A royal birth is almost upon us, and no, we're not talking about the one just cooked up by Kim Kardashian. We're sure that North West is all kinds of cute, but, even with the inevitable title that Lord Disick will bestow, that tot won't actually be in line for the British throne.
The son or daughter of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, however, sure will.
By the way, fun fact: It's been nearly 31 years since the world has greeted a fresh prince or princess of England. We've been fielding plenty of questions about how such arrivals might differ from, you know, your typical birthing process. Turns out, that, even as a newborn, royal babies are not just like us.
We wrangled a couple of royals experts, including British entertainment reporter and royals watcher Adora Olehn, and Dr. Elisabeth Cawthon, a British history and royal family expert at The University of Texas at Arlington. The result: This Burning Q&A!
What will Will and Kate name their baby?
And there is the million-pound question, perhaps literally. British betting shops have crunched the odds on names ranging from the reasonable Edward to long shots such as Adele or Elvis.
For a girl, oddsmakers like the sound of Alexandra. Queen Victoria's given name was Alexandrina, and, as Cawthon points out, King Edward, who ruled in the early 20th century, had a very respected wife named Alexandra.
Where will the baby be born?
Kate will follow in the footsteps of her late mother-in-law, Diana, who birthed both princes in the private Lindo wing of St. Mary's, Paddington, in London.
Unlike secret births of past royals, the public will be informed once the laboring Kate has arrived at the hospital and is safely in her room, according to a palace rep.
What are the rules about giving birth? Will the queen be there?
"Never," Olehn tells me, laughing. "Never the queen. She's really coming on [in years]. She's in her 80s now. But I am sure they will be waiting with bated breath."
Hundreds of years ago, it wasn't uncommon for a royal birthing suite to be stuffed with foreign dignitaries and political cronies. Today? Not so much. More likely, the Duchess of Cambridge will have a small number of people in attendance when she delivers. "I would imagine her mother and Prince William, as well as the people who have been working with her to prepare her for the birth."
Indeed, a palace spokesperson confirmed this week that William "fully intends to be present at the birth." (The prince is planning to take his allotted two weeks of paternity leave from his helicopter-piloting gig.) The Middletons are expected to visit, but the queen will be summering at her Scottish getaway, Balmoral, and will not return for her great-grandchild's big debut.
Gynecologist Marcus Setchell will be in charge of extracting the babe from the royal womb.
Will there be a baby shower?
"The idea of a baby shower before a baby is born is not very common in England, and certainly not to royals, who place a lot of value on that etiquette," Cawthon tells me.
What kinds of gifts are appropriate?
Historically, we're looking at a lot of silver, "engraved with the baby's name — a baby rattle, or cup," Cawthon tells me. That said: Please, please do not send the royals a present.
"I would argue that they are going to give very strong hints to the public, if not a direct statement, 'Don't send anything, we don't need anything, it's inappropriate for people who don't have as much money as we do to be sending gifts,'" Cawthon dishes. "If they allowed anything at all, it would be a charitable donation."
Where will the baby be raised?
Olehn says the couple eventually plans to raise the baby in Kensington Palace, which is being renovated to accompany them. The fact that these parents want to raise their own child may seem like a no-brainer, but in previous centuries, royal kids were sometimes given their own households, miles away from London, before they were out of diapers.
What is the appropriate way to address the baby?
The queen has already decreed that the child will be known as Royal Highness, though, in the past, baby princes and princesses have been known as Right Honorable.
"He or she will have a title eventually," Cawthon notes — say, duchess or earl. But remember, such official titles don't often come until a royal nuptial; William himself wasn't dubbed a Duke until the eve of his wedding to Kate Middleton.
Will there be a christening?
Oh heck yes. Traditionally, the crowned heads of Britain are also the leaders — actually, make that Supreme Governors — of the Church of England. And there's no reason to believe that Will and Kate will separate their baby from that practice.
"A royal christening has both a private and a political aspect," Cawthon says. "It is seen as privilege of the Archbishop of Canterbury to preside over that, if he wants to, and it highlights the role of the heir to the throne as the future head of the Anglican church."
As for timing, Cawthon tells me this:
"Historically, it's depended on the health of the child. If a child were born deathly ill, the christening would happen immediately. There are historical examples of this. But in general, a month or two after birth is the norm, though there have been cases of christenings happening six, seven, eight or nine months after, depending on schedules."
Will there be nannies? What about ladies in waiting if it's a girl?
The answer to both questions is, probably. "William and Kate want to be very hands-on parents," Olehn notes, but William and Harry also had a nanny.
As for ladies in waiting, "those are socially important offices — political rewards," Cawthon says. "They're too important not to be bestowed on someone right away."
Will there be play dates?
When Queen Elizabeth was a kid, her minders had to bring little friends to the palace for play dates, Cawthon says. Today? Not so much. You can expect the royal child to actually leave Kensington palace for things like school and, yes, play dates.
How will they announce the birth?
"There are some choices that really might surprise us about this royal modern couple," Cawthon concludes. "I doubt they will break with every aspect of tradition, but they might shake things up a bit."
And so it shall be.
Per the royal rep, the tidings will go down something like this: an aide will take a physical copy of the birth bulletin, on a Buckingham Palace-stamped scroll no less, and then be escorted by royal coterie to the palace, where it will be posted on ye olde special stand erected for such Important Public Announcements. That's the old-fashiony portion.
To make sure the rest of the world finds out in a timely manner, there will be a simultaneous Twitter blast and press email alerting the universe of the tyke's gender, weight, and time of birth.
We can hardly wait.
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