- Diana broke with tradition by choosing to have her baby in hospital rather than a palace
- Prince Philip arrived on a kitchen table in a rented summer villa called ‘Mon Repos’ in Corfu
- Until the middle of the 17th century, royal childbirth was a strictly women-only affair
By Steve Bird for the Daily Mail
Published: | Updated:
Some traditions are carried through the ages, but others are neatly dropped, such as the presence of the Home Secretary at the royal birth to ensure the true heir was not replaced with a usurper.
Here we chart the extraordinary changes in how the royals have arrived into the world over the centuries.
On the evening of November 14, 1948, Prince Charles was born in Buckingham Palace’s Belgian Suite.
The Queen Mother with the then Princess Elizabeth, aged eight months, (pictured left) before anyone thought she might one day be Queen. Right, Princess Elizabeth with baby prince Charles at his christening at Buckingham Palace in December 1948
It had been transformed into a temporary maternity ward for the birth, and was later used for the arrivals of Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
It had been a long and arduous birth and our Queen-to-be had endured 30 hours in labour. Prince Philip spent some of the time smashing his way round a squash court with athletic vigour.
He was, in fact, a nervous expectant father, and after the game went for a swim in the Palace pool. As he was drying himself, a footman hurried in with the news of the birth.
Prince William: Prince Charles and Diana leaving St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, less than 24 hours after the birth of the infant
When the Princess came round from her anaesthetic, the Duke of Edinburgh was there with a bottle of champagne and a large bouquet of red roses and carnations, the Queen’s favourite flowers, that his equerry had the foresight to buy earlier.
While it used to be traditional for the Home Secretary to be in attendance in adjoining rooms to witness the birth of the heir to the throne, the custom was dispensed with for Prince Charles. Indeed, it was the first time since the 18th century that there was no government minister present.
The Queen-to-be was struck by the size of baby Charles’s hands.
‘They are rather large, but fine with long fingers — quite unlike mine and certainly unlike his father’s,’ she later wrote. ‘It will be interesting to see what they will become.’
Celebrate: People in festive mood outside St. Mary's hospital while hundreds of royal baby-watchers, journalists and photographers waited outside in anticipation of the royal birth
Touchingly, she added: ‘I still find it difficult to believe that I have a baby of my own.’
Prince Philip was characteristically blunt when asked what the future King looked like. He replied: ‘A plum pudding.’
Meanwhile, outside the Palace the crowds shouted: ‘We want Philip!’ But, he didn’t come out and instead they sang lullabies. It was a welcome boost to the morale of post-war Britain.
As is customary, the lights in Trafalgar Square fountain were changed to blue to signal a boy, and troops in ceremonial dress fired salutes amid the peals of bells from Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s.
The Queen was the first British monarch since the Middle Ages to be born in a private house rather than a palace or castle.
She was delivered by Caesarean section at 17 Bruton Street, the Mayfair home of her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.
Crowds of people try to look at the notice formally announcing the birth of a son to Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
At that point, she was third in line to the throne, after her uncle and father, and was expected to be pushed further down the line of succession as more male heirs were born. How wrong those expectations were to prove.
The Queen was born at 2.40am on April 21, 1926, after the Queen Mother had been in labour for 24 hours. As was customary for the birth of anyone in the direct line of succession, the Home Secretary — then Sir William Joynson-Hicks — was present at the birth to ensure the true heir was not replaced with a usurper.
At the time, the government was embroiled in an industrial dispute with the coal miners. The first British General Strike was just days away and, in some quarters, there was even talk of revolution.
While Elizabeth’s grandfather George V did not usually get on with children, the Princess was to prove his match and he took to calling her Lilibet and even allowed her to tug at his beard.
Diana, the Princess of Wales, broke with tradition by choosing to have her baby in hospital rather than a palace or castle. Like the Duchess of Cambridge, she opted for the private Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.
On 21 June, 1982, she gave birth to Prince William. At first, she stuck with a natural childbirth, but after a few hours in labour she changed her mind and had an epidural to ease the pain. She later remarked: ‘If men had babies, they would only have one each.’
People take pictures outside St. Mary's hospital in London, Britain, 22 July 2013 and emailing them to friends around the world
Diana originally wanted to call her first-born Oliver, but Prince Charles was said to have been wary of anything that smacked of Oliver Cromwell. Charles suggested Arthur Albert, but they eventually settled on William Arthur Philip Louis.
After the birth, Charles presented her with a necklace of diamonds and pearls with a sparkling heart at the centre. He also bought her a solid gold ‘W’ to add to her charm bracelet as well as a custom-built, apple-green Mini with enough space in the boot for a travel cot.
When the Queen saw her first grandson, she said: ‘Thank God he doesn’t have his father’s ears.’
Prince Philip arrived on a kitchen table in a rented summer villa called ‘Mon Repos’ in Corfu.
The house had no electricity, hot water or plumbing as Philip’s family was destitute, despite being members of the Greek royal family.
Eighteen months later, the family left for France, with Philip travelling in a carry cot made from an old orange box.
There has always been an element of intrigue about the birth of the Queen Mother. It is not precisely known where she was born on August 4, 1900.
Some say she was born in the back of an ambulance, but it is more likely to have been at her parents’ townhouse in Grosvenor Gardens, in London’s Mayfair.
The legal requirement to register the birth does not appear to have been paramount in the mind of her father, Lord Glamis. The 42 days allowed for registration had long passed when he strode into the register office on September 21. He was fined for registering the birth late — and appears to have entered the wrong place of birth on her birth certificate.
While he said it was at the family home, St Paul’s Walden Bury, in Hertfordshire, both she and her passport stated she was born in London.
Not all royals are delivered into this world in sumptuous surroundings.
In the 13th century, Eleanor of Castile, the first wife of Edward I, gave birth to the future Edward II in little more than a building site — a tiny, damp, windowless den in what was, to all intents and purposes, a half-finished Caernarfon Castle in Wales, later the scene of Charles’s investiture as Prince of Wales.
Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV, gave birth in a basement in Westminster Abbey’s grounds, after her husband was removed from the throne and forced into exile.
Until the middle of the 17th century, royal childbirth was a strictly women-only affair overseen by midwives, ladies-in-waiting, nurses-in-waiting, wet nurses, dry nurses, laundresses and rockers of the royal cradle.
As royal historian Alison James writes in her new book, The Royal Baby Book, this gang of women were known as God’s siblings — or God’s sibs — which is where the word ‘gossip’ comes from.
Prince Albert was one of the first royals to break this tradition. He was present at Queen Victoria’s labours, and she gratefully wrote of him: ‘There could be no kinder, wiser, nor more judicious nurse.’
Captain Mark Phillips was present when Princess Anne gave birth to their son Peter in 1977. The experience, he commented afterwards, was ‘not everyone’s cup of tea’.
AGONY and ECSTASY
Queen Victoria was at the forefront of the campaign to make pain-relief during labour acceptable.
One hundred and fifty years ago, it was expected that childbirth would and indeed should be agony. After all, the Bible says: ‘To the woman God said: “In pain you will give birth to children.”’
But by baby number eight, Victoria had had enough. For the birth of Prince Leopold she employed a Yorkshire doctor John Snow, who was a pioneer of the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic. ‘Oh, that blessed chloroform,’ she wrote afterwards, ‘soothing and delightful beyond measure.’
Protests against the painkiller were staged on religious and medical grounds, but the procedure gained popularity and became known as ‘Anaesthesia de la Reine’.
COUNTING THE HOURS
In the records of royal labour-lengths, the award for quickest birth goes to Princess Augusta Sophia, born to Queen Charlotte and George III in 1768.
The whole thing took 90 minutes from start to finish.
The slowest royal birth was that of the future Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. He took three days to emerge.
A large procession took place in London during this time to pray for the Queen’s deliverance from a difficult labour.
The smallest royal baby seems to have been Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of the future Edward VII. He was born two months premature on January 8, 1864, weighing 3lb 3oz — considerably lighter than William and Kate’s 8lb 6oz arrival yesterday.