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40 Royal Pregnancy Traditions The Public Isn’t Supposed To Be Privy To

Written by on September 20, 2022

Now that you’ve married a royal, it’s your job to provide an heir to the throne. Sorry ladies! But on top of carrying a child for nine months, there’s a ton of rules expectant royal mothers must adhere to. All of them are intriguing, some are downright bizarre — and either way, you get a peek behind that velvet curtain the royal family.

No fathers, please

If fathers wanted to be present for their baby’s birth, they were out of luck. Until recent years, it’s been a royal tradition to keep them out of the delivery room. But at least Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, allegedly ignored this rule on multiple occasions. After all, who was going to tell him not to?

Encourage the imagination

In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was commonplace to inundate royal mothers-to-be with pictures of male babies. That’s pretty weird, but it gets stranger. People thought a woman’s imagination shaped not only their baby’s development but also its gender. Because of this, pregnant women also avoided images of animals, which were thought to cause birth abnormalities.

Hide those feet

Everybody’s got feet, but not everyone wants to see them. At least, that’s the royal protocol, and it doesn’t matter if you’re pregnant and have swollen feet. So regardless of whether the future royal mother is bloated, she still has to wear the traditional closed-toed footwear. That’s gotta hurt.

Monarchs first

In the world of nobility, the Queen must know about a new royal baby first — aside from the mother and doctor, of course. In fact, all top-ranking royals are informed prior to the public. So when Prince Archie was born in 2019, the royals issued a statement saying members such as Prince Charles, Prince Phillip, and even Princess Diana’s sisters had “been informed and are delighted with the news.”

