Why Wills and Kate must breed

By Charles Foster

As some may have noticed, today there is a wedding.  It has been immensely costly, and while I do not for a moment resent that expenditure, the cost has an important ethical corollary.

The money has been spent primarily to ensure dynastic continuity. By accepting our money for their Bollinger and bobbies, William and Kate are impliedly accepting our commission to use their best endeavours to breed. They have taken the People’s Shilling, and have become, first and foremost, breeding animals. Their gametes are held in trust for the nation, and they should guard them.  Kate must marinate her eggs in the finest organic nutrients that Fortnums has to offer: William must never wear tight underpants, and always wear a box when he plays cricket.

Most people have no obligation to reproduce.  Bequeathing genes to posterity is an awesome business, and awesomeness should generally not be forced on anyone. But there are clear exceptions. The clearest is the Wills and Kate case. If you contract to be a brood mare, you sign away your right to enjoy the fruits of voluntary infertility.

But perhaps there are other examples too. What if a woman’s fallopian tubes, blocked by pelvic inflammatory disease, are expensively recanulated by the NHS? By accepting the treatment, does she not impliedly say to the society that footed the bill: ‘Thank you. You have done your bit. Now I will do mine by seeking to produce new tax payers to repay the debt’?

Of course she doesn’t. There are many reasons why not. One is that, in order to ensure that society got a good deal from the transaction, the woman would have to compare (a) the net financial cost to society of producing children, and (b) the cost of the unblocking surgery. That would be an arithmetically tricky calculation, and an obscene one. It would only be possible even in theory if it were possible to value a human life only in monetary terms. To concede such a possibility would be horrible.

Another related reason is that such an obligation on the woman might imply other unacceptable obligations – such as an obligation to choose a partner who would be likely to produce high earning children. Quite apart from the serious public policy objections to multiplying merchant bankers, this would represent a wholly unacceptable interference with her autonomy. An obligation to reproduce is one thing: an obligation to hunt down and copulate with a banker is quite another.

So, when we look at it, the obligation on Wills and Kate is unusual. But it is quite clear. While we shouldn’t sue them for the cost of the wedding should they prove infertile, they must get on with doing their reproductive best for the country.

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14 Responses to Why Wills and Kate must breed

  • Lenny says:

    Great article, even I am not really sure whether Prince Williams has been physically protected in the ways you depicted. I am not British citizen and anything related to British heritagem nevertheless, I personally think preserving the heritage is crucial.

  • The problem seems to be in treating the royal couple as a means to an end.

    The obligations of royalty often seem to come into conflict with human rights. For example, in Sweden the monarch is the only person who lacks freedom to choose religion – he or she must be of the "pure evangelical faith". Their offspring must be brought up within the realm and may not go abroad without permission from the reigning monarch. It might be argued that they get some other good deals (the Swedish monarch has legal immunity and gets public funding), plus it is always possible to abdicate. But getting out of this social context is likely very hard and costly.

    Royalty are about as unfree as elite athletes. But would-be elite athletes have to make a deliberate choice and a major effort to reach elite status. Royalty are born into their situation. Their children will be brought up in such a way that their ability to make a free choice on whether to stay in the family business or not become very limited.

  • Charles Foster says:

    Thank you for these comments.
    Anders: those born royal have a choice whether or not to remain royal. Abdication is a real option. And no one forced Kate Middleton to don her coronet (or whatever it is to which she is now entitled). With all the undoubted benefits must come the arguable detriment of becoming a nationally owned stud animal.

  • Jean Kazez says:

    Come on, the important question is: did you like the dress?

  • Lenny says:

    So Jean, what about her dress? terribly failed your expectation? I do not have TV, but I will check it out later. btw, love your blog, would become a regular.

  • Peter Wicks says:

    Now that the wedding is over, when do we get our written constitution and elected president?

  • Lord Fathringham-Smythe III says:

    Charles – whilst the conceit that you employed is at least 'original', and nearing the correct social signifiers, I'm afraid that you don't understand the way in which horse breeding works (and indeed, those who partake in such practices): the Stallion is only important once (per foal – of course, we do seek to maximise the amount of successful foals that are produced), and his genetic stock is considered to match to brood mare before any 'proclivities' are allowed, whilst the mare holds the key to the process. Thus, in the above example, Kate has not 'sold her ovaries for £20million' (a conservative estimate by the way; the foreign press reports $100,000,000 as a more accurate figure); she has been carefully selected as the maximally beneficial genetic match to William, and it is likely her genes have been selected to harmonise the best in him, and negate the worst in him (it would be terrible if like his father, and his grandfather, any new male addition kept the balding gene – note the lush, full, head of hair that Kate's father sports). As such, the price is not to the taxpayer, but to society for producing a mate that can be allowed to enter the vaunted realms of 'nobility' above the hoi-polloi.

    Yes: the £20,000,000 is the price of carefully combing through the commoner's ranks and finding some decent genetic material which can be blended with the top stallion in the land. As such, we should all be grateful for the opportunity to widen the genetic burden that royalty bear. The very idea that no offspring will be produced is as laughable as it as naive – <i>of course</i> the two are both viable breeding partners, and no doubt will have a son within two years.

    This son will of course use his superior breeding, upbringing and material assets to provide a beacon of good breeding to the land, and a inspiration to all those seeking to improve their lot in life – and remember… these are not the Middle Ages, you too can jump past being a WAG to being a a top mare.

    (Hint: if you're going to be snarky, do it with a little more brains. Best wishes to the happy pair, and wonder why Blair / Brown didn't get an invite… we'd suggest that revenge for holding hands whilst singing "Auld Lang Syne" in a huge, cold, empty fiasco was best served cold, and 13 years later).

  • Anthony Drinkwater says:

    Thank you Mr Foster, for this interesting post on Kate Middleton as the nation's rent-a-womb.
    I follow your logic, and can only regret that only £20m was spent : had we spent £100m the nation would have five times the commitment to maintain the continuation of the dynasty.
    One dreads to think how flippantly the couple would be treating this duty if the day had cost a mere £10,000 or so ……

  • Peter Wicks says:

    OK I'm going to make a serious comment now. But I DO think we should get ourselves a written constitution and an elected president. We can follow the French example and turn one of the Channel Islands into a kind of British Monaco. We get to keep our fairy tale, and at the same time we finally dispense with the notion that these people have any legitimate role whatsoever in the way the country is actually governed.

    And it's the fairy-tale aspect that underlies my serious comment. This has nothing to do with ensuring dynastic continuity. If that's the justification, it's a very bad one. What the country needs is economic stimulus and reason to feel good. The wedding did to some extent serve that purpose. This is not to be decried. Now it's time to extend that thinking to our economic policy.

  • Roland watson says:

    Talking of genes- compare Kate's lower face with a younger Mrs. Charlie Windsor.
    See what I mean. Spooky is'nt it.

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