10 royal pregnancy rules: what protocols did Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, and Kate Middleton and Prince William uphold while expecting their children?

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex had to follow these 10 rules when pregnant with their children. Photos: AP, Reuters

There’s so much curiosity about the British royal family that every little detail grabs the world’s attention. That curiosity is ratcheted up even further when it comes to royals with new babies on the way, so no wonder the family has a rule book for such occasions. So what are some of the restrictions expecting royal parents need to adhere to, and traditions they need to uphold? 

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No cleavage

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrive for a public walkabout at the Rotorua Government Gardens in New Zealand in October 2018. Photo: AFP

Showing cleavage is a strict no-no for royal women and that applies during pregnancy as well. This means a wardrobe of high necklines and demure coats for expecting royal mums.

Closed-toed shoes always 

Another common rule in the royal family is that of wearing closed-toed shoes. This applies to men and women, and even during pregnancy. Not the most ideal when you have swollen feet.

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The post-birth photo outfit is a big deal

Britain’s Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, pose outside St. Mary’s Hospital in London where the duchess gave birth in July 2013. Photo: AP Photo

With literally every action, move and choice of colour under scrutiny, the post-birth photo is a big deal for the royal media. This usually takes place within hours of the birth and a lot of planning goes into the process. 

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, holds her new baby son George Alexander Louis in July 2013. Photo: AFP Photo
After Prince George’s birth in 2013, Kate Middleton chose to wear a polka dot dress for the post-birth photo that was reminiscent of Princess Diana’s dress that she wore after the birth of Prince William.

What the baby is wrapped in is a big deal as well

It’s not just the royal mum’s outfit that’s under scrutiny, but the royal baby’s wrap as well. In the case of Archie Harrison, the son of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, he was wrapped in a wool-knit baby shawl made by G.H. Hurt & Son. Kate and William chose the traditional English brand’s blankets for their children too.

Royal babies need to be baptised

Britain’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge talk to Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall as they leave Princess Charlotte’s christening at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, England, in July 2015. Photo: AFP Photo

A royal baby needs to be christened, or baptised, as the queen is the head of the Church of England; they even have a special traditional gown that they wear. Some Christian denominations believe there is a difference between a christening and a baptism, but not so in the Church of England.

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Royal babies always have an official surname

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, with their son Archie during a meeting at their legacy foundation in Cape Town, South Africa, in September 2019. Photo: PA Wire/DPA

Before the early 20th century, royal babies did not have a last name at all, but were instead known by the name of the country they rule. Today, they have a last name chosen by their parents.

Will and Kate chose “Cambridge” as the last name for their children, while Harry and Meghan chose the surname “Mountbatten-Windsor” at the birth of their son Archie.

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Only breastfeeding for royal babies


Breastfeeding is a long-standing royal tradition. Queen Elizabeth breastfed her children, which continued with Princess Diana, while Kate too reportedly breastfed her children. Of course, this is assuming there are no complications and that the parents don’t have to resort to using milk formula.

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Royal mums get maternity leave

Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born son – Louis Arthur Charles – to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital in central London in April 2018. Photo: AFP Photo

Any royal title comes with its own sets of duties and responsibilities. During pregnancy, an expecting royal mum gets a break from this as part of her maternity leave, meaning she need not make the usual public appearances for a variable period of time.

For Prince Louis, now three years old, Kate Middleton had five months’ maternity leave, but did make a public appearance for Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding.

Royal dads can take paternity leave

Prince William and Kate with George and Charlotte. Photo: @KensingtonRoyal/Instagram

Royals now broadly follow common practice in Britain as a whole with up to six months of maternity leave and two weeks of paternity leave. But Prince William was the first royal dad to make use of it, as he took unpaid paternity leave from the Royal Air Force for the births of George and Charlotte.

Non-royal grandparents are allowed to be involved in the pregnancy

The most bizarre former royal tradition was that of the royal family not allowing non-royal grandparents to be a part of the pregnancy. Thankfully, the family has since come around to a more reasonable view.

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  • Kate Middleton wore a polka dot dress for her photo with Prince George in 2013, reminiscent of Princess Diana’s dress after the birth of Prince William
  • William and Kate chose Cambridge as the last name for George, Charlotte and Louis, while Harry and Meghan chose Mountbatten-Windsor for Archie and Lilibet