As Meghan Markle’s pregnancy with Prince Harry, nears its end, the internet has gone into full-blown baby watch. Everyone is predicting the due date, waiting anxiously for Meghan and Harry to emerge from the steps of the Lindo Wing with their new prince or princess wrapped in their arms. But when it comes to the birth of a royal baby, there are many traditions surrounding the pregnancy, both past and modern, that must be followed.
Before the royal baby comes into the world, there are a few customary traditions that the royal family uses as a rule-of-thumb. There has been leniency with other royal birthing customs in recent years, but these pre-birth traditions have seemed to withhold the test of time.
1. The gender of the baby is not announced before the birth
Will it be a prince or a princess? Historically, this information was unknown to even the royal parents themselves. Some speculated that Kate Middleton and Prince William knew the gender of Prince Louis before she gave birth, however there is no confirmation of this.
2. There are usually no baby showers for royals
In general, baby showers seldom occur in England, as it is more common for family and friends to join in celebration following the birth of a child. This is no exception for the royal family! Many think that hosting a lavish baby shower could be seen as inappropriate, especially since so many people gather together post-birth with gifts and well wishes for the new parents.
3. A due date will not be announced
The public loves to speculate about when the royal baby will arrive, especially because the Royal Palace will not reveal a due date. Social media, paparazzi photos, baby bump size and pregnancy announcements help guide public guesses. It is estimated that Meghan Markle will give birth sometime in April.
There are some unique and unusual birthing traditions that started as early as the 1700s (including one that said it was customary for more than 200 people to be present to watch the birth!). While many of the stranger customs have disappeared over time, the Royals have still upheld many birthing traditions to this day.
4. Royal babies were traditionally born in the royal residences
Queen Elizabeth II gave birth to all four of her children in royal properties — Charles, Andrew and Edward were born in Buckingham Palace, while Princess Anne was born at Clarence House.
5. Today, the births happen at the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital
Princess Diana was the first to start the modern birthing tradition of giving birth at St. Mary’s Hospital in the private Lindo Wing, which Kate Middleton followed in her footsteps in doing. All three children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were born in the Lindo Wing. It is unknown at this time where Meghan Markle plans to give birth.
6. The United Kingdom’s home secretary was present for all royal births
For centuries, the home secretary was required to be present in the delivery room to verify the legitimacy of the royal birth. This tradition ended in 1948 when Queen Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Charles without the presence of the home secretary.
7. The father was not allowed in the delivery room
Not only was the father not allowed to stand by his wife’s side during the birth of their child, but there were no men allowed inside the delivery room at all. The only exception to this tradition was the presence of the home secretary. However, this is not currently the norm, and Prince William was in the room when Kate Middleton gave birth to all three of their children.
8. Midwives are also a customary part of royal births
Even though royal mothers have transitioned into giving birth in a hospital rather than at home, midwives are still an important part of the labor and delivery. The Duchess of Cambridge had the same three midwives by her side during all three of her deliveries, and they are sworn to secrecy. While the midwives are the main help during labor, there are also royal OB-GYNs and surgeons on hand in case of an emergency.
Once the new royal baby arrives into the world, there’s a customary chain of events that must be followed. While some have been updated to reflect modern times and technology, many of the classic traditions that have been in effect for hundreds of years still happen today.
9. The Queen must be the first person notified of the birth
When the royal baby is born, a designated messenger travels with the announcement of both the baby’s gender and weight written on it, which is delivered directly to the Queen. While this tradition has mostly stayed in tact, it is rumored that Prince William called the Queen on an encrypted phone when Prince George was born.
10. Paternity and maternity leave is customary
Following the births of both Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Prince William took two weeks off from his traditionally held job as a helicopter pilot as part of his paternity leave. The same amount of time is allowed for private citizens of England when they become fathers. For the mother, it is customary to begin maternity leave about a month prior to the birth, and continue leave for six weeks afterwards.
11. Buckingham Palace will post a notice of the birth outside
Traditionally following a royal birth, an official framed ceremonial easel will be posted outside of Buckingham Palace to announce the latest member of the royal family. Recent births such as Prince George’s have also been announced via email and social media, in addition to the easel placed in the court.
12. The Tower of London will set off a 62-gun salute
In addition to the Union flag being lifted, a 10-minute gun salute will take place following the birth of a royal baby. A basic salute consists of 21 rounds, but 41 additional rounds are included since the Tower of London is considered a Royal palace.
13. The first official public appearance is the Christening
While the parents will emerge from the Lindo Wing together with the new royal baby swaddled in a knitted-lace shawl made by the same company for the last 100 years, the first official public appearance is the Christening. Up until the Christening of Prince George, every royal baby has worn the exact same gown for his or her Christening, which is originally from Queen Victoria’s era.
14. Royal babies don’t require a surname
Members of the royal family typically don’t use a surname, and are simply known as their title or by the country or region over which they rule. For example, at his school, Prince George is known by his classmates as George Cambridge. This was the same for Princes William and Harry, who went be the surname Wales while serving in the military.
While they may not have an official surname, the royal babies do have an official title, such as His or Her Royal Highness Prince or Princess of Cambridge.
The birth of a royal child is not just an exciting time for the family, but also for the country and world who join together in celebration of the baby. It’s common to find crowds of people waiting outside St. Mary’s Hospital for the birth to happen, even spending the night camped outside in hopes of catching a glimpse of the new royal baby. While this is the standard tradition for the public, the royal family has had their own traditions when it comes to the birth. Many have been updated their birthing traditions to reflect modern practices and times, and the world will be watching to see which customs Meghan Markle and Prince Harry uphold. Who would have thought that the birth of a new Prince or Princess would be announced via tweet rather than a customary telegraph?
Picard, Caroline. “30+ Royal Baby Traditions You Didn’t Realize Existed.” Good Housekeeping, 18 April 2018, https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g5096/royal-family-baby-traditions/
Yarborough, Kaitlyn. “Royal Baby Traditions We Didn’t Know Existed.” Southern Living, 08 Oct. 2017, https://www.southernliving.com/culture/royal-baby-traditions