An Imperial Royal baby

Our post on 23 April reported briefly on that day’s addition to the Royal family. John Frewen-Lord, one of our regular contributors, now discusses some related issues.

For the last forty or more years, births in the UK have always been recorded at the time of birth in metric units (grams or kilograms). Maybe they still are. But reading – and viewing – the British media, you would be hard pressed to be able to discern that fact. For, almost without exception, the weight of the new royal baby was given in those ancient Roman units of mass, known as pounds and ounces. I was expecting things to be bad as regards the use of metric units to describe the new prince, but not this bad!

I started with the country’s national broadcaster, the BBC, thinking that at least they would give the weight of the new arrival in metric as well as imperial. But no – no matter how many news bulletins I scrutinised, only those pesky lbs and oz were displayed across our TV or computer screens.

Okay, perhaps they were simply relaying the information sent by Kensington Palace – which however (and rather disappointingly) never once alluded to the existence of any measurement units except those in use for the last few centuries until more recent times. Well, I suppose there is tradition and all that; after all, the baby, rather conveniently, was born on St George’s Day. Still BBC, we expect better from you, considering that you like to be thought of as a well-regarded source of news around the (metric) world. It really doesn’t look good in our post-Brexit environment to keep using units of measurement that only one other major country uses, especially if we want to be thought of as ‘global traders’.

Now I did look at the websites of the mainstream press – the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun. As was expected, pounds and ounces only. How about The Times? That paper is not averse to using the odd metric unit now and again. But not, it seems, when talking about royal births.

Ah, of course, The Independent! I often see metric units in that publication. Surely they would give the weight of the newborn in kg? Once again, I was to remain disappointed – not a kg in sight. I now realised there were not many media sources left. What about The Guardian? Left of centre, and therefore more likely to use units of measurement associated with the ‘liberal elite’ (whatever that is), it surely would trumpet the young prince’s weight in kilograms? Almost – their news item read “…8lbs 7oz (3.8kg)”. Well, at least there is one British news source that acknowledges (albeit rather grudgingly) the use of a measurement system that 95% of the world’s population uses almost exclusively – and is the only UK official unit of measurement for mass or weight, other than for precious metals.

Is the British public THAT indifferent to metric measures? Or, like the arguments certain factions, political and otherwise, promote against the EU, are we being railroaded by the media into ways of thinking that – just perhaps – are not in this country’s best interests, but instead suit the agenda of the press barons? It is a question that surely needs answering, especially in light of the revelations appearing on how much Russian and other interests swayed the voting in the 2016 referendum.

Meanwhile, the UK’s influence steadily declines in the eyes of the rest of the world. The young French president has become best friends with the not-so-young American one, while our Prime Minister barely gets an acknowledgement as to her existence from the other side of the Atlantic. Airbus – for whom Britain makes all the wings on its civil aircraft – has shut BAE out of a proposed new jet fighter, even though BAE is a 33% partner on the current Eurofighter. The EU Commission regularly makes our Brexit negotiators look amateurish in the Brexit withdrawal process. The United (for now) Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland really needs to take a long hard look in the mirror.

The UK is going to struggle in the brave new world it has chosen for itself. Loudly proclaiming the latest royal birth in medieval units that almost no-one else uses or understands can only make things worse. Perhaps life outside the EU will be the wake-up call the country needs, and make it realise it must engage with the rest of the world on that world’s terms, including the use of metric units as the only way of measuring things – royal babies included.

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5 Responses to An Imperial Royal baby

  1. derekp says:

    Didn't the British Empire become the Commonwealth in the 1960s? And haven't most Commonwealth countries, notably Australia, India and South Africa, ditched Imperial measures? However, the Royal baby shares his name with eighteen French kings. How very un-Imperial!

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  2. Martin Vlietstra says:

    The Sydney Morning Herald reported Prince Louis' weight as 3.8 kg (with no lbs/oz conversion). It is of course worthwhile remembering that Prince Louis's big brother is a direct heir to the throne of Australia as well as the throne of the United Kingdom. (See https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/kate-duchess-of-cambridge-gives-birth-to-third-child-20180423-p4zb96.html) Disappointingly, the New Zealand Herald and Toronto Star stuck to pounds and ounces (possibly because the official announcement was in pounds and ounces).

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  3. Daniel Jackson says:

    The Palace may announce baby weights in imperial, but they announced the ingredients of Prince Harry's Wedding cake in nice rounded metric:

    https://twitter.com/KensingtonRoyal/status/997372838960132097?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.brides.com%2Fstory%2Fmeghan-markle-prince-harry-wedding-cake-ingredients&tfw_creator=brides&tfw_site=brides

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  4. Louisa Radice says:

    Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Commonwealth:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-44557527

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  5. Martin Vlietstra says:

    The BBC reported that "New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given birth to her first child, a girl weighing 3.31kg (7.3lb)" (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-44557527). Although the BBC should be complimented for quoting the baby's weight as it was recorded, they should be berated for using an unusual format for the imperial equivalent. Converting this weight to imperial units and rounding to the nearest half ounce gives 7 lbs 5 oz (which is the normal format).

    For the record, all baby weights in the United Kingdom are recorded in metic units, but are often converted into imperial units before being communicated to the parents.

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