20 May 2018

Meghan's First Baby

Photo: Alexi Lubomirski/Kensington Palace
Before I get started, I want to emphasize that I detest baby-bump watches. Also, as a woman who struggled and never succeeded with fertility, I am highly sensitive to the extremely personal nature of fertility, pregnancy and motherhood. I cannot even imagine how much more stressful these can be with the public and photographers always looking for any indication of an anticipated royal delivery. Several of our favorite royal ladies have faced challenges in this arena. All of them deserve to be treated respectfully and allowed their privacy.

All new marriages, however, inevitably lead to baby speculation, especially when the couple states that they want to have a family. Such is the case with the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who were more commonly known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle before their wedding on May 19, 2018. The recent birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's third child during the run-up to the wedding has only helped to fuel speculation and comparisons.

Shortly before Harry's brother Prince William married Catherine Middleton and they became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I wrote a post entitled Kate Middleton's First Baby. I encouraged everyone to be patient in their baby expectations because modern royal mothers tend NOT to have children as quickly as earlier royal ladies. While The Queen and the late Diana Princess of Wales each delivered a son before her first wedding anniversary, most contemporary royal brides have given birth a year and a half to two years or more after they married. Catherine's first baby, Prince George, arrived 27 months after her 2011 wedding.

I cited several possible reasons for these longer childless periods in contemporary royal marriages: a desire to focus on the marriage before expanding the family, an intentional period of adjustment to new royal duties and expectations, and the biological reality that most royal brides in the last 20 years have been older than their predecessors leading more of them to experience more challenges in conceiving as quickly as they might like.

The former Sofia Hellqvist with husband Prince Carl Philip of
Sweden and sons Prince Alexander and baby Prince Gabriel

Photo: Erika Gerdemark, Royal Court, Sweden
Since the Cambridge wedding, however, there have been two very notable exceptions to this delayed-family approach. The two younger Swedish princesses, Princess Madeleine and Princess Sofia, were both around 30 when they married. Each had her first child less than a year after her wedding and each had a second child around the time of her second wedding anniversary. Princess Madeleine even had a third child in March 2018. That's three babies before her fifth anniversary.

Could these quick Swedish pregnancies be an example of what Meghan and Harry hope to achieve? With Meghan's 37th birthday in August, an earlier first child could make it easier to have a second or even a third.

Of course, Meghan and Harry may yet decide to wait to start their family while they focus on their relationship and their public roles together. After all, women are having babies at later ages these days, particularly with the availability of reproductive assistance. And, there are certainly cases of earlier royal mothers having had children into their 40s whether they started at age 19 or age 39. Within the British Royal Family, one example of this is Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott. A world traveler, Alice did not marry The Queen's uncle Prince Harry Duke of Gloucester until shortly before her 34th birthday. Her first child Prince William of Gloucester was born a week before her 40th birthday and her second child Prince Richard of Gloucester arrived almost three years later. William was killed in a flying accident in 1972, leaving little brother Richard as the current Duke of Gloucester. As for Alice, she died at 102 as the longest lived member of the BRF, surpassing her sister-in-law Elizabeth The Queen Mother who only lived to be 101! (Read my profile of Princess Alice or my post about The Queen Mother.)

Zara Phillips Tindall
By Land Rover MENA via Wikimedia Commons
On the other hand, Harry and Meghan might also wish to have their children while their Cambridge cousins are still young, so that they can grow up together as playmates and friends. Harry and William have always had close relationships with their own first cousins on both the the Windsor and Spencer sides of their family. Windsor cousin Peter Phillips lent them courage when they first faced the public after Diana's death and cousin Princess Eugenie of York has often been credited with finding girlfriends for Prince Harry -- though she did not introduce him to Meghan. As a mark of these special friendships, Spencer cousin Laura Fellowes Pettman and Windsor cousin Zara Phillips Tindall are godmothers to William's first two children.

Whenever Meghan and Harry announce a pregnancy, whether it is this year or five years from now, we will speculate as usual on the baby's gender, name and birth date. In this case, though, we will have one more big question to ponder:  will their baby be royal? Under the 1917 Letters Patent governing royal status, only the monarch's children, male-line grandchildren, and the first son of the first son of the Prince of Wales are entitled to be Royal Highnesses and to have princely rank. As a great-grandchild of the monarch (unless Charles has succeeded by that date), little Baby Sussex would not be "royal" and would instead be styled as the offspring a Duke. This means that a girl would be The Lady Name Windsor and a first-born son would be able to use Harry's secondary title as the Earl of Dumbarton.

