We know his gender. We know his name. Now it’s time to move on to the next critical news item from London. I speak, of course, of the newborn HRH Prince George of Cambridge, and whether or not the little royal foreskin will be snipped.
Notwithstanding that the debate about the possibility that the new heir is actually Jewish has been put to rest, we are still left with the question as to whether his parents will opt to have him circumcised. We can be sure, however, that if they do decide to snip his tip, it will likely be a mohel, or Jewish ritual circumciser, to do it.
In the last day, the British press has been filled with articles about the relationship between the House of Windsor and circumcision. “Will William and Kate call for the rabbi?” ask the tabloid headlines, unaware that a mohel need not necessarily be a rabbi.
They ask, because historically, the male offspring of the British royal family have been circumcised. The tradition dates back to the reign of George I, who brought the custom over from his native Hanover in the early 18th century.
Prince Charles lost his foreskin as an infant back in 1948. Dr. Jacob Snowman, the then-medical officer of the Initiation Society (a sort-of guild for UK mohels), wielded the blade, as he was better trusted than a regular physician to perform the minor surgery. In fact, the royal family traditionally prefers to rely on the know-how of mohels.
“There are many people outside the Jewish community who call on them for circumcision,” Maurice Levenson, the Initiation Society’s current secretary, told The Telegraph in reference to mohels. “Their experience and expertise provides parents with a considerable degree of comfort and reassurance.”
Despite the history of royal snipping, it’s not a sure thing that little George will be circumcised. This is because it’s uncertain whether or not his father, Prince William, still has an intact foreskin. Although there are rumors to the contrary, it is believed that his late mother, Diana, Princes of Wales, nixed the idea of circumcising her son based on the popular trend prevailing against it in Britain in the 1980’s, when William was born.
According to statistics provided by Britain’s National Health Service, only 3.8% of male newborns in the UK are circumcised today. Whereas the practice of circumcision used to be a signifier of class (the upper classes, convinced of its health benefits, continued in recent decades to have it done privately), it is now almost exclusively a sign of religious observance.
“The great majority of the enquiries we receive come from those of the Jewish faith, Muslims, Afro-Caribbeans and Americans, where circumcision remains popular,” Levenson said.
Of course, just as we all should have kept out of Kate Middleton’s womb as she carried little George, so too should we keep out of the newborn’s diaper. It’s really not anyone other than William and Kate’s business whether the new heir will have a helmet or a turtleneck. After all, unless he grows up to be like his Uncle Harry, we will probably never see him nude.
To put it in more gentile—I mean genteel—terms, “It’s a deeply personal private matter up to the couple,” as Clarence House, the official London home of the baby’s grandfather said.