When it comes to setting out a birth plan, parents are faced with a never-ending list of choices. Do they give birth at home or in a hospital? Do they use a midwife or an OB-GYN? Is it worth the money to hire a doula? Should they consider a water birth or is that out of the question? Trying to decide the answers to all these questions can be extremely overwhelming, but would it actually make it any easier if these choices were made for the parents?
That’s what royals like Kate Middleton and, eventually, Meghan Markle have to deal with. The royal family has a centuries-long history, much of which is steeped in tradition that current royals are expected to follow. And pregnancy, birth and raising kids is no different.
There are rules on where a royal is allowed to give birth. There are rules on who should be present during the birth. There are rules about who to tell about the birth and how. There are even rules about how many kids can be born into royal families. Thankfully, times are changing and the Royals recognize this. Some of these traditions have been changing recently to reflect the trends of the times.
But that didn’t stop Kate Middleton from ignoring certain traditions. Rules are meant to be broken after all. Read on to learn about 15 birth plan and pregnancy rules that all royals must follow, 6 of which Kate Middleton has broken.
15 The Gender Is Kept Hush-Hush
Will they find out the gender of the baby or not? That’s a question that a lot of new parents are faced with, and if they are finding out the gender before birth, it would be hard to keep it from their nearest and dearest. But when you’re a royal, you’re expected to be extremely tight-lipped.
Under no circumstances is a royal baby’s gender to be revealed to the public before the birth. A tradition that continues to this day, many royals don’t even find out the gender themselves, making it much easier to keep the secret from the public. Princess Diana knew that she was expecting boys when she was pregnant with William and again with Harry. But she was able to keep the secret under wraps.
Kate made a royal faux pas when she dropped a pretty major hint that she was expecting a girl while pregnant with daughter Princess Charlotte. When given a teddy bear by a local woman, Kate said, “Thank you, I’ll take that for my d--” before promptly cutting herself off. There were rumours that she would be at the mercy of the Queen and may face punishment for the slip-up, but in reality, it probably wasn’t that big of an issue for the royal family.
14 At-Home Births Are Tradition
There are many things to consider when deciding where to give birth. Some moms may feel more comfortable in a hospital, while others may choose a birthing centre. Some pregnant women are required to give birth in a hospital based on their risk factors while others can opt to have their babies at home.
For centuries, royal births had to happen at home with doctors and midwives on hand to help. Queen Elizabeth’s sons Charles, Andrew, and Edward were all born at Buckingham Palace, and her daughter Princess Anne was born at the Clarence House.
This tradition morphed when Princess Diana gave birth to both her sons in the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital. Kate Middleton followed suit with the births of Prince George and Princess Charlotte. And just like that, a new tradition was born. Or was it?
There are rumours that Kate might have a home birth for baby #3. Her first two labours were trouble-free and the Duchess made enquiries about home birth during her second pregnancy. Only time will tell what Kate decides.
13 From Easel To Twitter: The Evolution Of The Announcement
Nowadays, most new parents wouldn’t think twice about hopping on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to share the news that their bundle of joy has finally arrived. Fifteen or twenty years ago, the idea of sharing that news with the entire world wide web would have been seen as completely nuts. Parents would have submitted a birth announcement to their local newspaper and spread the news by word of mouth.
Traditionally, a royal birth announcement is displayed on an easel in front of Buckingham Palace. This tradition was followed up until the birth of Prince George in 2013 when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge opted to announce the birth in a more modern way. They sent an email and announced the birth on Twitter before the easel was displayed at Buckingham Palace.
12 Royal Nannies Are Trained Ninjas (Kind Of)
For most people, having a live-in nanny (let alone 3 or 4) is an unattainable dream. But for the royal family, they not only have multiple nannies, they have the best-trained nannies in the world.
They are specially trained well beyond what most would expect of a nanny. They are looking after young royals, after all. They live their lives under a microscope and are required to treat the children incredibly well. In the past, royal nannies have been let go from their positions for things as simple as serving the wrong pudding to more important issues like not paying attention to possible safety concerns.