However, this rule has been bent or overridden at least three times. In 1948, when The Queen was still a Princess, her as-yet-unborn children would have been female-line grandchildren and were not eligible for royal titles. So, the babies she had during her father's lifetime would have been styled as children of their father the Duke of Edinburgh. Charles would have been known as Earl of Merioneth and his sister as Lady Anne. The Queen's father felt this styling was not appropriate for the children of his heir and granted all of Elizabeth's future offspring royal status. Prior to her accession, they were HRH Prince Charles of Edinburgh and HRH Princess Anne of Edinburgh.

Lady Louise Windsor walking ahead of William, Catherine,
Meghan and Harry on Christmas Day 2017.
By Mark Jones via Wikimedia Commons
In 1999, the rule was changed in the opposite direction in order to deny royal status to children who should have been entitled to it. At the time of The Queen's youngest son Prince Edward's marriage, it was announced that his future children would not be styled as male-line grandchildren. Instead, they would be treated as children of an earl since he had been created the Earl of Wessex. Thus, Edward's daughter is The Lady Louise and his son James uses Edward's secondary title of Viscount Severn. Otherwise, we would know them as HRH Princess Louise of Wessex and HRH Prince James of Wessex, just as Prince Andrew's daughters are HRH Princess Beatrice of York and HRH Princess Eugenie of York.

Another exception was made during William and Catherine's first pregnancy. Under the 1917 rules, a son would have been His Royal Highness Prince Name of Cambridge, but a daughter and any subsequent children of any gender would just be children of a duke. This would have made their three children HRH Prince George of Cambridge, The Lady Charlotte and The Lord Louis. During this same time period, the royal succession laws were being changed to allow equal rights for daughters. I believe this desire for gender equity as well as a desire for sibling parity influenced The Queen's decision to grant royal status to all future children of Prince William. (Interestingly, in Norway, where gender-blind succession was introduced in 1990, only the oldest child of the heir is a Royal Highness, while his/her younger children are just Highnesses.)

Will The Queen make an exception for Prince Harry's children? If she doesn't, the current century-old guidelines would make them Lord/Lady (or Earl of Dumbarton for the first son), but they would automatically be elevated to royal princes and princesses when their grandfather Charles becomes King.

Diana was not actually born Lady Diana; she
received a title upgrade at age 14.
By Nick Parfjonov
While this type of title changing might seem strange, it is quite common among royalty and the aristocracy. Even William and Harry's mother Diana experienced something similar. When she was born, her father had not yet acceded as Earl Spencer. As the daughter of Viscount Althorp, she was The Honourable Diana Spencer until her grandfather died. Then, as the daughter of an earl, she became Lady Diana Spencer. In another example, upon Prince Charles' accession to the throne, Prince William will automatically gain the titles of Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay while retaining his current title Duke of Cambridge. He will not become Prince of Wales until his father gives him that title. Until that moment, Catherine will be the Duchess of Cornwall as well as Duchess of Cambridge, and she will be called Duchess of Rothesay when in Scotland.

The decision about Harry and Meghan's children could be entirely dependent on their personal choice. Like his Uncle Edward and Aunt Anne The Princess Royal (whose first husband declined any kind of titles for himself or their children), Harry and Meghan may opt to give their children a more "normal" life by not making them royal. On the other hand, the monarch, whether it is Elizabeth or Charles, may not wish to make a difference between Harry's children and his brother's, and therefore prefer to give them royal status.

We shall see. In the meantime, let us pray that Harry and Meghan's family plans go as smoothly as possible. And, let's avoid trying to figure out whether or not she is pregnant until she decides to let us know!

18 May 2018

Your Royal Wedding Guide

Update May 19 1:27 BST


Royal Watcher Blog has published a detailed post about Queen Mary's Diamond Bandeau (or Filigree Tiara). Designed in 1932 to incorporate a diamond brooch that Mary had received as a wedding gift from the County of Lincoln, the tiara reflects the style of its day with pave settings but it looks very current, and therefore highly suited to Meghan's sleek, sophisticated style. The tiara has not been worn publicly since before Mary's death in 1953. Mary was the paternal grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II and was therefore Prince Harry's great-great grandmother. Mary's own mother was Queen Victoria's first cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge.

