Royal Dads in the Delivery Room: How the Tradition Evolved From Prince Philip to Charles to William

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Prince William and Kate Middleton and Princess Diana and Prince Charles
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The royal baby is coming!

With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle getting ready to welcome their first baby together, ET is looking back at the ins and out of royal protocol when it comes to delivering royal babies.

Past Royals

Throughout the history of English monarchy, the norms and practices surrounding childbirth have varied greatly, but one thing had remained constant until just over 60 years ago: royal expectant fathers were not in the room when their wives gave birth.

However, that doesn't mean the mothers were afforded a modicum of privacy -- it was quite the opposite. In the 16th and 17th centuries, royal births were witnessed by possibly hundreds of onlookers, due to mounting concerns over the progeny being kidnapped or switched at birth. 

Additionally, the deliveries were typically conducted in a birthing suite in the royal's home. However, the groundbreaking Queen Victoria enacted sweeping change within royal customs that meant women in labor would have access to painkillers and anesthesia, and the number of people present was limited to midwives and the Home Secretary. 

And that brings us to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth with Prince Charles
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In 1948, then-Princess Elizabeth gave birth to her first son, Charles, at Buckingham Palace, in the same suite that she would later give birth to Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. (Princess Anne was born at Clarence House due to renovations at Buckingham Palace to repair damage from World War II.)

While Prince Philip was at the royal residence during his first son's birth, he wasn't by his wife's side. Instead, he was reportedly getting in a game of squash with his private secretary and swimming laps in a different part of the estate during Elizabeth's 30-hour labor.

To Philip's credit, however, he later became the first royal to actually be in the room while his wife gave birth (at her request) when she gave birth to Edward in 1964.

Prince Charles

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
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Always a groundbreaker and a tastemaker, Princess Diana decided to buck the trend of giving birth at Buckingham Palace and instead decided to have their baby at a hospital. The princess asked doctors to induce labor, because the pressure from the media had become too much to bear, according to her biographer, Andrew Morton.

She gave birth to Prince William in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital, with Prince Charles firmly by her side. The Prince later wrote in a letter, "I am so thankful I was beside Diana’s bedside the whole time because by the end of the day I really felt as though I’d shared deeply the process of birth and as a result was rewarded by seeing a small creature which belonged to us even though he seemed to belong to everyone else as well!"

Two years later, Diana gave birth to their second son, Prince Harry, in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital yet again, and again Prince Charles was by her side throughout her nine-hour labor.

Prince William

Prince William and Kate Middleton
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Following in Diana's footsteps, Kate Middleton and Prince William welcomed their first son, George, in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital in 2013.

Kensington Palace confirmed that Prince William was in the room when Kate Middleton gave birth -- but what they didn't mention were the full team of additional medical personnel. According to a report by People, the Duchess of Cambridge -- who endured a very difficult pregnancy -- was attended to by multiple obstetricians, midwives, anesthetists, surgeons, pediatricians, and numerous other hospital staff during her 12-hour labor to deliver the future king.

Kate ended up welcoming two more children -- Princess Charlotte in 2015 and Prince Louis in 2018 -- all in the Lindo Wing and with William at her side.

Prince Harry

While all signs point to Harry keeping up the relatively recent tradition being in the delivery room -- and, honestly, it's likely he would be by her side even if the tradition was still the opposite, because this royal couple loves nothing more than to break stodgy old royal protocol -- it was recently reported that it might be the Duchess of Sussex who opts to start a new tradition.

According to a report in The Sun, Meghan and Harry might be aiming to welcome their first born at a private maternity ward near their residence, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, instead of the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's.

For more on the impending arrival of the newest royal baby, check out the video below.

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