In October 2018 Britain’s royal family shared some happy news: Meghan Markle is pregnant. And the baby – the first child of Prince Harry and his American wife – will be seventh in line to the monarchy when he or she is born. But the little one will also enter a world full of curious and occasionally rather stifling royal rules. So, will Harry and Meghan choose to follow them all?
20. Royal babies should have several names
One middle name isn’t nearly enough for a royal, it seems. Just ask Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, or Prince Charles Philip Arthur George. And yes, as you can no doubt tell, the British royal family reuse names a lot. For example, Princess Charlotte’s full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana – “Elizabeth” is a reference to Queen Elizabeth II, while “Diana” is in tribute to Princess Diana.
19. The baby’s sex isn’t disclosed until after the birth
There are no gender reveal parties for royals, as no member of the public must know the sex of the baby until the birth itself. Sometimes even the parents are in the dark, apparently. When Prince George was born in July 2013, it was reported by the BBC that Prince William and Kate Middleton had chosen not to learn whether their new arrival was a boy or a girl prior to the child’s entry into the world.
18. The birth announcement is exhibited on an easel
That’s not just any easel, though. When a new royal child is born, news of the birth is exhibited on a golden noticeboard outside Buckingham Palace for all to see. It’s a custom that dates all the way back to the 19th century, but these days there’s also a nod to modern times: after the announcement on the easel, royal spokespeople will also release a statement on Twitter.
17. An unofficial town crier also announces the news
An archaic tradition? Sure, but a fun one nonetheless. Ever since the days of yore when many people were illiterate, a town crier has been on hand to announce any new royal births. And at the moment there’s an unofficial town crier, Tony Appleton, doing just that whenever the need arises. Appleton proclaimed the births of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, for example, even though he is not employed by the Palace.
16. No surname is needed for a royal baby
Royals are obliged to register the birth of a new child, even if practically the whole world already knows of the little one’s existence. Interestingly, though, no surname needs to be included on those forms. Regardless, members of the British royal family can choose a surname for those occasions when one may come in useful – such as at school. Prince George reportedly uses “George Cambridge” around his classmates, for example, while William has been known to go by “William Wales.”
15. A large maternity team is needed
Lots and lots of people need to be on hand to ensure that a royal birth goes well. Kate, who suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum during all three of her pregnancies, reportedly had a vast team. Three midwives, three anesthesiologists, four pediatricians and two obstetricians were just some of the people involved. What’s more, all of the specialists had to abstain from alcohol for three months before the due date – just in case the baby arrived early.
14. The Queen has to be the first person to hear the baby news
As the head of state and of the family, the Queen must always be the first individual to hear about both a pregnancy and a birth – apart from the parents, of course. Apparently, Prince William used a secure phone to speak to his grandmother as soon as Prince George was born.
13. Lots of godparents are required
Royals have everyone beat when it comes to godparents, as blue-blooded offspring are always assigned plenty. Prince George alone has seven godparents: Zara Tindall, Oliver Baker, Emilia Jardine-Paterson, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Earl Grosvenor, William van Cutsem and Julia Samuel. Close behind him are Prince Louis with six godparents, and Prince Charlotte, who has five.
12. The baby’s first official unveiling is at their christening
Although a new royal baby may appear with their parents outside the hospital, that’s not actually their first official appearance. That would be the christening. A couple or so months after the child’s birth, he or she is baptized into the Church of England. And then the royals usually release official photographs, so everyone can get a good look at the new arrival.
11. Royal pregnancies are kept under wraps
Celebrities often announce pregnancies relatively quickly, but that’s not typically the case with the British royal family. For them, things are supposed to remain an absolute secret until at least three months have passed, and even the midwives aren’t allowed to reveal a single detail. An exception was made for Kate, though, as when pregnant with George she had to go to the hospital to be treated for extreme nausea. Hopefully, Meghan won’t suffer from the same.