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And, the long-hoped-for kiss...

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Update May 19 1:14 BST


The little bridesmaids and page boys include Harry's nephew and niece Prince George and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge; Harry's goddaughters Florence van Cutsem and Zalie Warren; Meghan's goddaughters Remi and Rylan Litt; Harry's godson Jasper Dyer; and family friends Ivy Mulroney and twins Brian and John Mulroney. The girls were dressed in white gowns that reflected the design of Meghan's gown with floral crowns on their heads. The boys were dressed in black jackets and pants inspired by the groom's Blues and Royals uniform.

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Update May 19 12:56 BST


According to the press release from Buckingham Palace, Meghan selected Clare Waight Keeler, earlier this year because of her "timeless and elegant aesthetic, impeccable tailoring, and relaxed demeanor." British-born Keeler served as the creative head of Chloe and of Pringle of Scotland, before taking over the French design firm of Givenchy last year.

The dress is made of silk organza in pure white. The basic structure of the dress emphasizes the bateau neckline and sculpted waist. Three-quarter sleeves "add a note of refined modernity."

The five-meter veil of silk tulle is hand-embroidered with flowers representing each of the 53 nations in the British Commonwealth, to which The Queen has dedicated her life. The press release includes a complete list of each country and its representative flower.

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Update May 19 12:35 BST


Most of the British Royal Family are in attendance: The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Duke of York, Princess Beatrice of York, Princess Eugenie of York and her fiance Jack Brooksbank, the Princess Royal and Sir Timothy Laurence, Peter and Autumn Phillips, Zara and Mike Tindall, Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto with sons Arthur and Samuel, the Earl and Countess of Snowdon with Viscount Linley and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Princess Alexandra, as well as today's honorary royal lady, Doria Ragland, mother of the bride. Please enjoy these albums.

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Update May 19 12:07 BST


Meghan is wearing a white dress with clean lines, a bateau neckline and long sleeves. Kensington Palace release says the dress was designed by Clare Waight Keller, the first female Artistic Director of the House of Givenchy. Per Meghan's expressed wish, her veil includes distinctive flora from each of the 53 member states of the Commonwealth.

Update May 19 11:55 BST


After much speculation, it appears that Meghan is wearing a tiara on loan from Her Majesty The Queen. It is Queen Mary's Filigree Tiara. Here is a post about it on Tiara Mania. More to come from the Royal Watcher blog shortly.

Update May 19 11:38 BST


Both Prince Harry and his best man Prince William are wearing the frock coat of the Blues and Royals, British Army regiment that is part of the Household Cavalry. Prince Harry served in the Army, including two combat tours in Afghanistan.

Update May 19 11:29 a.m. BST


Remember all those reports saying that Sarah Duchess of York and Harry's ex-girlfriend were highly offended to NOT be invited to the wedding. Well, here's photographic proof that both of them are there and looking smashing.
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Update May 19 10:49 a.m. BST


Harry's maternal uncle Earl Spencer and his third wife Karen have arrived. Lady Kitty Spencer, one of the Earl's seven children has also been photographed arriving. Harry was a pageboy at the Earl's first wedding.
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Update May 19 10:01 a.m. BST


The blog Meghan's Mirror is offering up great coverage of who is wearing what today, from members of the Royal Family to celebrities. Check it out here.

Update May 19 | 9:19 a.m. BST


Buckingham Palace released a PDF of the royal wedding program at midnight. You can download it here. The booklet was designed and printed before Mr. Thomas Markle's health prevented him from attending the wedding, so it lists him as escorting Meghan. We now know that her future father-in-law Charles Prince of Wales will escort her today.

Other new information gleaned from the program:
- Unlike many other men in the BRF, including Prince William, Prince Harry will wear an wedding ring.
- Unlike previous royal weddings, the couple will not use their full Christian names of Henry Charles Albert David and Rachel Meghan when reciting their vows, opting instead to just be Harry and Meghan. You may recall that Diana and Sarah both made errors when reciting their husband's long names: Diana reversed Charles' first two names while Sarah repeated Andrew's third name.
- The couple credits Prince Charles with helping them select the music for the day.


