Is there a protocol for royal births?

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Watch: Royal Baby: Zara and Mike Tindall Welcome Baby Lucas

There's little that commands a fanfare like a royal birth or a royal wedding.

In recent years, there has been a flurry of newborns as the Queen's grandchildren have started having children, with the Queen now a proud great-grandmother of 10.

Each family has chosen a different route as they welcomed their new arrivals, raising the question of whether there is a formal royal protocol for babies of senior members of the family, or for any others.

Yahoo UK looks at whether there are any rules when it comes to royal births.

Do royals have home births?

Modern royal births tend to be associated with the Lindo Wing in Paddington, London, because all three of Prince William and Kate's children were born there.

But actually, the Queen had her children at home. Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward were all born at Buckingham Palace.

Princess Anne's birth place is listed as London on the Royal website, but other reports suggest she was born in Clarence House, which is where then-Princess Elizabeth would have been living with her husband Prince Philip.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II pictured when she was Princess Elizabeth with her first baby Prince Charles at Christening 1948 weby queen010306 dtgu2 (Photo by mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
The Queen pictured when she was Princess Elizabeth with her first baby Prince Charles at his Christening in 1948. (Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

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Before Charles was born it was customary for the Home Secretary to attend the birth. It has been said this was to ensure there was no foul play when it came to an heir to the throne.

But the Queen did not have to go through that, with the practice coming to an end before Charles was born in 1948.

Her cousin, Princess Alexandra, was the last royal for whom a Home Secretary was present at their birth, according to the BBC.

In March 2021, Zara Tindall, one of the Queen's granddaughters, almost accidentally reinstated her grandmother's tradition of home births when she gave birth on the bathroom floor of her home in Gloucestershire.

The royal, who doesn't have a title or carry out senior royal duties, had planned to give birth to her third child in hospital but couldn't get there in time, so had to give birth at home.

Which royal was first to give birth at hospital?

Princess Diana chose the Lindo Wing at St Mary's in Paddington when she gave birth to William, making him the first future king to be born in a hospital.

But it was her sister-in-law who paved the way for royals to be born somewhere other than a palace. Princess Anne chose the same hospital in 1977 when she was pregnant with Peter Phillips.

Princess Anne leaves the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital with her three-day-old daughter Zara.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Princess Anne leaves the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital with her three-day-old daughter Zara in 1981. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Diana had both William, in 1982, and Harry, in 1984, in the Lindo Wing, and both times posed for pictures outside with the newborn and Prince Charles.

Since then all royal babies, bar the newest Tindall, have been born in hospitals.

Princess Eugenie chose Portland Hospital in London when she gave birth to August in February 2021 - the same hospital where she had been born.

Her sister Beatrice was also born there.

Portland Hospital is where Archie, son of Harry and Meghan, was born too.

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah, Duchess of York, leave Portland Hospital, London, with their newborn daughter Princess Beatrice, 12th August 1988. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York, outside Portland Hospital, London, with their newborn daughter Princess Beatrice in August 1988. (John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)

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Harry and Meghan's second child will be born in the US, and details may not be released about where they chose to have their daughter.

How are royal births announced?

The announcement of a royal birth is where there is more protocol in play.

For the senior royals, the birth is formally announced on an easel outside Buckingham Palace.

That's after they've called the Queen to let her know. 

William and Kate would also likely have told her parents before the announcement was made at palace gates.

But that protocol is only carried out for senior royals - those further down the pecking order don't need to follow those rules.

So for the Tindalls, it means making public announcements via social media or in the case of their youngest son Lucas, on Mike Tindall's podcast.

Princess Eugenie had a hybrid announcement, in that she put out a statement via the palace and also released pictures on Instagram.

But there was no easel outside the palace.

A picture shows an official notice set up on an easel at the gates of Buckingham Palace in London on May 6, 2019 announcing the birth of a son to Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. - Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, gave birth on Monday to a
The official notice set up on an easel at the gates of Buckingham Palace announcing the birth of Harry and Meghan's son Archie. (Yui Mok/AFP)

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Harry and Meghan don't have their own social media accounts at the moment, and also no longer put any news out via the palace.

They may choose to share the news of the baby's arrival with certain media outlets, or via a statement sent by their spokesman.

Royal birth traditions

To welcome new royal babies, there is a 41 gun salute held in Hyde Park, and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London.

However the salutes are on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to that, the last gun salute held after a royal baby was born was for Prince Louis's birth in 2018, indicating the tradition is usually held for those in a direct line to the throne.

Members of the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery fire a First World War era 13-pounder field gun during a 41 gun Royal salute to mark the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's third child in London on April 24, 2018. - Kate, the wife of Britain's Prince William, gave birth to a baby son, Kensington Palace announced on April 23.
A gun salute by the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery after Prince Louis was born. (Adrian Dennis/AFP)

There was not one for Archie, because he was further down the line of succession at birth.

A traditional gun salute is 21 guns, fired at 10 second intervals. An additional 20 are added in royal parks and another 21 at the Tower of London.

Many royal mothers share similar desires and concerns about their babies, but there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the births of royal children.