It’s an image that will instantly be beamed around the world; the first picture of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their newborn royal baby. There have been months of speculation over whether or not the couple would follow in the footsteps of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the then Prince and Princess of Wales before them, posing for global press for this first picture outside the hospital. Now, Prince Harry and Meghan have confirmed that they have chosen their own way.
Issuing a statement via aides this week, the couple have taken the “personal decision” to keep plans surrounding the birth “private”, sharing their news “once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately”. It is understood they will still pose for a photograph at some stage following the birth, but this will not be a large-scale media moment as we’ve seen before. Details of where the Duchess of Sussex intends to give birth have also not been revealed. It has been reported that she favours a home birth, although aides have declined to comment. This would not be a first, as the Queen had all her four children at home, but more recently, royals have opted for hospital births.
The impending arrival comes after a slew of changes that the newlyweds have made in their personal and professional lives, setting the blueprint for their future. They have just moved out of Kensington Palace into recently renovated Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. And last month it was announced that the Sussexes will fully split from the Cambridges and set up their own offices in Buckingham Palace. Described by an aide as “future-proofing”, it is an arrangement that will make sense when Charles, the Prince of Wales, becomes king, and it reflects Prince William and Prince Harry’s different destinies. The Sussexes’ communication will be headed up by newly appointed spokeswoman, PR heavyweight Sara Latham – who most recently led campaigns at communications firm Freuds, and was previously a senior advisor on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. They launched their own Instagram account @sussexroyal on 2 April. The changes are a sign that the couple are forging their own path, but still, significantly, within the existing framework, with Latham reporting to the Queen’s communications secretary, Donal McCabe.
Prince Harry is sixth in line to the throne and his child will be seventh – a position that will fall dramatically with time (Prince Michael of Kent was born seventh in line and will become 48th when baby Sussex is born). But both sons of Princess Diana are equally as adored by the public, and the excitement about this baby far belies his or her position in the royal hierarchy.
Baby Sussex already has an army of fans who have generated tens of thousands of pounds for charity via the viral initiative #globalsussexbabyshower. The grassroots movement, started by one woman on social media encouraging donations ahead of the birth, was described by the Sussexes as “an incredibly special surprise” on their Instagram. Their account broke a world record, gaining one million followers in less than six hours. (They now have 4.5 million followers.) So far, they’ve used the platform to share unseen images and highlight charities they hope people will support, an indication of their intention to communicate directly with their – often young – global audience and use their account to give behind-the-scenes insight.
Providing information in this way allows them to give a glimpse into their personal lives, while calling the shots on what they do and don’t share. Drawing a line between the public and private is hugely important to Prince Harry, who spent his childhood watching his mother being pursued by photographers. Protecting his own family from what he sees as unnecessary intrusion will be a big priority, particularly in an era when anyone can take and publish a photograph. The Duke told Newsweek in 2017 that he was determined to have “a relatively normal life. And if I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one too.”
Away from the ‘goldfish bowl’ of Kensington Palace, the Sussexes can enjoy a rural lifestyle in Windsor, with its Great Park on their doorstep. As there’s no expectation for the child to have a full-time royal role, he or she is instead expected to carve out their own career. Markle’s Californian childhood is a world away from palace life, but she will likely want the influences from her upbringing to remain strong, with mother Doria playing a pivotal role. The former actress has already said that her belief in gender equality is something she will pass on.
They may not be a future king and queen, but Harry and Meghan are writing their own chapter in royal history. And the world is watching.