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Royal Baby Traditions and the Times They’ve Been Broken

Posted by True Royalty TV Nigel Brown on Oct 26, 2020 4:11:43 PM


White-gloved hand of a servant holding up a milk bottle.

Royal baby fever is truly underway – not only has Pippa Middleton just had a child, which makes the Duchess of Cambridge an auntie, but Meghan and Harry are expecting their first child in the spring of next year.

When it comes to growing up as heir to the throne there are a host of royal traditions that need to be followed.  We take you through the protocols that define a royal childhood as well as the occasions they’ve been broken, or even abandoned, in modern times.  

A Witness to the Birth

Dating back to the 17th century, a witness was required to be present at the birth of an heir to ensure it was not an imposter. In 1926, the-then home secretary, Sir William Johnson-Hicks, was present at Princess Elizabeth’s birth at the Queen Mother’s parents’ home, 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair.

In 1948, however, shortly before Elizabeth was due to give birth to Charles, her father King George VI put an end to this centuries old tradition.

Male vs Female

For as long as Britain has been a monarchy, sons have been more important than daughters. Part of the reason Henry VIII had so many wives was because he was desperate for a male heir. It didn’t matter what order the children were born in, a younger son would always be favoured over an elder daughter.

In 2013, however, shortly before the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child, the Succession to the Crown Act was passed, stating that their heir would become the third in line to the throne regardless of gender. 

From Home School to Private School

With an army of private tutors and governesses on standby, the idea of a royal ever going to school was unthinkable. Everything that a royal child needed to develop in their early years was at their disposal under one roof. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were notably home-schooled at Buckingham Palace by Marion Crawford, along with Elizabeth’s three youngest children.

However, in 1956 it was decided that Prince Charles should attend Hill House School in London rather than have an informal education at home, making him the first heir to the throne to do so. Diana, who wanted her sons to live as normal a life as possible got into the swing of doing the school run. Something which Prince William has carried on with his children. 

Leaving the Children at Home

Being away from your children for a long period of time can be a daunting prospect, especially during those crucial early years. When the call of duty came for Elizabeth to embark on a Commonwealth Tour, she chose to leave Charles and Anne at home in the capable hands of nanny.

Today, royal babies are allowed to go on tour almost straight away. Prince William was only nine months when he visited Australia and New Zealand with his parents in 1983. 31 years later, Prince George, was the same age as his father when he embarked on his first royal tour there in 2014.

Private Hospitals over Royal Residences

It was traditional for royal births to take place at home. The Queen’s three sons: Charles, Andrew and Edward were all born at Buckingham Palace; with the exception of Princess Anne, who was born at Clarence House due to the palace sustaining extensive bomb damage during the Second World War. The fathers were not permitted to attend the births. In fact the Duke of Edinburgh played squash with his private secretary while Elizabeth was in labour with Charles.

Prince William was the first direct heir to be born in hospital – the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s. On 21st June 1982, Diana and Charles presented the young prince to the world on the steps of the hospital which has since become a tradition for all royal members born there.


To discover the truth behind royal babies watch Secrets of the Royal Nursery at True Royalty.