One by one, the tweets came in. Some had a mocked-up Private Eye cover saying simply: “Woman gives birth.” Others proudly showed a screenshot of all of the words they would mute from Twitter over the next month or so: #royal, #baby, #harry, #meghan. That’s fair enough. Why would the birth of someone else’s boy be of interest to the general population? You don’t have to be a hardened cynic to cringe a little when you see TV vox pops of people draped in the Union flag babbling excitedly about the royal baby.
I’m not a royalist. I’m not a republican either. I’m quite neutral regarding the royal family, but my first reaction to the news that Meghan Markle had given birth to a boy on Monday was my usual one of vague relief when anyone’s pregnancy – even that of a stranger – is concerned.
“The Duchess of Sussex was safely delivered of a son,” came the announcement from Buckingham Palace. “Safely delivered”, that wonderfully old-fashioned expression that tells you all you need to know: that mother and child are well, and not in danger. You don’t need to dance about wearing a Harry and Meghan t-shirt to feel a quiet joy in hearing that a long-awaited child had arrived and all was well.
It was a nugget of good news for a chilly grey day that felt more like March than May, a distraction from Brexit and Trump and photocalls with incompetent politicians and their wives. God knows we could all do with more of those in these dark days.
And then Prince Harry turned up on the news to announce the birth of his son, his face full of excitement, beaming with joy and jubilation and love for his wife and his new baby. Nearly upstaged by the horses swinging about in the stables behind him, he artlessly revealed the awe and admiration most men feel for their wives after childbirth. “As every father, as every parent…” he said, his face registering a shy pride in being able to count himself among that number.
What we didn’t see was the usual parade of reporters, photographers and camera crews outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital. The Sussexes made it clear very early on that they were keeping this birth private – yet another small but significant blow against stifling royal protocol and equally stifling media expectations. The media could speculate all it liked about whether Meghan was going to have a home birth or planning to hire a doula to be present – usually with a snideness that revealed a disdain for this duchess wanting her own way.
If logic has its way, it looks as if Meghan got her home birth at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor Castle, where the family lives. And another detail that emerged yesterday was that Meghan’s mother, the admirable Doria Ragland, was also present at the birth of her grandson. Who needs a doula when you have a mother?
In the meantime, we wait until Wednesday to see the new baby and find out his name – no doubt amid endless speculation from news crews camping outside of Windsor Castle. Plenty of time for proper cynicism to kick in.
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