Royal traditions (opens in new tab): They're inescapable, even when your body is busy growing another human. The last thing society needs to do is police the bodies of women during pregnancy, royal or not, but there are some royal pregnancy traditions that most royals choose to observe. Here are some traditions the royal family follows that you might not have realized were a thing.
The Queen finds out about the pregnancy or birth first.
It's not an overt rule, but typically the Queen is the first to know if a member of the royal family is expecting or when they give birth. In fact, Will even used an encrypted phone line to call Elizabeth and give her the news when George was born before telling anyone else, according to the Daily Mail (opens in new tab).
Baby showers aren't the norm.
Baby showers are totally common in the United States, where Meghan is from, but they're not a usual part of pregnancy in the UK. However, the Duchess of Sussex did attend a baby shower thrown in her honor in New York City for her first child.
"Baby showers are largely something done in North America, not the UK," royal historian and expert Marlene A. Koenig explained to Business Insider (opens in new tab) before the event took place. "Of course, Meghan can get baby gifts and I would not be surprised if her American and Canadian friends have a shower for her. Baby showers are not a UK tradition and has nothing to with being royal."
Royals typically keep the sex of their baby a secret.
Oftentimes, royals don't even learn the sex of their child themselves—and if they do, they definitely don't make the news public.
"Knowing the sex in advance is more American than British," royal expert and historian Marlene Koenig, author of Royal Musings (opens in new tab) blog, told Harper's Bazaar (opens in new tab) ahead of Archie Harrison's birth.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex followed William and Kate's lead on staying silent on the sex of their firstborn. However, they revealed their second child is going to be a girl during an interview with Oprah Winfrey (opens in new tab) in 2021.
Royals typically announce their pregnancies when they are 12 weeks in.
Generally speaking, royals announce their pregnancies to the public at about the 12-week mark. A notable exception was made when Kate Middleton was pregnant with Prince Louis and decided to make the announcement earlier than usual because she was suffering from severe morning sickness, according to PopSugar (opens in new tab).
Travel is limited during pregnancy.
When royals are expecting, they tend to limit their travel and are discouraged from traveling internationally, according to Metro UK (opens in new tab). Of course, this doesn't mean it's completely forbidden. For example, Meghan Markle had official royal visits (opens in new tab) to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, and Morocco while pregnant.
Cleavage is forbidden.
Cleavage is always a royal no-no (Diana famously carried "cleavage bags" (opens in new tab)—small clutches she could use to cover her chest in lower cut outfits), and that applies during pregnancy as well. Since women's breasts tend to grow during pregnancy, this means a lot of high necklines and demure coats for royal women who are expecting.
Pregnancy-related health issues are made public.
Kate Middleton dealt with this during all three of her pregnancies. The Duchess of Cambridge has notoriously suffered from terrible morning sickness while pregnant (a condition officially known as hyperemesis gravidarum). The official royal website detailed Kate's health issues, explaining in a press release (opens in new tab) that her condition is a "very acute morning sickness, which may require supplementary hydration, medication, and nutrients."
Closed-toed shoes are still a must.
Royals are, as a general rule, expected to wear closed-toed shoes (opens in new tab). This fashion rule still applies during pregnancy, even if the royal mother-to-be in question is dealing with swollen feet or ankles.
Royal babies are delivered by the official royal OB-GYN.
True story. The royal household has its own official gynecologist who oversees all royal births. Marcus Setchell, who served as the Queen's official gyno until 2013, actually postponed his retirement (opens in new tab) to stay on long enough to deliver Prince George. Alan Farthing is the current surgeon-gynecologist to the royal household and has been overseeing royal births since Princess Charlotte was welcomed to the world in 2015.
Midwives are on-call during royal pregnancies...
Even though we all know that the official locale for royal birthing is the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital, there's more going on behind the scenes when it comes to the birthing plan. Apparently, teams of about 20 experts, including obstetricians, anesthetists, pediatricians, laboratory technicians, and midwives, among others, are assembled and on-call during royal pregnancies.
"We had a huge team. For anything that could possibly go wrong we had a team of people behind each speciality," Tiong Ghee Teoh, a consultant and gynecologist told Town & Country (opens in new tab) of what went on behind-the-scenes during Kate's pregnancy with Charlotte.
"We were on call for three months. You never know when you need to be called—you need to be in town and available," anesthesiologist Johanna Bray added.
...And the entire birthing team is sworn to secrecy.
Unsurprisingly, the large birthing team tapped to be on-call during royal pregnancies must remain extremely private (opens in new tab).
Royal babies don't usually get unique names.
When royals discuss baby names, they usually stick to classics. Unlike Will and Kate, however, Harry and Meghan have some flexibility in naming, since their children are further down the line of succession. Hence, the unique and untraditional name Archie Harrison.
"The further down the line of succession, the more likely you are to have a more unique or untraditional name," Carolyn Harris, a history professor at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and author of Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of (opens in new tab)Royal Parenting (opens in new tab), told Vogue Australia (opens in new tab).
Royal babies typically have three or four names.
While traditional names are common for royals, it's common for royal parents to give their baby three or four names (opens in new tab). For instance, Prince George's full name (opens in new tab) is George Alexander Lewis and Princess Charlotte's full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry clearly broke with this tradition when they gave their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, only one middle name.
Royals used to prefer home births.