By Alexi Lubomirski/Kensington Palace
Update May 19 | 9:03 a.m. BST


Buckingham Palace announced that The Queen has created Harry Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. This the second creation of Duke of Sussex, which had previously been granted to King George III's sixth son Prince Augustus. That Duke of Sussex was the uncle who "gave away" Queen Victoria at her own wedding, since her father died when she was an infant. Although Augustus as two wives, both of whom were the daughters of earls, they were not deemed worthy of a royal marriage and never bore their husband's titles. Read my post, Meet the Duchess of Sussex for more details. Sussex was ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, located in what is now southeast England.

This is the first royal use of Earl of Dumbarton, although it was created once before and held by two successive men named George Douglas in the 17th and 18th Century. Dumbarton is located in West Dumbartonshire, Scotland. This is the first creation of Baron Kilkeel. The town of Kilkeel is located in County Down, Northern Ireland.

If Harry and Meghan have a son, that child will be able to use the Earl of Dumbarton title during Harry's lifetime. If the earl has a son during Harry's lifetime, the grandson will be called Baron Kilkeel.

Update May 18 | 10:25 p.m. BST

WHERE/HOW to watch the wedding

The most comprehensive guide I have found is posted on the Mad About Meghan blog. It includes how to stream the wedding online and broadcast outlets in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany as well as how to watch it in movie theaters. Plus, you can enter to win a pair sunglasses like Meghan's. Scroll down their page for a complete schedule of events and a wedding-themed map of Windsor.

Update May 18 | 9 p.m. BST

On Saturday, May 19, beginning at 10 a.m. BST, I will be regularly updating this post with the latest news, tidbits and historical context for everything about the wedding of Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle. You can also follow me on Twitter @PalacePrincess for real updates with the hashtag #royalwedding as well as for fun and frivolous (and fictional) updates using the hashtag #unfoundedroyalrumor. (This hashtag was invented by Marilyn Braun of Marilyn's Royal Blog and me in the run-up to the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

While you wait for the wedding to begin, here are all of my Meghan-related Princess Palace posts, for you to enjoy:

"Old" Royal Brides
Written before Meghan arrived on the scene to rebut the idea that 29-year-old Catherine Middleton was the "oldest royal bride ever", this post is still relevant to 36-year-old Meghan.

Princess Meghan? FAQs about Prince Harry's Future Wife
My very first post about Harry and Meghan's romance, in which I announced that we needed to leave them alone until it was officially acknowledged. Instead of focusing on them, it focuses on things that would be true no matter whom Harry married.

Meghan is Official, Now Let's Leave Her Alone
Published just a week later, when Harry issued a statement denouncing media intrusion and (generally racial) harassment of Meghan, her friends and family, this post underscores why Harry was so keen to take this unprecedented step to protect her and their relationship.

Royal Engagements 
Toward the end of November 2017, everyone was getting really excited about a possible royal engagement, especially after a "royal announcement" was expected on Nov. 24. In the spirit of the moment, I took a look back at royal engagements since Harry's parents announced their own in 1981.

An American Princess for Harry 
We finally got the engagement announcement on 27 November 2017. On this occasion, I posted my first bio of Meghan, plus a slideshow from that morning's photocall and a video of that afternoon's engagement interview.

The Brides of St. George's Chapel, Part 1
The Brides of St. George's Chapel, Part 2
Following the announcement that Harry and Meghan would marry at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, I offered up this two-part series about the 15 royal brides who married there before Meghan. These include the gorgeous Alexandra of Denmark, the stylish Lady Helen Windsor, the popular Sophie Rhys-Jones, and the Canadian Autumn Kelly.

Meet the Duchess of Sussex
The public has assumed that Harry will be named Duke of Sussex, so I thought we'd look at the previous Duchesses of Sussex, but there are none. Instead, I profile the two wives of the only previous Duke of Sussex, both of whom were deemed unworthy of a royal title, despite being the daughters of earls.

Meghan Markle, Duchess of What?
Meghan the Scottish Duchess
Refusing to accept Sussex as the only possible title for Harry and Meghan, I took a look at the other titles that have been granted to English princes over the centuries and followed that up with a post about the titles that have been borne by Scottish princes.

Mother of the Bride
Following the announcement that Meghan's father would not attend the wedding for health reasons, but before was announced that Prince Charles would escort Meghan, I highlighted some royal wedding traditions established by Queen Victoria, including having the bride's mother "give away" the bride.

