Royal birth traditions that continue to this day
Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge pose for a photo with their newborn baby son as they leave the Lindo wing at St. Mary's Hospital in London, Monday, April 23, 2018. (AP / Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Published Monday, April 23, 2018 1:03PM EDT
In so many areas of their lives, the Royal Family is bound by certain ceremonies and traditions. And though many of these traditions have fallen by the wayside in favour of more modern approaches, when it comes to the birth of a potential royal heir, some things haven’t changed.
Here’s a look at some of the royal birth traditions that have survived the centuries and a few that haven’t.
The child’s gender is never revealed – The Royal Family has never revealed the gender of royal babies-to-be. Until recently, that was simply because there was no way to know, but even since the invention of sonograms, the Royal Family has chosen to keep all due dates and genders private. Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s genders were not revealed until after their births – even if Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge likely knew exactly what to expect.
The Queen is always the first to know – Tradition has long held that the King or Queen must be the first to know that a new royal heir has been born. When Prince George was born, William called his grandmother on a specially encrypted phone to tell her the news first. Only after that call was made did the couple call Kate's parents, William’s father Prince Charles and his brother Prince Harry.
The announcement is displayed at Buckingham Palace Traditionally, the official birth announcement appears in print on an easel placed on the grounds of Buckingham Palace for the public to see. The bulletin shows the baby's sex, weight and time of birth, signed by the medical team. That tradition continues, but when Prince George was born, Kate and William used Twitter to announce the birth first.
The child has many names – Royals usually have one first name and then two to three middle names, typically names that have been used in the family for centuries. Prince Charles and Prince Willam each have four names, while William’s two previous children have three: George Alexander Louis, and Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.
And traditions that are no more...
Giving birth at home – For centuries, royals, like most mothers, gave birth at home. But even after hospital births become the norm, Queen Elizabeth chose to deliver her children at Buckingham Palace, with the assistance of a cadre of doctors and midwives.
Princess Diana was the first to break this tradition when she chose to travel to St. Mary’s Hospital to deliver – the same hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge and William have had all three of their children.
The need for an official witness – Until not very long ago, the Home Secretary – the British cabinet minister responsible for internal affairs – was required to be in the delivery room to witness the birth and to ensure it was “legitimate.” That tradition began in the late 17th century, when rumours began that King James II's son James Stuart was an “imposter” and that the real heir had died during birth. The tradition to have a witness in the room continued until Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were born, but ended soon after.