Since the reign of Queen Victoria, it was the norm for royal babies to be delivered at home. Queen Elizabeth delivered all four of her children at Buckingham Palace, thanks to a team of medical staff and a makeshift maternity ward (opens in new tab).
Today, hospitals are the preferred choice to give birth.
Princess Anne first broke the royal tradition (opens in new tab) of giving birth at Buckingham Palace in 1977 when she had her firstborn child, Peter Phillips, at St Mary's Hospital in London. Most expecting royal mothers have followed suit since.
Ultimately, it's up to the parents where they give birth.
When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry chose not to disclose their birthing plan (opens in new tab), many speculated that it was because they did not choose the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital (where the Cambridge children were born). The Sussexes welcomed Archie at the Portland Hospital. The private London hospital (opens in new tab) is also where the Duchess of York and Princess Eugenie delivered their children.
Buckingham Palace announces the birth.
In keeping with royal tradition, Buckingham Palace displays an official statement (opens in new tab) following the birth of a royal baby. The document, signed by the palace doctors, is framed and placed on a special easel.
The birth is also announced on Instagram.
Most recently, the royal family provided a statement about Princess Eugenie's son, along with a photo of the princess and her husband, Jack Brooksbank. "Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie was safely delivered of a son today, 9th February 2021, at 0855hrs at The Portland Hospital. Jack Brooksbank was present," the caption stated (opens in new tab).
The town crier plays a big part in the birth announcement.
In keeping with old (and we mean old) royal traditions, the town crier (opens in new tab) formally announces the details of a royal birth to crowds outside of the hospital. The unofficial tradition dates all the way back to Medieval England.
Royal birth certificates must be filed publicly.
Just like any other baby born in the UK, the royal baby must legally register their birth certificate (opens in new tab). Archie Harrison's birth certificate was filed 11 days after his birth (opens in new tab). All of the new members of the royal family's documents are available to the public.
Planning the post-birth photo op outfit is a big deal.
As anyone who follows the royal family knows, new moms in the royal family make their first post-delivery public appearance very quickly—like, within hours of giving birth. A lot of planning goes into the outfit the new mom will wear too, if Kate's choices have been any indication. After she gave birth to George, she stepped out in a polka-dot dress that was reminiscent (opens in new tab) of the dress Diana wore after welcoming her first born, Prince William.
What the baby is wrapped in is a big deal, too.
When Archie Harrison made his public debut at Windsor Castle, the newborn was swaddled in a wool knit baby shawl made by G.H. Hurt & Son (opens in new tab). Not only is G.H. Hurt & Son a traditional English brand, but Kate Middleton used the company's blankets for her children. Unsurprisingly, the company saw their sales increase after Archie was seen in their design.
Royals do get maternity leave.
The royal family might be very old school about a lot of things, but they are more modern when it comes to giving new moms plenty of paid time off from work after giving birth. Royal moms get to take maternity leave, the length of which can vary, during which time they're exempt from making their usual appearances and performing their official royal duties. Kate Middleton took five months of maternity leave (opens in new tab) after welcoming Prince Louis. She did, however, make some appearances at important family events, like Harry and Meghan's wedding (opens in new tab) and the Queen's Trooping the Colour celebration (opens in new tab).
Non-royal grandparents are finally allowed to be involved.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but for years, the royal family basically cut (opens in new tab) the non-royal grandparents out of the whole pregnancy process—and out of the royal baby's life once it was born. Thankfully, this has changed with modern times, meaning Meghan's mom, Doria Ragland, whom she's very close to, was invited to all of the important pre- and post-birth events for Archie.
Royal babies must be baptized.
Christening a royal baby is a non-negotiable rule, as the Queen is the head of the Church of England. All Windsor babies must be baptized (opens in new tab) and they even have a special traditional christening gown (opens in new tab) that they wear.
The baby won't be born with an official surname.
Here's a fun fact: Until the early 20th century, royal babies actually had no last name at all (opens in new tab). They were known by (opens in new tab) the names of the county of which they ruled instead. Will and Kate's kids use "Cambridge" as their last name (opens in new tab) at school and the Sussexes gave their son the surname "Mountbatten-Windsor" at birth.
Royals don't stock up on baby formula.
Breastfeeding is a longstanding royal tradition—Queen Elizabeth II breastfed her children, and so did Princess Diana. Kate has also reportedly (opens in new tab) breastfed her children, but that one hasn't been officially confirmed.
Exact due dates aren't announced quickly.
When Kate was pregnant with Louis, her pregnancy-related illness caused her to announce that she was expecting earlier than a royal usually would (opens in new tab), and the family still didn't confirm a due date (opens in new tab). Similarly, when Meghan Markle was pregnant with Archie, the palace announced she was due sometime in the spring of 2019, but nothing more than that.
Royal dads-to-be can plan on being hands-on parents.
Starting with William, paternity leave became an official royal baby tradition. Will received unpaid paternity leave (opens in new tab) from the Royal Air Force for the births of George and Charlotte before he stepped down to focus on royal duties full time.
Leaders and influencers from around the world send gifts.
Meghan and Harry got the first taste of this during their tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga. It's customary for the leaders of foreign governments to send baby gifts. Fans and members of the public also send tons of gifts. When Prince George was born back in 2013, he received 610 unofficial presents (opens in new tab) and his gifts were displayed at the "Royal Childhood" Buckingham Palace exhibit (opens in new tab).
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