Royal baby: 8 of the most unusual traditions as Meghan Markle set to give birth

Katie O'Malley
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Royal baby: 8 of the most unusual traditions as Meghan Markle set to give birth

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expected to announce the arrival of their royal baby any day now.

In October 2018, Kensington Palace announced Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were expecting their first child, due in spring 2019.

Following the birth of a child, common practice may dictate new parents to post the first picture of their child on social media or start perfecting the art of fitting a baby seat in the car.

But when it comes to the royal family, they have more unusual post-birth traditions.

From announcing the birth via an easel outside Buckingham Palace to royal babies wearing the same christening gown, here’s a list of the most bizarre royal birth traditions.

The baby will be delivered by a royal gynaecologist

As per tradition, a royal child is delivered with the assistance of at least one royal doctor.

The current royal surgeon-gynaecologist is Alan Farthing, while the royals’ consultant obstetrician is Guy Thorpe-Beeston.

Both medical professionals helped deliver the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s three children, Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Royal gynaecologists Marcus Setchell (C) and Alan Farthing leave the Lindo Wing following the birth of the son of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at St Mary's Hospital on July 22, 2013 in London, England (Getty Images)

Sir Marcus Setchell, who was Queen Elizabeth II's surgeon-gynaecologist and who delivered Prince George, has since retired.

In his only interview about Prince George’s birth, Sir Marcus described the midwifery team as “perfectly wonderful”.

During an interview on Woman's Hour' BBC Radio 4, the gynaecologist added: "You just keep reminding yourself that although it's very important, for the couple and the about-to-be-born baby, it's just another healthy young couple giving birth to a hopefully very healthy baby.

"And I constantly reminded myself of that so that the pressures of the hundreds of media people outside the hospital didn't affect me, at least not more than minimally."

The parents don’t have custody of their children

A law enacted more than three centuries ago means that the Queen has full legal custody of any child born into the royal family.

The law, called “The Grand Opinion for the Prerogative Concerning the Royal Family,” was introduced by King George I in 1717.

“George I did not get along with his son, the future George II,” explains royal expert Marlene Koenig previously to The Independent.

Members of the Royal Family attend the 2018 Trooping the Colour (Getty Images)

“I believe it came about when the Prince of Wales [George II] did not want to have the godparent for his son that his father wanted - so George I got Parliament to come up with something.”

An annual register published in 1772 states that the then King had the care of the royal children and grandchildren, and the presumptive heir to the crown.

However, while law dictates that the Queen legally has custody of her grandchildren, Koenig doesn’t think she would ever act upon the right.

“I would doubt that the Queen would interfere. [It’s] more of a formality,” she says.

“I think the Queen has let her children raise their kids.”

The birth announcement is displayed on an easel

A royal birth is traditionally announced via a bulletin placed on an easel in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

The framed typewritten bulletin, which is commonly brought out of the Privy Purse door after it is driven to the palace by car from the birth, is signed by the medical team which attends the royal birth.

Senior footman Olivia Smith (L) and footman Heather McDonald place a notice on an easel in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace in London to formally announce the birth of a baby boy to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital on April 23, 2018 in London, England (Getty Images)

It includes details as to the baby’s gender, time of birth, as well as a status confirming the health of the mother and child.

Following royal births at the Lindo Wing in recent decades, it has also become tradition for the new parents to present their child on the steps of the hospital ward’s entrance.

The baby is wrapped in a G.H. Hurt & Sons blanket

For their first appearance to the world, royal children are traditionally wrapped in a blanket made by Nottingham-based knitwear company G.H. Hurt & Sons.

Prince Charles was the first royal to be bundled in a blanket by the company following his birth back in 1948.

Prince George and the Duchess of Cambridge on the steps of the Lindo Wing, St Mary's Hospital (Getty Images)

In 2013, Prince George was wrapped in one of the company’s ivory white merino wool shawl and Princess Charlotte was bundled in a scalloped edge wrap in 2015.

Prince Louis, meanwhile, was wrapped in the company’s ‘Nottingham Lace Knitted Baby Shawl’ following his birth.

The name isn’t announced for days

Following an appearance outside the Lindo Wing, it has become common practice among the royal family not to release the child’s name for several days.

After Prince George and Princess Charlotte were born, the public waited two days before learning their respective names.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Register The Birth of Their Son Prince George of Cambridge In London (Getty Images)

However, it was another three days before Prince Louis’ name was announced on 27 April to the world.

The child will wear a special christening gown

It is customary for the royals to pass down a christening robe for the newest member of the family to wear at their christening.

For George, Charlotte and Louis’ christenings, the trio each wore a replica of an original robe made in 1841 for Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa.

The original gown was made from white silk with a handmade lace overlay and was worn by 62 royal babies over the course of its 163 years of royal service. It was hand-washed with spring water after each christening ceremony and stored in a dark room until its next use.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, carries Princess Charlotte of Cambridge as they arrive at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham Estate for the Christening of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge on July 5, 2015 (Getty Images)

George VI and the Queen wore the white lace dress, as did Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry. The last royal to wear the original gown was Lady Louise Windsor, Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex's daughter, in 2004.

Prince George became the fourth royal child to be christening in the gown, which was reportedly replicated with the help of the Queen’s personal wardrobe advisor, Angela Kelly, in 2011

Zara Tindall’s second daughter, Lena, was the most recent royal to wear the gown at her St Nicholas Church in Cherington, Gloucestershire earlier this month.

Gun salutes follow the birth announcement

It is customary for a birth announcement to be followed by a royal gun salute.

Following Princess Charlotte’s birth, volleys were fired by soldiers in Hyde Park and the Tower of London to honour her arrival at 08:34 BST on 2 May.

At 14:00 BST, soldiers from The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery rode out in a procession from Wellington Barracks, near Buckingham Palace, to fire 41 shots.

The Honourable Artillery Company fire a 62 round Royal Gun Salute outside the Tower of London to celebrate the birth of the royal baby on July 23, 2013 in London, England (Getty Images)

The Honourable Artillery Company also fired a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.

Royal babies don’t automatically receive royal titles

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's child will not receive a royal title upon birth, unless granted by the Queen.

A Letters Patent passed by King George V in 1917 reads:

"...the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms.”

To put it simply, this means that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s children, should they have any while the Queen is on the throne, will not be HRHs or princes or princesses, but will be known instead as Lord or Lady (forename) Mountbatten-Windsor.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (L) and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, watch a musical performance at Canada House, the offices of the High Commision of Canada in the United Kingdom, during an event to mark Commonwealth Day, in central London, on March 11, 2019. (Getty Images)

However, the Queen could issue a new Letters Patent to change this, as she did for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s children.

In December 2012, the Queen issued a Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm declaring “all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of royal highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour”.

This explains why Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all have HRH titles.