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Running in the family: Nine royal baby traditions to know

Prince William and Kate are seen as the new face of a centuries-old institution, keeping the best of traditions while moving forward with the times. Here are 10 things to know about the royal baby in relation to royal births of the past:

HOME BIRTHING
Most people take a hospital birth for granted these days, but just a few decades ago the custom among royals, as it was among commoners, was to give birth at home. Queen Elizabeth II was born at 17 Bruton Street in London, a private family home, and she gave birth to her sons Charles, Andrew and Edward in Buckingham Palace. Her only daughter, Princess Anne, was born at Clarence House, also a royal property.

HOME SCHOOLING
For a long time, royals were educated in private. The queen was taught at home by her father, tutors and governesses, and never mingled with commoners at a school, college or university. Charles was the first royal heir to have gone to school, and William and Kate, who were both educated at independent schools, will doubtless have their child do the same.

DADS IN DELIVERY ROOM
William has said he ‘fully intends’ to be there with Kate when she gives birth, in line with the expectations of many modern parents. He follows in the footsteps of his father, Charles, who declared how much he relished being in the delivery room in a letter to his godmother, Patricia Brabourne.

OFFICIAL INTRUDERS
In the early 1900s, and probably before, custom dictated that government officials should be present when a royal was born. When the queen was born in 1926, for example, the home secretary was present among the doctors. The current home secretary, Theresa May, said the centuries-old tradition required the official to attend ‘as evidence that it was really a royal birth and the baby hadn’t been smuggled in.’ Fortunately for Kate, the practice was abolished years ago by George VI.

HOW MANY NAMES?
Apart from the baby’s gender, the biggest guessing game ahead of the royal birth has to be the name. Most royals have three to four first names, usually in a combination that honors previous monarchs or relatives. The queen’s full name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, after her mother, great-grandmother and grandmother, and William’s full name is William Arthur Philip Louis.

AND THE LAST NAME?
The royals don’t require a surname. The correct title when referring to the royal baby will be His or Her Royal Highness Prince or Princess (name) of Cambridge. If required, current members of the royal household may use Mountbatten-Windsor, the surname adopted in 1960 for all of the queen’s children.

CHRISTENING
Royal babies tend to be officially christened several days to weeks after they are born, and there are a few potential places this could take place for the new baby. The queen was christened in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace, while both William and his father Charles were christened in the palace’s Music Room.

OLD EASEL VS TWITTER
The traditional way the palace announces a royal baby’s birth to the world is as quaint as it gets: A messenger with the news travels by car from the hospital to Buckingham Palace, carrying a piece of paper detailing the infant’s gender, weight and time of birth. The bulletin is then posted on a wooden easel on the palace’s forecourt for everyone to see. In the old days the announcement was made to the wider public by a reader on radio, but today that’s replaced by the internet and social media: As soon as the bulletin is fixed on the easel, officials will post the news on Twitter to millions of followers worldwide.

TO NANNY OR NOT
William and Kate have not made any public announcements about hiring a nanny to help them bring up their child. Many expect the couple to be more hands-on parents than earlier generations of royals, and some have speculated that because of the couple’s close ties with Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton will also have a big role in helping Kate with the baby. Nannies have always been central to bringing up royal babies. Charles was famously close to his nannies, and William and Harry also enjoyed a bond with their former nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke.
Agencies

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