Prince William and Kate Middleton have introduced each of their children to the world outside St. Mary’s Hospital in London. And the three babies have all been wrapped in a knitted white shawl while making their debut. While the blankets may look simple, it turns out that there’s a sentimental reason behind them.
Prince William, 35, and the Duchess of Cambridge, 36, welcomed their third child on April 23, 2018. They had revealed on September 4, 2017, that they were expecting another baby. And just like his brother and sister, their new son was born at the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London.
The news was announced in a statement by Kensington Palace. “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 1101hrs,” it said. “The baby weighs 8lbs 7oz. The Duke of Cambridge was present for the birth.”
The statement declared that mother and baby were both in good health. “The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news,” it continued. “Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.”
Prince George, four, and Princess Charlotte, three, visited their mother and new little brother at the hospital. Then, a mere seven hours after his birth, Britain’s newest prince made his first public appearance with his parents. The royal couple posed for photographs as Kate cradled her newborn son who was bundled up in a blanket and hat.
William told reporters at the scene that he was “very happy” and “delighted” about the birth of his son. “Thrice the worry now,” he added. “We didn’t keep you waiting too long.”
The couple then went home to Kensington Palace with their baby boy. And four days later, they announced that he would be christened Louis Arthur Charles. Louis was the name of his great-great-great-uncle Lord Mountbatten and Charles is the name of William’s father.
Louis is now fifth in line to the throne, with Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince George and Princess Charlotte ahead of him in the order of succession. Prince Louis is the first royal boy to be succeeded by a big sister. And when his elder siblings were born in 2013 and 2015 respectively, they too were introduced while wrapped in similar blankets.
But the white knitted shawls were not chosen at random. In fact, they carry great significance for the royal family. The blankets were all created by the renowned knitwear company G.H. Hurt and Son Ltd.
When Prince George was born, he was bundled up in one of the company’s “traditional hand-finished shawls” which costs £54 (around $72). Princess Charlotte wore their “elegant soft wool baby shawl” that is sold for £74 (approximately $98). And Prince Louis was wrapped in a “Nottingham lace knitted baby shawl” that retails for £69.95 ($93).
However, the tradition of the blankets didn’t start with Kate and William’s children. It actually began with the Queen. The royal family have a relationship with the knitwear manufacturers that dates back nearly 70 years.
G.H. Hurt and Son Ltd gifted Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, with a shawl that they used to introduce Prince Charles in 1948. Then, Prince Charles and Princess Diana continued the practice when they had children of their own. They wrapped Prince William in a blanket created by the company as they stood outside the Lindo Wing following his birth in 1982.
Prince Harry had a similar shawl when he was born two years later. So when William and Kate started their family, they paid homage to his parents and grandparents. As well as welcoming his children in the same hospital that he was born in, he, too, used blankets made by the longstanding knitwear company.
G.H. Hurt and Son Ltd has been around for over 100 years. George Henry Hurt started the firm in 1912 after obtaining a former seed mill in Nottingham, England. The family-run company is still based out of the same building today.
Hurt had previously worked for a hosiery company and was knowledgeable about knitting. So he employed ten handframe knitters who brought their equipment with them to work. Handframe machines were first invented by Rev. William Lee in Nottingham in 1589.
It wasn’t long before Hurt’s son George Leslie Hurt joined him and turned it into a family business. He started working at the company in 1918 at the age of 20 and played a big part in its growth. After his father died in 1934, George Leslie Hurt took over.
Then in 1953, George Leslie Hurt’s son Henry Edward George Hurt MBE left school at the age of 18. He became an apprentice at the knitwear house for a few months and then returned to the business in 1955 after serving two years in the army. His father passed away the following year and G.H. Hurt and Son Ltd was left in his hands.
Although Henry is still alive today, his daughter Gillian Elizabeth Taylor now serves as the company director. Like her father before her, she joined the family business aged 18 after completing her school education in 1983. Taylor has helped modernize the brand while still holding onto tradition.
Vintage handframe machines continue to be used at “The Shawl Factory” to create their pieces, along with modern equipment. One of the biggest clients for the brand has been Jaeger, whom they supplied products to for more than 75 years. But providing knitted items to the royal family is certainly one of the company’s greatest achievements.
After Prince George’s birth in 2013, the blankets became so in-demand that there was an eight-week waiting list; business boomed once again following Princess Charlotte’s debut in 2015. It remains to be seen if the tradition will carry on for future members of the royal family but it’s clear that the company is delighted to be a part of this ritual. In a statement, G.H. Hurt and Son Ltd said, “We feel honored that William and Kate have chosen to use our shawls and in doing so have continued a tradition for the next generation of royals.”