely showed a hint of boredom or restlessness for the entire four hours he was courtside and on show.
For that he, and his parents, undoubtedly deserve great credit.Yet despite his astonishingly mature conduct, and the no-doubt tireless efforts of his mother, who at the end of the whole thing then had to go and hand out trophies to winner Novak Djokovic and runner-up Nick Kyrgios, to many observers the notion of dressing George up in a suit and tie was a reminder of the absurd and Victorian demands that the institution places on the Windsor children. Turning them into glorified, suited show ponies at the most tender of ages, for example, seems to be hardwired into the palace’s DNA.
The contrast with Harry and Meghan could not be more pronounced. Last week, for example, pictures emerged of the couple at a Fourth of July parade where a snatched photograph of Archie showed the toddler wearing light, baggy jeans, a long cotton shirt, and a baseball hat to keep the sun off.
One can, of course, only imagine Harry and Meghan’s reaction to George apparently cosplaying as his father if they tuned in to watch the Wimbledon final Sunday. One assumes their response would be located, approximately, in the intersection of one of those Venn diagrams with three circular sets, the circles entitled, 1: “FFS,” 2: “What is wrong with those people?” and, 3: “Thank God we got out.”
Harry and Meghan have been explicit since leaving the royal family that they were motivated in large part to protect their children. Whilst many assumed at the time that this meant protect them from press intrusion, it has always been something of an open secret that a significant part of the whole mechanism of royalty is reliant on exploiting the adorable kids.
Of course there has been some commentary defending, even praising the Cambridges for putting George in a suit and tie, whatever the weather, saying that dressing him formally is a useful way of signalling to the future king that he is “at work” and “on duty,” that, indeed, it is a gentle preparation for the bizarre life that he has born into.
Keen students of Wimbledon etiquette will also be well aware that a suit and tie is the required dress code for the royal box, and Princess Diana did take her children there thus attired on hot days.But another way of seeing an 8-year-old dressed like a politician on the campaign trail is to be reminded of what Harry said about his brother and father in his and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.
“I was trapped, but I didn’t know I was trapped,” Harry told Winfrey, “Trapped within the system, like the rest of my family are. My father and my brother, they are trapped. They don’t get to leave. And I have huge compassion for that.”
Of course, there are many who will say this is nonsense, that George was clearly delighted to be at Wimbledon, where the winner let him hold the trophy. Winfrey questioned Harry on this very issue as it applied to him after he made his “trapped” comment, saying: “The impression of the world—maybe it’s a false impression—is that, for all these years before Meghan, you were living your life as a royal, Prince Harry, the beloved Prince Harry, and that you were enjoying that life. We didn’t get the impression that you were feeling trapped in that life.”
Harry’s reply is instructive when it comes to those who say George was clearly having a good time Sunday: “Enjoying the life because there were photographs of me smiling while I was shaking hands and meeting people? Like, I’m sure you guys have covered some of that. That’s what’s expected.
No matter who you are in the family, no matter what’s going on in your personal life, no matter what’s just happened, if the bikes roll up and the car rolls up, you got to get dressed, you got to get in there. You wipe your tears away, shake off whatever you’re thinking about, and you got to be on your A-game.”
One wonders whether Prince George, in 20 years time, will cast his mind back to that day in 2022 when he had to wear a suit to the tennis on a boiling hot day, and what he will think of it then.