When Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gives birth later this spring, the public might not learn the details of the royal baby’s birth right away. Kensington Palace announced on Thursday that Meghan Markle and Harry, the Duke of Sussex, will keep the birth plans private. One thing that the public certainly won’t learn until Meghan and Prince Harry have the royal baby is the hospital they chose.
Let’s step back and look at the history. Princess Anne, Princess Diana and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, all had their royal babies at the Lindo Wing in Paddington, which is a close drive from Kensington Palace. But according to Katie Nicholl, Vanity Fair royal correspondent and the author of Harry and Meghan: Life, Loss, and Love, it’s very likely that the couple may even choose a home birth for the royal baby.
However, it’s also been widely reported that the Duchess of Sussex will choose Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, which is much closer in proximity to the couple’s new home, Frogmore Cottage, in Windsor. But that may not be so surprising, according to Victoria Arbiter, a royal expert and commentator for CNN.
When Princess Diana and Kate Middleton had their children in the Lindo Wing, they were only a short drive away. “Harry and Meghan are now in Windsor, and for anyone about to have their first baby, I would think they would want to have the shortest drive possible,” Arbiter says. “So it actually makes sense for a number of reasons.”
It wouldn’t even be a break from tradition either: At least four royal babies have already been born outside of Lindo in recent years. Two royal babies have been born at Frimley, and Sarah Ferguson gave birth to Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie at the Portland Hospital for Women and Children in London.
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex — who is married to Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Edward — gave birth at Frimley Park Hospital in 2003. Her daughter Louise was born one month prematurely, and the royal family was grateful to the staff at Frimley for making sure the Countess had a healthy and safe birth. For her second child, James, in 2007, the royals went back to Frimley.
Sophie returned to the hospital in 2014 and showed how much the staff and their work meant to her. “The service you provide is paramount and can literally make the difference between life and death, I can attest to that,” Sophie told members of Frimley’s staff during the visit, the Telegraph reported. Clearly, the hospital is “equipped with dealing with royal births,” Nicholl told TIME in an email.
Though some royal mothers have often chosen the same hospitals, Arbiter says, “it’s not really about tradition. It’s more about personal choice and which hospital best suits your particular birth plan.” And, if Meghan chooses to have a home birth at Frogmore, that would actually adhere to royal tradition rather than break it. “Royal women for centuries had their babies at home,” Arbiter says.
Since the birth game-plan is to be kept private, as the palace said, we also can’t expect a post-birth public photograph of both Meghan and the baby after she welcomes her new child. Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge both took the same picture outside Lindo Wing, so Arbiter says some people may be disappointed and miss that with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Royal watchers will still, however, be privy to a small photo opportunity set to take place a few days after the birth, People reports.
But one thing the public is going to have to get used to, Arbiter says, is giving the couple some privacy with their new baby. “Harry and Meghan are very keen to maintain the privacy of their child and also to sort of set the boundaries on what is acceptable and what’s not,” she says. “And we have to respect any new mother’s choices in that regard.”