The Duchess of Cambridge is a "traditional boozer," says Simon Waind, in a traitorous-sounding turn of phrase. He means his West London pub and not the world's most watched expectant mother, whose maiden name was Kate Middleton. It boasts casks of real ale and cider as well as delicacies such as pickled eggs and pork scratchings. There has been a hostelry on the site since the 18th century. Yet for all its sense of history and the comfortable patina of a bar that has supported countless elbows, this incarnation is less than two years old. Waind, 34, and his wife Ruth Boult, 29, relaunched the venture in September 2011, five months after marriage to Prince William launched Kate as a premium-grade royal and conferred the Cambridge title on the new-minted couple. The pub was only the second in the country to be named in her honor.
Britain's famous public houses and storied House of Windsor illustrate the same seeming paradox: that traditions are best preserved through change and renewal. The Waind-Boults and the Windsors face surprisingly similar challenges. Pubs are closing down at a rate of 26 per week. The royals' existential crisis may appear less acute, but the institution is under constant pressure to justify its taxpayer funding and articulate its relevance to ordinary Britons.
In June 2012, customers crowded the Duchess of Cambridge to watch, on a wide-screen TV, far larger crowds brave lashing rain on the banks of the Thames River in London to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. A year later Waind and Boult are mulling how to mark an event of more forward-looking significance for the royals, one that may generate unprecedented goodwill toward the storied but sometimes hard-to-love House of Windsor: the birth, expected in mid-July, of the Duchess of Cambridge's baby.
Boult wonders if a baby-themed marketing push is a good idea. "We find the English public are horribly cynical," she says, and it's true that many Britons disparaged the prospects of the high-profile national events of recent years--William and Kate's wedding, last year's jubilee and London Olympics--only to later revel in their successes. But teacher Ben Caron-Dawe, 26, enjoying a drink in the pub's garden, is unabashed in his excitement about the imminent arrival. "It will be great," he says. "I bunked the day off [from studying for his teaching certificate] for the royal wedding and found myself massively emotional. It felt much closer to our generation." His friends mock his enthusiasm but admit they too have been monitoring the pregnancy. Fellow teacher Lucy Flinders, 34, dandling her 16-week-old son Flint, says she's "pleased at the sense that everything is coming together."
Don't let Britons' bred-in-the-bone diffidence fool you. The young royals--and especially the very youngest, as yet unborn--are a very big deal. Kate, 31, does wholesome better than Gwyneth Paltrow and has managed pregnancy with more grace than Kim Kardashian. Her husband, also 31, and his cheery, cheeky brother Harry, 28, rather than disappearing in her shadow, are shining in her light. A 2012 poll ranked William as the "best royal ambassador" for the U.K., followed by Harry and Kate. Teens, 20-somethings and 30-somethings who never felt much connection with the older Windsors apparently see something of themselves in the younger trio--and they like what they see.