Via Buckingham Palace the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Thursday announced (just for the record: no announcement about where and how):
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very grateful for the goodwill they have received from people throughout the United Kingdom and around the world as they prepare to welcome their baby. Their Royal Highnesses have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private. The Duke and Duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family.
A snub, break with tradition? Nothing like that. Having followed royal houses for quite some time, I have seen it is done differently everywhere. Traditions are there to be changed. And I think it is Harry and Meghan’s good right to say: no we don’t want to appear on the hospital steps and pose for the media there.
Until 1970 the British princesses and duchesses – and also most royals in other countries – gave birth at home. It was the Duchess of Kent, who in 1970 set an example for the future British royals. She gave birth to her third child at a London hospital and posed for the media with little Lord Nicholas when leaving. Since, as far as I know, all British royal babies were born at hospital. For some time it was quite common among the British royals to pose with the newborn baby outside the hospital, all grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II were presented that way. The lesser known royals, even the children of Princess Anne, since have decided not to pose and often haven’t even released a few official photos when home.
Only the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have in recent years decided to follow the example of the previous generation. I am not quite sure how it was in the old pre-internet days, but I find nowadays it is a bit of a circus. Fans and media camping on the street in front of the door of the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital in London, waiting for the news that the royal has given birth, and then waiting until mother and baby leave the hospital. Of course Prince William is the future king, and I think most people have very much appreciated that they took the effort. But honestly it must be hard to go outside with your baby, have to look great and even pose for the cameras.
So how is it done in other monarchies? I tried to figure it out. Posing outside the hospital isn’t that bad, if you see that sometimes the first pictures were even taken when the mother was still in her hospital bed.
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde had the first pictures of them with their four children taken at hospital days after they were born. The name and godparents were announced quickly after birth, not leaving much space for speculation. King Philippe spoke with the media soon after his children were born. When leaving the hospital, the parents with their newborn baby posed for pictures.
Princess Astrid presented her four eldest children still lying in a hospital bed. Years later when her youngest daughter was born, she posed with her husband and children at the hospital, but seated in a chair. Her mother Queen Paola had given birth at the castle and the first pictures were taken while she was still lying in bed. The children at the time were christened so quickly after birth, that the mother wasn’t even present. Astrid eldest son Prince Amedeo and his wife Elisabetta Maria followed the more modern tradition of showing their baby when leaving the hospital.
Prince Laurent and Princess Claire proudly presented their daughter outside the hospital a few days after her birth. Their twin sons were however born weeks early and had to stay in the incubator for a month. As the babies were still pretty fragile, no photo session was planned. It took half a year before a short video was shown on tv, and to protect the children Laurent offered the photos of his twin sons for sale to magazines and newspapers via a photo agency, without letting the royal palace know. He had to be asked to withdraw the photos.
The Danish princesses used to give birth at home. Queen Margrethe II wanted that too in 1968, but the difficult birth of her first son forced her to go to hospital. The children of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, as well as the children of Prince Joachim by both his wifes were born in hospital and photographed upon leaving the place of birth, usually without the siblings being present. Official photos only came later on. And the name? They have this wonderful tradition that the name is only announced at the christening, so you might have to wait a few months.
The first pictures of the children of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa and Grand Duke Henri – at least of Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Prince Felix – were taken when still in the hospital bed. Photos also were taken when they left hospital, while other photos were released afterwards. The same seems to have happened when the other three children were born, although I am not 100% sure.
There were no official photos just after the birth of the two children of Prince Louis of Luxembourg and his wife Tessy. On the other hand, Prince Félix and his wife Claire posed with their eldest child outside the hospital, while not a single picture was released after the birth of their second child.
While I remember having seen pictures of Princess Caroline of Monaco leaving and posing at hospital, I don’t think Princess Stéphanie did that. I spotted a photo of Louis Ducruet pretty soon after birth, but am not sure about Stéphanie’s other two children. Princess Charlène gave birth a bit premature, and there are no photos of her twins from that time. Almost a month after birth the twins were officially presented from the balcony of the princely palace.
While Crown Prince Haakon held a press conference after the birth of his daughter, his wife quietly left hospital. The name was announced a day later in an extraordinary state council at the royal palace. Also the first pictures were published on that day. Almost two weeks later they invited the media for a photo session. More or less the same happened when the son of the crown princely couple was born, although the photo session coincided with the one of Christmas.
Like when she was born herself, Haakon’s sister Märtha Louise presented her first baby outside the hospital a few days after giving birth. She did it totally different with her other two daughters, giving birth at home. A photo was released afterwards. There were a few official photos after the births of the two first daughters too. I can’t find photos of Queen Sonja however leaving hospital with baby Haakon, while like with Märtha Louise there were some pictures of the family soon after birth.
Like his father Prince Claus did, King Willem-Alexander first released pictures he had taken himself and then presented his daughters at hospital hours after their birth, and answered a few media questions. There were however no official pictures of the family leaving hospital. The name of the baby was released upon registration at the town hall, although in the case of the eldest daughter the name was leaked because a website address with her name had been registered. A few weeks later official pictures were released.
The other royals released official pics after the birth, but didn’t pose in or outside the hospital.
Although in Spain the name of the children is released immediately, and King Felipe appeared in front of the cameras, it took a while until the first pictures came. The first pictures were the ones of the baby leaving hospital with parents and eventual siblings. The parents even answered some questions outside, at least when Princess Leonor was born.
The Swedes have interesting traditions this generation. The father appears in front of the cameras to talk with the media, although I don’t think Christopher O’Neill doing that at the birth of the two younger children. But leaving hospital is a private thing, although we have seen a picture of some of them leaving hospital with the baby almost totally covered, released afterwards and not taken by a professional. The names and title of the baby are announced by the King in a special council at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. Photos often only are made public days afterwards, taken by a family member.
Queen Silvia gave birth of Crown Princess Victoria in hospital, but Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine were born at home.
Elsewhere in the world
The Japanese royal ladies give birth in hospital and at least after the last births in the family they posed when leaving the hospital. At the entrance they bid farewell to doctors and nurses. The name of the baby is announced on the 7th day after birth. Usually mother and child only leave hospital afterwards.
The birth of Brunei’s royal babies is announced rather soon after birth. People however have to wait a few days for the name and a photo, on which only the baby is shown with a huge gold or silver necklace around the neck.