But how, you might ask, do they qualify as ninjas? Well, they are in fact trained in martial arts, taekwondo and even defensive driving. All in the name of the young royals’ safety.
11 What’s In A (Last) Name?
There is a lot that goes into naming a baby, even when you don’t have hundreds of years of nobility to live up to. Parents spend hours and hours pouring over baby name books and trolling the internet for the most poignant name meanings out there. But it’s a whole different experience when you’re a royal.
First of all, every royal baby will have about 3 to 4 first names and these names will be carefully selected from names of former monarchs and relatives. While we know him as Prince George, his full name is George Alexander Lewis. And Princess Charlotte’s full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.
And people are already setting bets on what #3 will be named. The top choices? Alice if it’s a girl and Arthur if it’s a boy.
Most interestingly, royal babies are not given last names and are just known by the country they rule. So if they are like Prince George and need to have a surname to attend public school, they would go by their title. Prince George is known as George Cambridge by his classmates.
10 Breast Is Best
As every new mom is told, breast is best. But choosing to breastfeed is yet another choice that new moms have to make for themselves. There are often a lot of other circumstances that come into play—not every mom is able to breastfeed for a myriad of reasons. And while in reality fed is best, there are some benefits to breastfeeding. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can lead to higher IQs and can help protect babies against illness.
For royals, the tradition has basically followed the times. Before Queen Elizabeth was born, breastfeeding was looked down on by the general public. It was a sign of the times and it was seen as something that a royal mother should never do. Queen Elizabeth was the first royal baby to be breastfed when she was born in 1926. That started the new royal family tradition.
Now all new royal mothers are expected to breastfeed, just like Queen Elizabeth and her mother before them.
9 There Is a Royal OB-GYN
Finding an OB-GYN is one of the first things parents-to-be are tasked with. They look for someone that they connect with, who is located close to their home and who has the experience they need to deliver their baby. Luckily for royals, this is one decision that is taken off their plates completely, as there is a designated royal OB-GYN who performs the royal births.
Sir Marcus Setchell actually postponed his retirement to be on hand for the delivery of Kate and William’s firstborn, Prince George. At the time he was the Queen’s obstetrician-gynaecologist.
When Princess Charlotte was born, Setchell had retired. But two doctors who were on hand at the birth of Prince George stepped in to lead a team of four who helped deliver the Princess. Alan Farthing, the Queen's surgeon-gynaecologist, and Guy Thorpe-Beeston, an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies and surgeon-gynaecologist to the royal household, lead the team. Odds are this is the team that will help bring baby #3 into the world, but this has yet to be confirmed.
8 No Dads In The Delivery Room
For a lot of moms-to-be, having their partner by their side is a great comfort. Someone who can feed them ice chips, help them with their breathing and lend a hand to be squeezed when needed. It’s an important factor for many pregnant women to have their partner in the trenches with them as they go through childbirth. But historically, this has not been the case for royal moms-to-be.
Fathers were not allowed in the delivery room. A birth was seen as an all-female event for centuries and the men were expected to wait outside the delivery room. This was the case until the birth of Prince Charles in 1948. Queen Elizabeth’s husband Philip was present for the birth of his son.
Both Princess Diana and Kate Middleton followed suit. Prince Charles was there for the birth of both his sons and Prince William has been present for the birth of both Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
7 Call The Midwife! And The OB! And The Nurse!
There are many different healthcare providers that can help a mom during labour—from doulas and midwives to OB-GYNs and nurses. There are a lot of choices to make unless you are a part of the royal family.
If you’re a royal, you basically get it all. It’s said that Kate Middleton’s team for the birth of Prince George included 20 different healthcare professionals: two obstetricians, three midwives, three anesthesiologists, four surgical staff members, two special care staffers, four pediatricians, one lab technician for blood tests, and three or four managers.
Interestingly, everyone on the team is sworn to secrecy. They also had to stop drinking more a few months before the expected due date and be on call for three months prior to baby’s expected arrival.