Baby shower drought
Do the royal family get baby showers? In a 2018 interview with the Business Insider website, royal historian Marlene A. Koenig explained that they’re “largely something done in North America, not the U.K…. Baby showers are not a U.K. tradition, and have nothing to do with being royal.” Meghan did get one in New York City, but it’s one of the few examples of a royal baby shower.
Labor wombs
Royal mothers-to-be in the Tudor era and Middle Ages were in for a bizarre treat. When their labor started, midwives took them to a chamber designed to replicate the womb in all its glory. That means the attendants kept the noise down, the heat up and blocked out as much light as possible by covering windows with drapes. Apparently, it was thought that the eyes of women who were giving birth were light-sensitive.
Home births
Even when hospitals became more widespread, home births were still the preferred method for royalty. Queen Elizabeth II, for example, went through labor in Buckingham Palace — four times! These days, the expectant mother decides if she gives birth at home. Meghan was allegedly considering a home birth initially, but Archie’s late arrival changed those plans.
Birthing team’s secrecy
According to reports surrounding the deliveries of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, the royal family has a huge medical team. Yet despite the team’s size — it was composed of 23 people — all the members are sworn to secrecy. They had to be available at a moment’s notice for three months before the babies were born, and none of them could say anything publicly about their work.
Strict regime
Though being part of the royal birthing team carries huge prestige, its members’ personal lives are somewhat limited. Dr. Johanna Bray, anesthesiologist to Princess Kate, told People as much in 2016. “You never know when you need to be called,” she revealed. “You need to be in town and available. If you are at a party you need to have your car keys at the ready. No drinking!”
Air travel limitations
Air travel and pregnancy don’t mix, especially towards the baby’s due date. This is particularly true for royals, who generally don’t use planes at all during pregnancy. Modern Meghan was an exception to this rule, though. She toured several nations on official duties while carrying Archie, including Fiji and New Zealand.
Instead of choosing one or two couples as godparents, royals take this up a notch and select five or more people for their safety net. In 2015 the Evening Standard’s royal correspondent, Robert Jobson, informed ABC News, “There’s a feeling that because of their role as members of the royal family that they need as many confidants as they can get apart from their parents.”
No nicknames
Royals are free to call each other shorthand or affectionate names behind closed doors, but it’s all business in public. Ever wonder why Prince William always calls Duchess Kate “Catherine” or why Prince Harry doesn’t call his wife “Meg”? That’s why. They only use formalities in front of others.
Naming traditions
High-ranking royals don’t need baby-name books, because their options are limited to traditional choices. The author of Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of Royal Parenting, professor of history Carolyn Harris, told Vogue in 2018, “The further down the line of succession, the more likely you are to have a more unique or untraditional name.”
Push presents
Dads giving their baby mommas gifts isn’t a new concept — it goes way back. It was originally a way for prosperous royals to show their appreciation for extending the royal bloodline. Elizabeth Woodville got a jewel-encrusted trinket for giving birth to Edward IV’s daughter, for example. And Marie-Louise — Napoleon’s second wife — received diamond jewelry for providing him with an heir.
Health transparency
When a royal announces her pregnancy, it’s protocol to be completely honest with the public regarding her general health. Any hitches are announced on the official royal website, the most recent example being the Duchess of Cambridge. She had hyperemesis gravidarum — a kind of severe morning sickness — every time, and used press releases to make sure everyone was informed.
Birth announcements
When a royal baby arrives, the birth’s announced in several ways. First, a framed certificate is traditionally displayed outside Buckingham Palace. For the more tech-savvy, a statement’s also launched across social media, as with Princess Eugenie’s son in 2021. Lastly, a town crier calls the news out from the hospital entrance. This particular custom’s been around since the Middle Ages, but the royals still practice it today.
Maternity leave
Even though it isn’t a job per se, the crown still gives expectant mothers exemption from their royal duties. The period differs from person to person. For example, Princess Diana had just a month off after Prince William was born, whereas the Duchess of Cambridge had five months to recover. Kate still attended some big public ceremonies, though. That’s dedication!
Hands-on fathers
As with new mothers, royal fathers also get an equivalent to paternity leave. Sort of. The recent tradition originates with Prince William, who was serving in the Royal Air Force during the births of his children. When they were born, HRH Wills took an unpaid break from his duties to spend time with the family.
Female descendants and titles
The royal family guards its titles closely, and there’s still an old rule about them from 1917 that’s still active today. The Letters Patent in question states that only royal grandchildren on the male side are given automatic titles. This is seen as a bit antiquated now, and many royals outside this bracket receive titles anyway.
Official OB-GYN
Yes, you heard right — the royal family has its own OB-GYN. They’re responsible for tending to all the royal family, so no pressure or anything. Marcus Setchell used to fill the role, and he even stayed past his retirement date to attend Prince George’s birth. Now the job belongs to Alan Farthing.
Birthday passport
Babies don’t travel much, but the royal family’s different. Their parents are expected to attend important events all over the globe. So it stands to reason babies of The Crown need to be ready to travel as early as possible. This means that they get passports alongside their birth certificates, and Prince George was traveling as royalty well before his first birthday.
Birth caudle
In 2014 Diane Morris of Moorgate Books described caudle as “a warm drink made by mixing a thin gruel of oatmeal with wine or ale, spices, and sugar.” Royal mothers in the Regency era drank it to heal themselves after giving birth, Back then, pregnancy was considered more social than it is today — mothers even gave the drink to loved ones as a celebration.
Grandparents’ involvement
Until recent years, the royal family had excluded non-royal grandparents from the lives of royal babies. They were left out entirely. But these days, The Crown’s slowly embracing the modern world — and grandparents — by involving them more. The development came at a great time for Archie, who’s shared special occasions with his grandmother, Doria Ragland.
Gun salutes
When a royal baby’s born, gun salutes celebrate the occasion. And the number of shots is very particular. A regular salute is 21 shots, but the Tower of London fires an additional 21 as a royal building and another 20 for being in the nation’s capital. The home of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, London’s Green Park, also fires an extra 41. Thankfully, though, the rounds aren’t live.
Dresses only
You’ve probably heard how male royal children are restricted to wearing shorts. But did you know that from the 16th century it was protocol for royal infants of any gender to be clothed in dresses? After a few years, the kids would then start to wear more traditional gender-specific clothes. This was the case even during Prince Charles’ childhood, though it isn’t current practice with modern royals.
Advanced announcement
Royal mothers-to-be typically reveal their pregnancy when they’re 12 weeks in, but this isn’t always the case. If a health issue affects their schedule, they may reveal the news a bit earlier. This happened in 2017 when the Duchess of Cambridge was carrying Prince Louis. Exact due dates are left vague as well — for instance, Meghan’s date for Archie was simply announced as springtime 2019.
Baby gifts
Although royals don’t have baby showers, there is an equivalent. Their babies get gifts from all over the world instead, and not just from the general public. World leaders traditionally send presents, too, so altogether they can number in the hundreds. Prince George got a whopping 610 gifts just from fans in 2013.
Holy girdles
Holy girdles are among the strangest of birthing artifacts, and they weren’t just owned by the nobility. Pregnant women used girdles blessed with religious tokens and prayers for successful and safe childbirths. Royals had the rarest of them, though. Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, wore a girdle said to have been blessed by the Virgin Mary herself.
Royal anesthesia
Despite having so many babies, Queen Victoria famously disliked childbirth. She got through some of the deliveries with the help of ether, which she described as “soothing, quieting and delightful beyond measure.” It acted as an anesthetic, and since the queen used it many mothers requested similar aids. So she basically popularized the tradition of childbirth anesthetic.
Boy’s club no more
It’s no secret that most kings preferred male heirs, but the world’s changing — and so are royal traditions. In 2013 the throne instituted a new decree called The Succession to The Crown Act. It changed the law and grants succession to the oldest child, regardless of gender. Preference is no longer given to a male heir. And about time, too!
Birthing witness