10. Royal babies have special shawls
There’s only the best for a royal baby. When they leave the hospital, they’re wrapped in a luxury hand-knitted shawl from the company G.H. Hurt & Son. In fact, the firm has been providing the royal family with baby blankets for more than 60 years. And chances are pretty high that Harry and Meghan will also use these garments to swaddle their baby – they are very nice shawls, after all.
9. Bodyguards are required for royal children
It’s terrible to think that your child may need a bodyguard, but that’s a sad fact of life for the royal family. William and Harry had bodyguards, for instance, and now so does the new generation; George has at least two who accompany him to school. And unfortunately, it’s proven to be a wise move, as there really has been a threat made against the young prince. Better safe than sorry.
8. Royal babies are usually breastfed
It’s not something they would do in public, but royal mothers do tend to breastfeed their children. Queen Elizabeth II and Diana reportedly both did so, while Kate too was rumored to be breastfeeding when she was spotted wearing a dress specifically designed for the practice. Whether or not Meghan will follow suit remains to be seen, as does whether or not she’ll be open about it.
7. There’s a traditional gown for royal christenings
Ever since the time of Queen Victoria, royals had one gown that every new baby wore for their christening. And a grand total of 62 members of the family have been clad in the garment, including Queen Elizabeth II. However, the gown in question was last used in 2004 for the christening of Prince Edward’s daughter, Louise, after which it was decided that any more outings would probably destroy it. These days, then, a replica is used, and the recent royal babies have been baptized in that.
6. The Queen has to give permission for a child to travel
When you’re a royal, a lot of things have to be run past the Queen. Take when and how children should fly abroad with their parents, for example. Two heirs to the throne aren’t supposed to share the same airplane, just in case something terrible happens. So, when William wanted to take nine-month old George on tour to Australia, he had to ask the Queen for permission – and, fortunately, she granted it.
5. Young princes have to wear shorts
One of the oddest royal fashion rules is this: until the age of eight, young boys have to wear shorts rather than pants. Prince George does, and most likely Prince Louis will too. The reason is all to do with the old English class system, where fashion indicated wealth. And shorts are apparently preferred because “a pair of [pants] on a young boy is considered quite middle class – quite suburban,” etiquette specialist William Hanson told Harper’s Bazaar in June 2018. Clearly, the British royal family are most definitely not middle class.
4. Guns mark the birth of a royal baby
Not many people hear shots ring out to mark their birth. But if you’re a member of the British royal family, you’re entitled to make some noise. Whenever a new royal baby is born, then, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery lets off a gun salute to celebrate the birth. Not only that, but Union Jack flags are flown from all governmental buildings too. So, when Meghan and Harry’s baby comes, you can be pretty sure that no one in the vicinity of the salute will miss it.
3. Post-birth outfits are carefully considered
Imagine having your fashion sense critiqued right after having a baby. Well, that’s what the royals have to go through. Just ask Kate – every one of her post-baby hospital appearances was planned for maximum effect. Her polka-dot outfit after giving birth to George seemed to be a tribute to one of Diana’s most famous dresses, for example. It remains to be seen whether Meghan will do the same and dress for the special occasion.
2. Landmarks light up for a new royal baby
London landmarks love a royal birth! When Prince George was born, for instance, popular tourist destinations such as the London Eye and Tower Bridge lit up in blue. Even locations overseas followed suit, as the waters of Niagara Falls and the Peace Tower in Ottawa were turned a similar hue for the occasion. And the same thing will almost certainly happen for Harry and Meghan’s baby – although pink will likely be used instead if she’s a girl.
1. No baby showers
Baby showers are of course common in America, where Meghan is from. But now that she’s a member of the British royal family, she may have to forget about having one of her own. “A lavish baby shower would be seen as highly inappropriate,” royal-watcher Victoria Arbiter told The Sun in October 2018. “There’s nothing they can’t go out and buy themselves.” And yet, rumor has it that sister-in-law Kate may yet throw her one…