Chances are there will be more than a few rounds of "Happy Birthday" sung at Anmer Hall this Thursday, where Prince William and Kate Middleton have been social distancing with their brood of late.
Not only because Prince Louis, turns two today, a special occasion in its own right. But, as Kate revealed at a Buckingham Palace reception honoring her patronage Place2Be‘s 25th anniversary in early March, it's "one of Louis' favorite songs."
Peeling back the curtain as of late, the duchess also revealed that their youngest has a predilection for beetroot, smelling flowers in the garden and former The Great British Bake Off presenter Mary Berry—her name among the first things he uttered. "One of Louis' first words was Mary, because right at his height are all my cooking books in the kitchen bookshelf. And children are really fascinated by faces, and your faces are all over your cooking books," Kate explained during last year's BBC special A Berry Royal Christmas, "and he would say 'That's Mary Berry.'"
Kate's been awfully chatty herself, the recent smattering of facts far outpacing what royal watchers were able to glean from the tiny heir's first 18 months of life. And while, certainly, there is only so much to share about an infant who's only recently mastered walking and talking, there's a case to be made that Louis hasn't captured quite as much of the spotlight as his older sibs.
Which isn't a bad draw, really.
While older siblings Prince George, 6, and Princess Charlotte, 4, spent a decent, if still limited, amount of their first year of life in the spotlight between official tours to Australia (George) and family holidays in the French Alps, plus portraits to mark Gan-Gan Queen Elizabeth II's milestone 90th birthday (Charlotte), royal watchers only laid eyes on little Louis a handful of times.
He posed with sister Charlotte for photos marking her third birthday in 2018, attended his own christening two months later and appeared in pictures celebrating grandfather Prince Charles' in his 70th birthday and the family Christmas card.
There's been a slight uptick in Louis sightings as of late, the now-quite mobile toddler turning up with Mom at the Chelsea Flower Show last May, in Dad's arms atop the Buckingham Palace balcony, making his Trooping the Colour debut last June, a royal polo outing in July, family Christmas cards and, most recently, clapping for those fighting the coronavirus pandemic alongside his brother and sister in a video posted to the Kensington Royal Instagram account.
And, of course, as fans eagerly anticipated, there were new photos to mark his birthday today, because that's how William and Kate have chosen to roll. The 38-year-old duchess wisely established a quid pro quo with the media years back: Her title-bearing offspring will gamely pose up for bigger events (think: Trooping the Colour) and release holiday and birthday portraits—often captured with Mom's trusty Canon camera—and in exchange mainstream press outlets won't publish unauthorized photos of the family.
The implicit understanding helps the Cambridges strike the ever-so-delicate balance they hope to achieve while bringing up their pint-sized heirs. They'll give royal watchers what they want—oh-so-cute pictures of England's 6-year-old future king and his younger siblings—thus maintaining interest in the monarchy, while still giving their kids a semblance of a regular childhood.
"William and Kate very much prioritize bringing up the children in as normal an environment as possible over anything else," a royal insider told Us Weekly. "They haven't lost sight of that."
Their strategy was initially questioned by those that had grown used to having unlimited access to every member of The Firm.
Just ahead of Charlotte's 2015 arrival, CNN's royals commentator Victoria Arbiter, daughter to the Queen's former press secretary Dickie Arbiter, questioned how long the married pair could continue keeping not quite 2-year-old George out of sight. "The biggest surprise, really, even though William and Kate are so private, is that he has been seen in public so rarely," she told E! News. "I know it seems daft, he is 21 months old. You don't want to take him to engagements and such just yet. But I think there is going to be a point where the British public are going to say, 'Hang on a minute, why aren't we seeing George?'"
The concern, she continued, was that the public might tire of the whole thing. "It is very sensible to keep George out of the spotlight for as long as possible, but you also are walking a tricky road—because the minute the British public becomes disinterested, that's when you start the slippery slope," she opined. "Because if they are not relevant anymore and people are not interested, then what is the point?"
Which, may have been precisely the point. While William and Kate are well aware people will never stop being interested in sightings of their adorably polished heirs, they'd like to spare them the scrutiny and judgment that's been foisted upon their older relatives.
