All hail the royal womb! Prince William and Kate Middleton’s second royal baby has been born, and I've welcomed the announcement as I always do a major world event: by compiling a book list.
Although Prince George’s little sib will likely come out the womb preternaturally blessed with poise and grace (if not, she better learn quick), it can’t hurt for royal baby numero dos to cull inspiration and guidance from literature. Throughout her life, she’ll be expected to fulfill so many responsibilities — like winning over the public’s adoration, and wearing the exact right thing at every moment, and hobnobbing with politicos — and she’s bound to become a little overwhelmed. Life as a royal ain’t easy. That’s where the books come in.
Like all human beings on planet earth, R.B., as we'll call her for now, since we don't yet know the royal baby's name, will face challenges during each step of her childhood and early adulthood. But being in line for the throne makes those challenges quite different from us plebes’. Like, as a child, she’s going to have to look out for people looking to take advantage of her inborn power: enter Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, which features one of the sneakiest, slimiest characters in literature. And as she gets older, she’ll be able to learn about wielding power practically and nobly through characters like Nicola Griffith’s Hild and Machiavelli’s canonical The Prince.
These 12 books will help R.B. — not to be confused with the Notorious R.B.G. — get through her early years with some good, old-fashioned life lessons (lessons easily translated for a royal life).
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
The classic, soothing Goodnight Moon will be a great way for R.B. to unwind after a long, hard day of being a royal baby. It will also give her a glimpse into the life/house of a plebe kid (who nevertheless has a tiger-skin rug. Curious.), since it's important for R.B. to know that some kids have to eat generic wheat bran.
Mail Harry to the Moon! by Robbie H. Harris
The littlest royal is bound to be the target of big brother George's jealousy: he's the future King of England! Perhaps Robbie H. Harris's charming children's book about new-sibling rivalry will lessen George's ire. (Unless George inherited Alfred the Great's temper, in which case R.B. is screwed.)
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
As a political figure(head), plus a cultural icon and celebrity, R.B. is going to be surrounded by people looking to take advantage of her power. The sticky-fingered Mr. Fox will teach young R.B. to watch out for sneaks and creeps; but his wily ways can also teach the future leader how to outsmart the crowd (or to hire someone who can).
The Princess Diaries Series by Meg Cabot
No explanation necessary. I mean, really.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Because J.K. Rowling is a British national treasure, and also because, by this point, the Royal Pre-Teen will likely be looking for a momentary escape from her high-pressure life. Enter: Hogwarts.
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
Just like it's important for the new princess to know how the other half lives (i.e. not in palaces), it's important for her to understand how the other half socializes, too: meaning that we don't hobnob with fellow tiara-owners, nor are we followed by security detail to the drugstore. Francesca Lia Block's YA classic will show R.B. how a free-spirited, unsupervised, American pre-teen ran wild through the streets of L.A., which will make this both an escapist fantasy and a cautionary tale for a restless royal kid.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Like Holden Caulfield, the teenaged R.B. will probably undergo a crisis of angst and boredom and restlessness. She will definitely feel alienated, and might not feel that anyone really gets where he or she is coming from, which in this case is absolutely legitimate, since the world isn't exactly swimming in cool teenaged heir-to-thrones.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
So Mail Harry to the Moon! didn't fix that sibling rivalry problem like we hoped it might? Maybe East of Eden will give 'em a harder kick in the pants. (In case you skipped out on your high school reading, Steinbeck's classic retells the Cain and Abel story.)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
R.B. will obviously be fully educated about past British leaders, but Hilary Mantel's bestseller puts an irreverent spin on the story of Henry VIII's reign. And that Mantel chooses the king's chief confidante Thomas Cromwell as the focus will teach the princess to choose her advisors wisely — and to treat them with respect, unless she wants a stab in the back.
Hild by Nicola Griffith
Nicola Griffith's Hild tells the story of the young woman who would grow up to become St. Hilda of Whitby, one of the most powerful figures in medieval England. Young R.B. will no doubt be inspired and energized by Hild's coming-of-age story, in which her noble nature, her compassion for her countrymen, and her natural intelligence paved the way to her success.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
R.B. will probably get into some weird crap once she leaves the palatial nest for university. She'll find endless stores of badass inspiration in Donna Tartt's classic campus novel, but hopefully she won't try to recreate the murdery stuff (though the bacchic orgies aren't necessarily out of the question).
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
True, second-born R.B. will likely never sit on the throne as the King or Queen of England (and even if she did, she wouldn't be doing that much ruling, per se). But every person in a major leadership position, whether actual or mostly ceremonial, should be acquainted with Machiavelli's classic treatise on how to rule practically. Will R.B. choose to be loved or feared? That is the question. (But I think we all know the answer.)