Today's royal family seems like a slightly better-dressed version of yours or mine. Between the pictures of Kate Middleton and kids rolling in the grass, Princess Charlotte sticking out her tongue at paparazzi, or everyone squishing in together for a holiday snap, the Windsor bunch truly seem super-normal. And while they probably are totally relatable in real life (Prince Harry playing with kids? Come on, you can't fake that natural sense of fun), behind the scenes, there is a fair amount of strict-sounding protocol. The royal rules about having kids actually make things pretty complicated, and with Meghan Markle about to give birth, it's a good time to review this stuff because, really, who knew?
And while many of these rules are probably only suggested, and maybe a few are just oldies but goodies that are still on the record, but no one really worries about, it does go to show that with someone in Meghan Markle's position has a lot to deal with right about now.
Having her baby with Prince Harry should be a special, private time, but instead, the past weeks have featured one news story after other about Markle being "difficult"... all just for trying to be in charge of her birth experience, even if it's unlike Kate's. If you think about it, that's really strange. For now, at least, I'll cross my fingers that the baby's arrival is all that she and Harry have hoped for.
In the meantime, it seems that Markle is in for a more complicated road as a royal mom, if she wants to do things in a unique way. Because as awesome and cool as the Windsors seem, there is an awful lot of protocol behind the scenes.
The Royal Gynecologist
According to Vanity Fair, while the Duchess of Sussex certainly wouldn't be forced to do things the way her sister-in-law did, there are some precedents that Markle won't be following, which may have ruffled a few feathers. One involves doctors Alan Farthing and Guy Thorpe-Beeston, who are known as the Royal Household's official gynecologists, as Brit newspaper the Daily Mail claimed.
These guys handled all of Prince William and Kate Middleton's babies, but Markle wanted to find her own team. (Plus, I have a hard time believing anyone in today's world would be OK with the same doctor for every woman in the family. Surely, each female royal chooses her own healthcare providers?)
However, both Vanity Fair and the Daily Mail noted that these M.D.'s cannot be completely left out, as they will be on hand in case something goes wrong, as per royal protocol. I guess what the Queen says really goes... even in childbirth.
The Queen Must Know First
When a baby is born, generally, the joyful mom and dad call their folks, their siblings, and their friends. (My first child, I did not want any extended family there until afterward. Third baby, my sister and friend were in the delivery room so that I had company.)
But if you are in the royal family, as Cosmopolitan noted, you dial up your monarch the second your baby's in the world... the excited grandparents will just have to wait. (Surely Meghan's mom will already be on hand anyway, and not need the call, right?)
P.S.: Cosmopolitan reported that when Prince George was born, William called his grandma the Queen not just on any line, but an encrypted one. Fascinating.
Royal Babies Absolutely Have To Have This Ceremony, Or Else
According to Health and Fitness Cheat Sheet, royal babies don't just go home from the hospital, only to ask their parents 15 years later what religion they are.
No ma'am, Harry and Meghan's bundle of joy will be baptized, following strict tradition. (And not baptized Catholic, mind you, as PopSugar clarified. The Windsors are part of the Church of England, a Protestant tradition among British royals since the 16th century.)
PopSugar noted as well that Britain's monarchs must be raised in the church to rule, with a law on the books until very recently that it was actually illegal for a royal to marry a Roman Catholic. Harsh!
Since Markle was baptized and confirmed in the Church of England just months before her wedding with no less than the Archbishop of Canterbury as her mentor, as Refinery29 noted, I doubt she'll have trouble remembering all the rules for her little one's big ceremony.
Prince William & Kate Middleton Likely Won't Be Godparents
Sure, Meghan is known for her celeb friends, from Serena Williams to Priyanka Chopra to Amal Clooney to Oprah. But because royal godparents are no joke, according to The List, exactly who will represent in this area is a pretty big question.
See, rather than it just being a ceremonial role as in some cultures, a royal godparent is a real commitment, the website noted, with the individual named to this honor taking a real part in the child's development and religious education.
Prince Louis has six godparents, all of whom are longtime, trusted friends or aides of William and Kate, The List noted. Furthermore, it's just not a royal "thing" to name a sibling as godparent, since it's expected the immediate royal family would be involved in the child's life, anyway, and it might be helpful to have an outside ear for a royal kid as they grow up. Hence, Harry and Meghan were not named little Louis' godparents (and meaning Will and Kate will, more than likely, be left off the list for Baby Sussex). Town & Country detailed royal cousins are always a choice, so, for example, Princesses Beatrice or Eugenie might be in the mix.
Of course, this also means the doors are open for some of Meghan's old friends to be godparents... just as her sister- and brother-in-law went with old friends who are special, she could equally her name her trusted buddies to the roles. Which might just mean that George and Amal Clooney and BFF Jessica Mulroney are selected, according to Entertainment CheatSheet.
Meghan & Harry Won't Technically Have Custody Of Their Own Baby
Ok, so in reality, no one's gonna take away Baby Sussex from his adoring parents, don't worry. But thanks to a little-known law passed by King George I, who had a bad relationship with his own son and wanted more control of grandkids, the baby will technically be in the ward of Queen Elizabeth, who as monarch is her grandchildren's guardian, at least according to tradition, as Australia's News.com reported.
"The sovereign has legal custody of the minor grandchildren," royal expert Marlene Koenig told the website. "...The law’s never been changed." Wow. This means nothing, I'm sure, in practice, but it's crazy to think that parents as capable as Prince William and Kate Middleton seem are not (at least on the books) fully in charge of George, Charlotte, and Louis. I wonder if this will be a hard pill for an American-born royal such as Meghan to swallow? She seems pretty adaptable, but imagine if you were told after having your baby that your grandmother-in-law was really the one in charge? Yikes!
But At Least These Things Don't Happen Anymore...
In spite of a bunch of fine print that does comes along with bearing a royal baby, Meghan's becoming a mum at a time where at least a lot of weird old traditions have been abandoned. For example, Cosmopolitan reported that it was British tradition to have a government official at royal births all the way until Queen Elizabeth had Prince Charles in 1948. Huh.
Also, there used to be wacky maternity dress codes regarding not wearing clothes that revealed too much of a baby bump, too much cleavage, or shoes open to show a royal mama-to-be's toes, at least according to websites Baby Gaga and Reader's Digest, but it looks like these standards are a bit more relaxed these days.
Baby Gaga noted that Middleton had to follow all these rules to the letter... doesn't it seem like Markle's had a little more leeway? A bunch of her maternity dresses have verged on form-fitting, meaning the palace did not absolutely insist on a muumuu. I, for one, think she's helping ease things into a more modern groove when it comes to babies and pregnancies in the royal family, but it's clearly taking time.