Royal traditions: 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.
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.
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 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."
Oftentimes, royals don't even learn the sex of their child themselves—and if they do, they definitely don't make the news public.
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 in 2021.
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.
When royals are expecting, they tend to limit their travel and are discouraged from traveling internationally, according to Metro UK. Of course, this doesn't mean it's completely forbidden. For example, Meghan Markle had official royal visits to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, and Morocco while pregnant.
Cleavage is always a royal no-no (Diana famously carried "cleavage bags"—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.
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 that her condition is a "very acute morning sickness, which may require supplementary hydration, medication, and nutrients."
Royals are, as a general rule, expected to wear closed-toed shoes. This fashion rule still applies during pregnancy, even if the royal mother-to-be in question is dealing with swollen feet or ankles.
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 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.
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 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.
Unsurprisingly, the large birthing team tapped to be on-call during royal pregnancies must remain extremely private.
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 Royal Parenting, told Vogue Australia.
While traditional names are common for royals, it's common for royal parents to give their baby three or four names. For instance, Prince George's full name 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.
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.
Princess Anne first broke the royal tradition 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.
When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry chose not to disclose their birthing plan, 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 is also where the Duchess of York and Princess Eugenie delivered their children.
In keeping with royal tradition, Buckingham Palace displays an official statement following the birth of a royal baby. The document, signed by the palace doctors, is framed and placed on a special easel.
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.
In keeping with old (and we mean old) royal traditions, the town crier 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.
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 of the dress Diana wore after welcoming her first born, Prince William.
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. 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.
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 after welcoming Prince Louis. She did, however, make some appearances at important family events, like Harry and Meghan's wedding and the Queen's Trooping the Colour celebration.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but for years, the royal family basically cut 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.
Here's a fun fact: Until the early 20th century, royal babies actually had no last name at all. They were known by the names of the county of which they ruled instead. Will and Kate's kids use "Cambridge" as their last name at school and the Sussexes gave their son the surname "Mountbatten-Windsor" at birth.
Breastfeeding is a longstanding royal tradition—Queen Elizabeth II breastfed her children, and so did Princess Diana. Kate has also reportedly breastfed her children, but that one hasn't been officially confirmed.
When Kate was pregnant with Louis, her pregnancy-related illness caused her to announce that she was expecting earlier than a royal usually would, and the family still didn't confirm a due date. 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.
Starting with William, paternity leave became an official royal baby tradition. Will received unpaid paternity leave from the Royal Air Force for the births of George and Charlotte before he stepped down to focus on royal duties full time.
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 and his gifts were displayed at the "Royal Childhood" Buckingham Palace exhibit.