Forget about the children of Hollywood celebrities. No child’s birth is as extravagant, or as compelling, as one that takes place in the Royal Family. The arrival of a new baby is steeped in traditions, even some unusual ones that have been practiced for centuries. (Some other traditions have been broken in recent decades. But we’ll get to that in a second.) Here’s a look at royal baby traditions you may not have known existed.
A due date isn’t normally announced
It seems like the first question to ask an expecting mother is when she’s due, right? This isn’t the case for the Royal Family. Pregnancy isn’t even announced until the mother is around 12 weeks along! However, an exception was made for Kate Middleton this past year, when severe morning sickness from her third pregnancy kept her from attending a charity event.
Next: And if you thought keeping the due date a secret was odd …
The gender of the baby isn’t announced either
For such a high profile birth, a lot about the new babies in the Royal Family is kept a secret from the public. Much like how the due date is kept a bit of a mystery, the gender of the baby isn’t usually revealed to the public. Heck, there are rumors that the royal parents don’t even know the gender sometimes! This is a tradition that even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a thoroughly modern couple, have not broken.
Next: While we’re talking about traditions being broken …
Princess Diana was the first to buck many long-standing traditions
It’s well known that the People’s Princess broke away from royal traditions when she was married to Prince Charles. That extended to how she gave birth to and raised her sons, Princes William and Harry. Diana was the first royal to use disposable diapers for her kids instead of traditional cloth diapers, and her boys were the first young royals to attend public school and not be home-schooled.
Next: She changed the way royals bear children.
Diana broke two traditions that took place right at birth
Even the way Princes William and Harry were born was different. Home birth was a Royal Family tradition, which Princess Diana broke when she had her two sons in a private wing at St. Mary’s Hospital. (Duchess Catherine followed this “new tradition” when she gave birth to Prince George and Princess Charlotte.) The birth of Prince William was also the first time a royal father was present in the delivery room — before Prince Charles’ presence, the delivery room had to be all-female.
Next: Can they get a witness?
There needed to be a witness present …
As previously mentioned, there were some strict rules about who could and could not be present when a royal baby was born. One of the most bizarre traditions was having home secretaries present to “verify” the birth of the royal baby. This odd tradition was thrown out the window in 1948, however, before Queen Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Charles.
Next: And if you’re allowed in the room …
The role of the midwives
It’s a tradition for there to be midwives at the birth of a royal baby. Kate Middleton reportedly had three present for the birth of Princess Charlotte, and had to have a large hand-picked team around her so that the rest of the hospital could function without a hitch. The Duchess reportedly had a very detailed birthing plan as well, in which she was seen by the midwives first, while the male obstetricians waited in a nearby room. The hospital team also has to be ready for the birth nearly a month ahead of schedule, and has to follow strict rules to be on the hand-picked team.
Next: First to the Queen.
The Queen has to know about the birth first
The official birth announcement for a new royal has to follow a certain chain before it can be announced to the public. For starters, a messenger travels with the announcement of the baby’s gender and birth weight written on it. The Queen has to be the first one to know when the baby is born, before a public announcement is made.
Next: This tradition has, mostly, stayed intact.
The easel and the salute
One tradition that has stood the test of time is placing the royal birth announcement in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace for the public to see. The announcement continues to be placed on a classic easel — although the letter is typed out, as opposed to being handwritten as it was for many years. There is also a 62-gun salute from the Tower of London that tells the masses that the baby has been born. And, in accordance with modern times, the outdoor announcement is followed by an email and social media announcement from the palace.
Next: And you thought Black Friday lines were bad.
Crowds wait outside the hospital
Consider this a “new tradition” that the rest of the world has made up. Even with a fancy public announcement, media and admirers alike wait outside the hospital to get a first glimpse of the royals after a new baby is born. The fanfare ahead of the birth of Prince George was so intense, there were even people camped outside of St. Mary’s Hospital in tents.
Next: The name game
So many names
One rich tradition that continues is giving the royal baby three or four names, usually paying homage to a relative or past royal. For example, Prince William’s full name is William Arthur Philip Louis. Sidenote: Arthur is a projected name for William and Kate’s third child.
Next: But that doesn’t mean we’ll know the baby’s name once he or she is born.
The names aren’t always announced right away
Even with how intricate naming a royal baby is, the family can take all the time they want in announcing it. When Prince William was born, it was a week before anyone outside of the royal family knew his full name. (This is one of the few traditions that Princess Diana appears to have followed.) William’s father, Prince Charles, is in a similar boat, as his name was reportedly not announced until a month after he was born.
Next: And all that was just about first names!
They may be small, but the new royals have big titles just like their parents. So the Duke and Duchess’s children are His Royal Highness Prince George and Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte. Oddly enough, the tradition continues that the royals don’t have surnames. If they must have a surname, they are referred to by the name of their house. For Prince George, he will be attending school under the name George Cambridge — a nod to his father, who is the Duke of Cambridge. (And his peers will not have to refer to him by his royal title.)
Next: This tradition requires a gown.
The traditional christening is something that the Royal Family continues to this day. Everything from the location to the christening gown to the family photo remains part of welcoming the new baby into the world.
Next: Oh, there’s also the presents.
There are many, many gifts
And we aren’t just talking about knick-knacks from admirers across the country. Wealthy foreign leaders continue the tradition of sending lavish gifts after the birth of a new royal. Presents range from cradles and boxes of baby supplies, to things made out of white gold.
Next: The most intense babysitting job ever?
With a new baby also comes the need for help from a nanny. And boy, does it take a lot to watch after a royal! The royal nanny, like George and Charlotte’s nanny Maria Borrallo, can’t just be good at folding laundry. Taekwondo and defensive driving skills are heavy requirements that have to be met before someone can watch after a royal child.
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