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A birth announced

The mother is with child and we are told to rejoice and again rejoice; for one is promised who will be called ‘wonderful’ and be third in line to the throne.

Politicians fell over themselves to be ‘more pleased than thou’ with the announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge was pregnant. David Cameron ‘struggled to contain himself’ during the meeting when he heard the news and we were all firmly told that the nation was rejoicing; though not the bit of it I was sitting with. My friend had just returned from Afghanistan, where he’s spent much of his life in development work, and he was furious at the wall-to-wall coverage. ‘This is why I don’t feel comfortable in the west,’ he said. ‘It feels more real in Afghanistan. There was a bomb in Jalalabad yesterday. Why isn’t the news covering that?’

But one man’s discomfort became a global fury after 2Day radio set in motion the fickle law of unintended consequences around the royal pregnancy. Prank phone calls made early to the King Edward 7th hospital, before the receptionist was at work, meant nurse Jacintha Saldanha took the call. She was not talking to the royal family as she imagined but to a giggling commercial radio station in Australia. Tragically, it was a humiliation she was unable to cope with and as news of her death criss-crossed the world, there was a maelstrom of condolence, confusion and rage .

Kate and Wills, as they are affectionately known, are not to blame for any of this. One of the reasons for the extraordinary interest in their child is simply their popularity. In national polls, they are the most popular royals and therefore lightning rods for the nation’s transference; yes it’s time we talked about that. Transference is a process first described by Freud whereby attitudes, feelings and desires of very early significant relationships are transferred, unconsciously, onto the counsellor; but its reach stretches way beyond the therapy room. When Princess Diana died, the outpouring of grief was believed by many to be transference of sadness onto Diana which people did not allow or acknowledge in themselves. In like manner, other people can sometimes draw happiness from us, vicarious happiness, in which we are happy on their behalf: ‘I’m so happy for you even if I can’t experience it myself.’ Transference is not dangerous once people are conscious of it; and in the hands of a good therapist can be used to help people re-engage with denied feelings in themselves.

Kate and Wills are an ordinary couple who are not an ordinary couple and to that extent, rather like Mary and Joseph who, along with their baby, were also under a pressure they didn’t create for themselves. ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight,’ wrote the Rector Phillips Brooks of Philadelphia after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Now that’s what I call transference.



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