17 May 2018

The Mother of the Bride

By Carl Rudolph Sohn
via Wikimedia Commons
Few people today would suspect that staid, old, unamused Queen Victoria was quite the trendsetter, particularly when it comes to weddings. Her choice of a "simple" white wedding gown set the fashion that most Western royal brides still adhere to today. Her preference for more intimate "private" weddings was also enforced for most of her children, a trend that recent royal weddings (with the notable exception of the eventual king Prince William) have reinstated in the last 20 years. Two of Victoria's children married on the family's private estate on the Isle of Wight, four married in St. George's Chapel (like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle), and one even married in the private chapel at Windsor. But Victoria's most relevant wedding trend for this week's royal wedding may be that of having the mother of the bride to escort the bride. (UPDATE in a lovely gesture, Meghan has asked Prince Charles to escort her at the wedding.)

Princess Alice was married beneath this iconic family portrait.
She is the little girl in yellow bending over the baby.
By Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Royal Collection, via Wikimedia Commons
When Queen Victoria was widowed at age 42, only one of her nine children had already married. Oldest daughter Vicky had indeed been escorted down the aisle by her father Prince Albert, but someone else accompanied her too: Victoria and Albert's shared uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium. Well, why not. The next daughter, Princess Alice, who had nursed the dying Albert was married less than seven months after his death in a very private ceremony that Victoria wrote was "more like a funeral." To keep things as low-key and intimate as possible, Alice was not even permitted to marry in a church. Instead, the wedding took place in the dining room of Osborne House, the family's private home on the Isle of Wight. The couple stood beneath a massive portrait of the royal family (including the recently departed Albert, of course) while the sorrowful widow hid herself in a corner.

Even Victoria's heir, the future King Edward VII, had to have as small a wedding as possible for such an important occasion. Instead of a public wedding in London like his successors would have, the Prince of Wales was the first of Victoria's children to wed at St. George's Chapel, which sits just on the edge of the more private environs of the castle itself.  The perpetually mourning queen watched him wed Princess Alexandra of Denmark from a balcony, dressed (as always) in black with a widow's cap. (She had taken the bridal couple to Prince Albert's tomb the day before the wedding to give them Albert's blessing. Victoria really loved to mourn.)

Princess Beatrice in her wedding dress.
via Wikimedia Commons
Victoria did not take an active role in her children's weddings until her third daughter Princess Helena married in the private chapel in Windsor Castle. This was when Victoria roused herself from deepest mourning to escort the bride down the aisle. Of course, she still dressed in black with a widow's cap, but she did at least throw some diamonds on and had silver thread woven through her dress for the occasion. When daughter #4 Louise married the son of a mere Peer of the Realm, many people were outraged at such a misalliance for a princess. One of the most vocal opponents of the marriage was the Prince of Wales. Nevertheless, there was an expectation that, as the oldest son of a fatherless family, he would give the bride away. Victoria denied him the honor and once again did it herself. By the time, her youngest daughter Princess Beatrice married in the tiny chapel on the Isle of Wight, it was only natural that the mother of the bride would give her away.

Now that it has been confirmed that Meghan Markle's father will not attend the royal wedding due to health issues, speculation is rife about who, if anyone, will walk the bride down the aisle. I think they should follow Queen Victoria's royal tradition, and have Meghan's beloved mother Doria Ragland, do the honor. And, while I expect some TV commentators, bloggers, and tweeters to talk about what a modern, feminist move this would be, it is in fact just another trend set decades ago by the inimitable Queen Victoria.

As a footnote, unlike her grandfather George III who insisted on the Royal Marriages Act to prevent members of the royal family from marrying "beneath" them, Victoria fully approved of unequal marriages for her children and grandchildren. If she deemed a spouse worthy, she didn't care what anyone else thought. When Princess Louise wanted to marry a mere Peer of the Realm, she wrote that he was the equal of any German princeling. Then, when her granddaughter Victoria of Hesse and daughter Beatrice married princes from the morganatic Battenberg family, she fully supported them. Thus, it was Victoria who launched the trend that would eventually lead to royals marrying spouses from the peerage and now spouses with no noble heritage at all.

For a much more detailed discussion of these and other royal weddings, read Weddings of Queen Victoria's Children on Royal Central.