As public as their wedding was and pregnancy has been, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have now decided to buck recent tradition and shut the public – and the press – out of the birth of their first child.
Instead of posing for a photoshoot on the steps of their hospital ward, they’ll be sharing the news days, or even weeks, after the fact, citing a wish for privacy. But as part of a taxpayer funded institution, should the Duke and Duchess be allowed to keep a royal birth private?
Sure, the couple have made a constant and conscious effort to distance themselves from much of the tradition that’s dominated the royal family’s image, but whether they like it or not, Their Royal Highnesses are just that: royal, and they experience a life of unimaginable privilege due to the position they’re afforded by their adoring public.
Many have moaned that we’ve now been conned out of a ‘royal right’ to Baby Sussex – and they make a very good point.
“Keeping the nation in the dark over details, even after the birth, is a bad look for the royal couple,” The Sun, Britain’s most prominent tabloid, concluded last week.
“The public has a right to know about the lives of those largely funded by their taxes. You can accept that, or be private citizens. Not both.”
In fact, Harry and Meghan’s lavish wedding last May saw British taxpayers foot a AU$54 million security bill, while the royals themselves paid for extras including a $100,000 wedding cake and Meghan’s reported half-million dollar dress.
Australians were hit with a similar tab in October when the couple’s tour cost us $410,000, with $237,000 spent on flights, accommodation and food alone.
Of course, the events we fund provide national jubilance and a cash injection into the local tourism economy, but when our hard earned dollars are going towards the royals’ exorbitant expenses, we should have the right to celebrate and enjoy their major milestones – and that includes the birth of a history making baby.
As The Sun’s Lauren Clark reminded the pair, “being a royal isn’t a part-time job”.
“Meghan you don’t get to claim ‘privacy’ after your star-studded baby shower and wedding that WE forked out £30m for,” she wrote as part of an impassioned retort to the announcement.
Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir was a little more sympathetic in her analysis but still concluded the public had a right to join in the family’s immediate celebrations.
“While a new baby is a deeply personal and private event, a royal baby is also a totem of national celebration, a beacon of British joy,” she wrote.
“What is the point of royals unless we can celebrate their baby royals in a totally bonkers British orgy of bunting, popping corks and knitted bootees? Two or three days later, it just won’t be the same.”
Amid months of scandal and swirling rumours, Harry and Meghan have alienated large portions of the press – and by default the people – through their desire to do things differently.
This controversy reached a crescendo in February when Meghan marched through a sea of assembled paparazzi toward her star-studded New York City baby shower, held in the most expensive hotel suite in the United States.
Its attendees ranged from the expected, Jessica Mulroney, the glam, Amal Clooney, to the down-right random, in the form of TV journalist and Oprah’s longtime bestie, 64-year-old Gayle King.
And as the Duchess quickly manoeuvred from a black-out vehicle to the opulence of The Mark Hotel in Manhattan, Meghan would have been well aware that the attention-grabbing charade was much more Kim than Kate.
She was later seen jumping aboard a gas-guzzling, London-bound private jet – with the trip’s $250,000 price tag picked up by the Clooneys. Ironically, days later her husband Prince Harry stood in front of a stadium full of young people and told them how their decisions affect the earth’s future and climate change.
But now this supposedly normal couple want to be treated as such, and have shunned the precedent first set by Harry’s parents with the birth of his brother Prince William in 1982.
Instead of a photocall outside the famed Lindo Wing, which also acted as a backdrop to the births of the Cambridge children, Baby Sussex will be introduced to the world at an unknown later date.
“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,” according to a statement released by Buckingham Palace.
However, despite the controversy, Harry and Meghan actually will be following an older tradition should they decide on a home birth plan – albeit one that hasn’t been practiced in a while.
Most notably, the Queen had each of her children at either Buckingham Palace and Clarence House but announced details of each to the media within hours of their arrivals – in time to make the next day’s newspapers.
However, unlike the normality the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are reportedly craving, royal births have never been so, and with reason.
It was considered essential for official witnesses to attend the births of would-be prince and princesses to swear there had been no foul play if the child died.
In fact, up until Prince Charles was born in 1948 the British Home Secretary was in the room to witness the baby born was in fact from the royal birth canal.
A few generations before, midwives, servants, doctors and male courtiers hovered in the background of the family’s at-home birthing suites in a set-up that was anything but private.
This was also decades before the 24-hour news cycle which ensures every inch of the royals’ triumphs and tragedies are quickly relayed to the public.
But in the intervening years things have change and we’ve become used to this almost intimate sense of ownership of a family designed to rule – starting from the moment each takes their place in line to the throne.
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