From glitzy baby showers to home birthing: how Meghan Markle is already doing motherhood her own way
Earlier this month, Buckingham Palace released a statement on behalf of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
“Their Royal Highnesses have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private,” it read. “The Duke and Duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family.”
The message was clear: there would be no Lindo Wing photo op, where the public gets the first glimpse of the royal baby on the steps of St Mary's Hospital in London. It signalled a departure from the births of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s three children, as well as Prince Charles and Diana Spencer’s unveiling of William and Harry. From their wedding to their
Instagram account, Harry and Meghan have proven themselves to be royal rule-breakers, and the preparations for the birth of their first child have been no exception. Here, we look at how — and why — the couple have been doing things differently.
A TALE OF TWO SHOWERS
It’s an American custom, so it was no surprise that Meghan, a California native, would want to celebrate her pregnancy with a baby shower. Hosted — and paid for — by Serena Williams, it was held in the Mark Hotel in New York, and attended by Gayle King and Amal Clooney, who reportedly chartered a private jet for herself and Meghan.
Critics baulked at the lavish spectacle, but a few weeks later, Meghan got the upper hand when she and Harry urged fans to make charitable donations in lieu of sending baby gifts. It followed the fan-led #GlobalSussexBabyShower, a campaign that raised more than £22,000 for Mayhew animal home, Camfed and WellChild.
Princess Diana favoured loose-fitting smocks, while Kate Middleton stuck to a uniform of coat dresses and demure gowns. One of the most notable differences in Meghan’s style is that, with the exception of a few dresses and jeans, she tends to eschew maternity wear.
Some speculate that being able to avoid maternity pieces can be a source of pride, while others note much maternity wear is seen as frumpy. Meghan, a lover of fashion, chose outfits that flaunt her bump, yet carried a distinct Hollywood glamour, from vintage coats to sparkling gowns by Roland Mouret, Oscar de la Renta and Givenchy, who made her sexy one-shoulder number at the Fashion Awards.
OVER THE BUMP
Throughout her pregnancy, Meghan has taken a hands-on approach — rather than gripping a clutch, she’s rarely seen without one or both hands touching her bump. She’s been happy to talk about her pregnancy too, instead of maintaining the formal distance between royals and well-wishers. Yet this hasn’t brought out the best in everyone.
Sarah Ferguson was dubbed the “Duchess of Pork”, and the attacks on Meghan have been just as spiteful: she’s been slammed for cradling her belly, for being too big and accused of faking her pregnancy by online trolls.
In opting to forgo a public appearance after the birth, Meghan is taking her pregnancy back into her own hands.
Royal nurseries are typically traditional, with classic colours, handmade furniture and whimsical details, such as hand-painted bears or characters from Beatrix Potter. Such was the case for William, Harry, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, who shared the same designers. Kate and William followed a similar style with their Peter Rabbit-themed nursery.
Meghan and Harry, by all accounts, are going for a more modern look, with an understated palette of whites and greys, and the use of eco-friendly products. Meghan is said to have enlisted Vicky Charles, the designer behind the chic private members’ clubs Soho House. We’re expecting it to be soothing and stylish — the ideal backdrop for a candid Instagram snap.
The palace denied reports that Meghan and Harry would raise their baby gender-fluid, but the self-described feminists are likely to want to bring up their child without gender stereotypes. On International Women’s Day, Meghan quoted a documentary in which Lily Tomlin spoke about the “embryonic kicking of feminism”.
“I loved that,” Meghan added, “so boy or girl, whatever it is, we hope that that’s the case with our little bump.”
There was uproar among royalists when it was announced Meghan would choose her own doctors instead of the queen’s medical experts. It recalled the tabloid outrage when
Princess Diana opted for the Lindo Wing over alleged objections from the queen, who “abhorred the thought of the future King of England being born in an ordinary hospital”.
Like Diana, Meghan is taking charge of her birth with a plan she feels comfortable with — not to mention, one that could save her life: according to research in the US, the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is four times higher than for white women, with even A-listers like Beyoncé and Serena Williams suffering life-threatening complications.
Harry and Meghan are believed to have hired a London agency to help in their search for childcare. While finding a personality match is top priority, the couple are reportedly open to considering an American or a man for the role. Kate and William drew some criticism for hiring a Spanish nanny, but an American — and especially a male one — would really stir things up.
IN NAME ONLY
According to a royal decree, only William’s eldest was entitled to be styled a ‘Royal Highness’ or Prince/Princess. But in 2012, the queen revised the decree so that all of his children would receive the title.
However, the ruling doesn’t apply to Harry’s children, so a son will be known as the Earl of Dumbarton, while a daughter will be called a Lady. Of course, the queen may decide to step in and issue a title — Prince Andrew requested that the queen grant Beatrice and Eugenie the titles of Princess rather than Lady, while Princess Anne declined the queen’s offer for her children. Meghan and Harry could do the same.
Meghan and Harry’s child will be the first royal baby to hold US citizenship, and she has been open about wanting to maintain her ties to America, with a trip to the States planned later this year. Kate and William embarked on a tour of Australia when George was just a year old, but it looks like Baby Sussex will spend a considerable amount of time abroad, particularly if reports about Harry and Meghan being sent to Africa next year are to be believed.
Given the couple’s desire to take on projects overseas — and perhaps escape the glare of the British tabloids — the baby could end up enjoying the life of an expat.