And, if anything, they've trended toward going even more private this go round. William and Kate opted not to bring Louis out for Christmas services in Sandringham and he was a no-show at both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's vows and Princess Eugenie's October wedding to Jack Brooksbank. Reports suggested the parents didn't want to pull focus from either bride and groom on their most important of days—"Absolutely nothing must detract from the focus on the happy couple and [that] would," royal commentator and public relations pro Richard Fitzwilliams told UK's the Express—but presumably not having to entertain a wriggly baby during a lengthy church service was also a draw.
As the even sparer heir to big brother George and sis Charlotte, Louis has the best chance of remaining under the radar. While he will always be a member of the royal family and expected at certain headlining events as he gets older, his position in the hierarchy is more akin to the Queen's eldest daughter Princess Anne. The 68-year-old still operates very much as a full-time royal, but she rarely makes headlines for the goings on in her personal life.
Louis could even one day opt for his own career outside of the royal sphere much like cousins Eugenie and Princess Beatrice. Certainly Uncle Harry is paving the way for that right now.
And though that's not an option for George, whose biggest job promotion will sadly coincide with the loss of his father, it makes it even more important to William and Kate to give the grade schooler a relatively carefree existence now.
While Charles has said his future was made crystal clear at the age of three when he watched his mom ascend to the throne, "With George they are trying to delay that moment of realization and give him normality before they thrust this on him," royal biographer Catherine Mayer told E! News of William and Kate's strategy. "But it will be, nevertheless, part of his upbringing both in terms of what he sees his parents and grandparents doing and probably quite soon a beginning of an understanding that he is in public life and what that means."
For now that means the requisite posing for 'tographers, as a young William once referred to them, on, say, the first day of school each term, but being allowed to flourish in peace once inside the walls of London's Thomas's Battersea, where he's studying subjects such as geography, French and math. (Albeit, now, with Mom and Dad at the helm of the lessons.)
Though George, who has reportedly earned the nickname "P.G." amongst his peers, is ever the big man on campus, his classmates make it a point not to fawn over him.
"He's very popular and has lots of friends, and there's very little fuss made about who he is," a fellow Thomas's parent told Vanity Fair. "Either William or Kate do drop off, and they are always very friendly. William particularly loves to have a chat with some of the other parents and he works out with some of the mums at the Harbour Club after drop off. He's very chatty and amiable."
And though the family spends a bulk of their time at their four-floor Kensington Palace apartment, William having entirely embraced his role as a full-time royal, they make their escape to their country home in Norfolk whenever possible. There, thanks to an assist from cast-iron security gates and some 12-foot pines, George and Charlotte largely have the run of the 20,000-acre spread. "They have a walled garden with fruit orchards and vegetable plots," a local told the magazine, "and George and Charlotte are always outside helping dig or plant something."
Now, of course, Louis is toddling right along with them.
"The children have got such stamina—I don't know how, honestly," Kate shared in a video chat last week with BBC Breakfast. "You get to the end of the day, you write down on the list of the things you've done in that day, you sort of pitch a tent, taking the tent down again, cook, bake, you get to the end of the day, they've had a lovely time. But, it's amazing how much can cram into one day, that's for sure."
Louis' chief activities include singing and dancing (pre-quarantine, he and Kate were attending a musical toddler playgroup), working on his balancing skills and accidentally hanging up on Grandma and Grandpa Middleton mid-video chat. "For some reason, he sees the red button and he always wants to press the red button," William revealed. Still, even with the need for call backs, the pastime is a favorite in their home. "I think your father and my parents and our families…have really loved keeping in touch with the children because it's really hard," shared Kate. "It gets a bit hectic, I am not going to lie, with a 2-year-old."
Thankfully little Louis seems to have charm to spare. While visiting RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in December 2018, Kate shared that Louis was perfecting his princely wave. It's a move that goes hand-in-hand with the smile he showed off in a set of 2018 portraits with his extended clan. With a little assist from nanny Maria Borrallo and her array of silly faces, Louis was "so well behaved" during the session, a source shared with Us Weekly. "He is the most adorable, placid little boy you will ever meet!"
All the better to greet his adoring subjects, who are quite anxious to watch him grow up.
(Originally published April 23, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT)