Royal babies have been born since the royal family was invented. Sometime after the cavemen and before the middle ages is my guess. But the media has only been feeding on it in the mammoth proportions we see today, since Charles and Diana welcomed Prince William to the world on June 21st 1982 at the Lindo Wing, St Mary’s hospital.
Just why is the media so obsessed with Royal babies and why are we? Why do we need to see a bloated, exhausted and yet somehow radiant Meghan and a proud Harry looking at us through a BBC camera cradling their ‘bundle of joy’ who is, Meghan tells us, a ‘very calm and good baby’ (good luck with that on day 5 love). It’s kind of weird really. We don’t know these people. It’s nice they’ve had a healthy baby and it’s nice that they are able to share the news with the humble proletariat, but it’s all a bit odd and personal.
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were born to the Duke and Duchess of York, not to the future King of England so it’s perhaps no surprise the media weren’t that interested in their births. However a few covered the christening of Elizabeth, who was born on April 21st 1926 at the home of her maternal grandparents in Bruton Street, Mayfair. How charming.
We then saw intermittent pictures of the royal girls at their little playhouse (quite big actually in my opinion) and later as bridesmaids at a society wedding. But nothing too extreme to be fair.
Coverage of Prince Charles’ birth was more widespread, with articles about his arrival and where it happened (Buckingham Palace on 14th November 1948) across regional press. Prince Philip was playing squash in the grounds. Interestingly Charles was the first royal birth to happen without the presence of the British Home Secretary, who had previously been on hand to officially witness the births of royalty. Imagine. Meghan didn’t even tell the Royal family she was in labour, let alone invite Sajid Javid along as a hand to squeeze.
But Princess Elizabeth’s first outing with baby Charles didn’t receive so much interest as later royal babies would, possibly because she wasn’t actually the Queen at the time.
Princess Anne came along on August 15th 1950 at Clarence House, and the media strategy was managed tightly. A spread in The Sphere in 1951, a year after Anne’s birth showed the baby Princess with her mum, dad and brother in the gardens at Clarence House.
When Prince Andrew was born in February of 1960 a name wasn’t announced immediately, so similarly to recent royal babies, his parents took a bit of time to find the right moniker. However coverage showed the famous Easel and the Lord Mayor of London reading the letter at the Mansion House.
I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t until Edward was born in 1964 that Philip attended any of his children’s births. He was either at the Rugby, playing squash or doing something else that didn’t involve holding any hands. But by the fourth the Queen really did think a bit of support would be nice, specially since the home secretary wasn’t joining her. In fact she had been reading some articles and a book about the husband being at the birth. How modern. I suppose this may well be where this practice, that we see as normal, began to become widespread.
Charles and Diana welcomed Princes William and Harry to the world under the watchful eye of the team at the Lindo Wing, and Kate and William followed suit. In fact Diana was apparently so fed up with all the media pressure she allegedly had William induced to bring it on a bit quicker. The media were quick to let us all know that she had gone into labour.
The younger royals are of course, famously, using social media to alert the world to their new arrivals. Kate and William use Twitter, but the more celebrity minded Meghan uses Instagram.
Having looked through archives of footage announcing Royal births in this and the last century it is clear that it’s not just the proliferation of media outlets and channels that has contributed to the frenzy that is associated with the occasion. It’s a genuine increase in interest. We’re not a nation of Royalists by any stretch, but we do love a Royal good news story. We love them getting married, we love them having babies, we love them doing good, happy things like taking their kids to school or the polo (completely normal).
And yet….we find the media coverage extreme and irritating. It turns us into cynics. We find ourselves thinking why does this woman deserve so much attention for pushing a baby out? Women do it every day. We don’t often think about the fact that the woman in question might not want that attention. She might have wanted to just adjust to life as a mother with her husband and baby. It’s pretty mind blowing after all, and that’s without all the comments and the tweets and the shares and the news reports and the ‘experts’ and the commentators.
In doing things in their own Meghan and Harry way, they have, to an extent, controlled the media frenzy. They have announced the birth, they have shown off the baby and now they have gone back to their private space. They have given the nation what it wanted (well some of it anyway) and they have fulfilled their Royal duty to share their special arrival. They just did it in their own way and it’s that that seems to fuel the fire against them. The Mail today ran a story about Prince Charles’ reaction to the birth of Harry referencing the fact he was ginger. That must be nice for new father Harry to see. How thoughtful.
Whatever our personal views are a new Royal baby has entered the world, along with a great many other ‘regular’ babies I should think, and good luck to all of them.