6 Royals Need A Witness In The Delivery Room
The idea that someone would need to prove that they are indeed giving birth seems a bit crazy for the general public. Moms carry the baby for 9 months, there really wouldn’t be a question as to whether they were indeed giving birth. But when you’re a royal, what most consider normal doesn’t always apply.
The birth of Queen Elizabeth in 1926 was the last birth that followed the centuries-old tradition which required a witness to be present in the delivery room. When the Queen was born, the home secretary was in the delivery room to stand as a witness to confirm that, yes, a royal birth had actually taken place. The tradition ended before the birth of Prince Charles in 1948, meaning that Kate Middleton will not be required to have a witness in the delivery room.
5 What Happens To George & Charlotte During The Birth?
If parents are expecting baby #2 (or #3, or #4) there is the question of who will take care of the kids while the newest baby arrives. Are grandparents close enough to take the kids for a night or two? Or will aunts and uncles need to be enlisted to ensure mom and dad can head to the hospital?
While this may or may not be a tradition per se, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have laid out their plans for getting Prince George and Princess Charlotte into good hands before they head over to St. Mary’s Hospital.
Kate’s mom will look after Prince George and Princess Charlotte. She will come to them and then the couple will only have a short mile and a half drive to get to the hospital.
4 The Queen Is Top Priority
Most new parents have a list of people who should know about the arrival of their baby right away. Check any pregnancy prep book on the shelves and you’re sure to find advice to bring a list of names and numbers of everyone you want to be notified of the birth to the hospital. Topping the list would most likely be the new grandparents, aunts and uncles, among other people near and dear to your heart.
But if you’re a royal, the first and most important name on that list better be the Queen. Queen Elizabeth must be the first person notified of the birth of a royal. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as the Royals are expected to run a lot of their major decisions past the Queen. Planning to get married? Better ask the Queen for permission first!
The protocol states that the royal family member who is the parent of the newborn must call the Queen immediately on a specially encrypted phone. Prince William did this for the births of both Prince George and Princess Charlotte and he will surely do so for the expected baby.
3 Christening Is Family Time
While it may not be something that all parents consider, it’s pretty typical for christenings to be a family only event. It’s a time to celebrate the latest addition to the family and usually, strangers aren’t asked to come along.
The same was true for the royal family. Royal babies are traditionally christened a few days to weeks after birth. And the christening is performed by the official head of the Church of England. The christening was always seen as a private event to only be attended by family and friends of the family.
In another break from tradition, at Princess Charlotte’s christening, there was a viewing area for spectators where people were able to take selfies. Thousands of people came to celebrate the birth of the newest royal family member.
2 Cloth Diapers Are King
To use cloth diapers or to use disposable diapers is a question all new parents have to ask themselves. There are pros and cons to both options that parents have to weigh carefully for themselves before making the choice. If you’re a royal, you won’t have to write up a carefully crafted list of pros and cons.
Traditionally, royals are expected to use cloth diapers. This unofficial rule was broken by the one and only Princess Diana when Prince William and Prince Harry were born. She famously said, “I'd be pretty sure the baby will have disposable diapers rather than the cloth ones. I think it will be ordinary nappies, the ones that most people's babies use. That's a sign of the changing times. I think the royal family will, like any family, adapt with the times.”
And while that may have been a sign of the times in the early 1980s, the times have once again changed. More and more people are turning back to cloth diapers for environmental reasons, and Kate Middleton is with them. There are even rumours that with baby #3, Kate plans to try out biodegradable cloth diapers.
1 Royal Families Of Four
On average, most families in the United States are made up of 2 parents and 2 kids. This is the perfect number of babies in the eyes of the royal family. Traditionally, there would only be two babies per royal family. For the past 58 years, all royal family members have had no more than 2 children.
The 2 children are known as “the heir and the spare”. While the nickname is a bit of a joke, it is a reference to the fact that the second born child would inherit the throne if the firstborn does not.
Queen Elizabeth herself was the first to break this tradition when she had four children. And the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be the first of the Queen’s immediate family to have more than 2 children.
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