What it's like to be a royal baby

After winter, spring. And after 2 1/2 months of South Atlantic war headlines, a new royal baby, heir to the world's best-known throne.

It is to be a baby brought up in the modern style, royal but not secluded, its own royal parents deeply involved in its daily life. It will even travel with them as often as is possible.

Britain turned with relief as well as delight to the torrent of publicity surrounding the birth - imminent at this writing - of the first-born child of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

The baby, to become second in the line of succession to the throne after Prince Charles himself, will grow up surrounded by the usual royal mixture of wealth and ceremony, elegance and travel, horses and rolling country estates.

Its first nurseries will be in a three-story, 10-room home in the 17 th-century Kensington Palace at the western edge of London's Hyde Park, and in its parents' Georgian mansion called Highgrove, set in 348 acres about 100 miles west of London.

Both nurseries are colorful and bright, and surrounded by all that money can buy. The Kensington Palace home has been expensively refurbished with three reception rooms, dining room, master bedroom suite, two guest bedrooms, and rooms for staff as well as the nursery suite.

Highgrove House, bought by the Prince for about $:800,000 ($1,393,600), is much larger: nine main bedrooms, six bathrooms, four reception rooms, and stables, a lodge and a pair of farm cottages as well as the nursery wing and a nanny flat (apartment). Plenty of scope for childhood play.

But it is not to be thought that inflexible pomp will keep Diana from her child, as at least one letter-writer to this newspaper believes it will.

Buckingham Palace was positively tart when I raised the question with a spokesman June 21.

''Rubbish,'' the spokesman replied with unregal vigor.

''The Princess will be extremely involved in the upbringing of her child, in all aspects.''

Would the baby spend most of its time in the Highgrove nursery, with its recently hired nanny, Miss Barbara Barnes, daughter of a forester?

''No,'' was the measured response. ''The baby will be raised in both Highgrove and Kensington Palace because the royal couple spend so much time in London.''

Would the palace care to release any details of the nurseries, or anything else about the baby's life to come?

No, it would not. ''We will announce the birth,'' the spokesman said firmly, ''and that is all.'' He paused. ''A good deal of rubbish has been written about the birth. If I were you, I would ignore it.''

Friends of the Princess say her evident interest in children, shown by her volunteer work at a London kindergarten before her engagement, and her delight at meeting children on all occasions, points to a strong maternal role.

The Prince, too, makes no secret of his love of children, and the couple are reported to be determined to take the child on as many royal tours, even abroad, as possible, together with Miss Barnes.

Charles himself, and his sister and brothers, had a far less cloistered upbringing than their mother, Queen Elizabeth II. His father, the Duke of Edinburgh, saw to it that he attended school with other children in Britain and Australia, and went to Cambridge University. He was the first heir to the throne to do so.

The new baby can be expected to see as much, if not more, of the world. It will grow up in a more relaxed royal atmosphere, although it will be kept under the watchful eyes of security guards from infancy.

If a boy, the baby will become heir apparent after his father, Prince Charles. If a girl, it will be heir presumptive, which means that she would be replaced by any subsequent brother.

Its early years will be watched over by Miss Barnes, who is reported to be ''a real no-nonsense nanny, strict as they come and very hot on manners . . . a stickler for fresh air and exercise.''

Miss Barnes has been caring for the three children of Lady Anne Tennant, Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret, and her husband. She will not, however, wear any uniform. She has graduated from neither of the country's two colleges for nursery nurses (as nannies are more formally known). She has learned from her own experience.

The baby will grow up surrounded by a discreet household staff - cook Mervyn Wycherley, who specializes in Prince Charles's favorite dish, a peculiarly British desert called ''bread and butter pudding,'' as well as housekeeper Rosanna Lloyd, footmen, maids, and farmworkers on the Highgrove estate.

It is likely to be sent to a school outside the palace, just as Charles was, and encouraged to meet a wide range of people outside the usual royal circles.

Inside the large royal family, its neighbors at Kensington Palace will be Princess Margaret, who occupies the main residential quarters, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and Princess Alice of Gloucester. All live in ''grace and favor'' homes in the huge palace, so-called because the homes - including Charles's and Diana's - are granted rent-free at the grace and favor of Queen Elizabeth II.

The years ahead will see riding lessons at an early age, enormous amounts of travel, strict attention to religion and religious studies, and an unrelenting spotlight of public attention intensified by the youth and popularity of both Charles and Diana.

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