It’s only in recent generations that new royal mothers got some privacy. Up until 1948 there was always at least one other person aside from the birthing team present — the U.K.’s home secretary. Bizarrely, witnessing royal births was one of their official duties, but Queen Elizabeth II changed that for Prince Charles’ arrival.

Naming conventions
Outside the royal family, it’s unusual for babies to have more than one middle name. But for kids born under The Crown it’s tradition to choose at least two or three, which are first referred to the Queen. In 2021 Kate Williams, a royal commentator, told the MyLondon website that the topic of names is “an informal conversation.” If the Queen doesn’t approve, royal parents will seriously reconsider their choices.
Cleavage is forbidden
The Crown is a cleavage-free zone, hence Diana’s clever use of clutch bags to conceal the area. This becomes more of a problem for pregnant royals, for obvious reasons. Instead, they adopt a more self-conscious approach to outfits designed to cover their chests. You’ll see a lot of ensembles incorporating heavier coats and subtler necklines on pregnant royals for just that reason.
Mother’s “cleansing”
As if giving birth in Tudor times wasn’t enough, royal mothers were considered dirty afterwards and so needed to be “cleansed.” This meant that for several weeks, they were given bed-rest away from their baby, and plenty of prayer time. Interestingly, the recovery period was longer if the infant was a boy, after which mom could return to royal duties as usual.
Public births
Sure, the general public love a royal baby now, but it was worse a few centuries ago. The birth itself was more of a spectacle, and queens regularly had to go into labor in front of a big crowd. It was so vital to continue the bloodline that people thought the act had to be observed. As a result, other nobles crowded inside the labor room to stand witness.
No surname
Surnames aren’t given to royal babies like they are to us commoners. Technically, they don’t have one, because everyone knows who they are. Instead, they use their first name, title or, at a pinch, their house. This is the case with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who use the name Cambridge at school.
Baptizing babies
Have you ever noticed how all royal babies get baptized? Well, since the Queen is the Church of England’s leader, it makes sense. This basically means that any royal baby of the House of Windsor has to get christened. There’s also a baptism gown set aside for just such an occasion.
The tradition of breastfeeding newborn royals has actually changed over the years. Queen Victoria, reluctant mother that she was, chose against it and referred to it as a “repellent act.” More recent royals, on the other hand, are all for it. Ultimately, the only protocol seems to be that there is none and it’s up to the discretion of the mommy.
Royal nannies
Being a royal is more work than you might think, and like any of us they can’t do everything themselves. That’s where the royal nannies come in, though they tend to stay out of the limelight. But they’re still a big part of the children’s lives, enough that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex named Archie’s nanny Tiggy Pettifer as one of his godparents.
No witchcraft
Modern life may be stressful, but at least you don’t generally have to worry about organ theft. Back in Tudor times, though, midwives had to swear they wouldn’t steal either the umbilical cord or placenta after birth. What would they do with these squishy souvenirs, you ask? Sell them? Oh no, the royal family were concerned they’d get used for witchcraft, of course. Luckily for Queen Elizabeth II, rules about witchcraft were far gone by the time she became a mother. But what’s more intriguing than the nonsensical rules she has to follow are the truly bizarre things she owns.

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