Even before Meghan, Duchess of Sussex gave birth to her first child, a baby boy born on Monday named Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, friends of Meghan Markle and the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, were already going out of their way to shower the popular royal pair with gifts.
But giving to royals is more complicated than wrapping up a baby rattle and posting it to the palace address. A grassroots “global baby shower” movement, spearheaded on social media by Markle’s fans, urged followers to give to charities on March 31 in the couple’s name. That spurred an April 5 Instagram update from the Sussexes, thanking participants and echoing the request that they not be sent physical presents. They “have long planned to encourage members of the public to make donations to select charities,” the post reminded followers, directing them to a number of organizations that support families in need.
While it’s nothing new for the charity-minded to request donations in lieu of gifts, this particular request had good reason for being underlined: as CNN royals commentator Victoria Arbiter explains, the royals cannot accept any “unsolicited” gifts.
So if there’s a return address on a package sent to the palace, the mail-room staff will promptly send it back with a note–although it probably won’t come from Harry and Meghan directly, Arbiter clarifies, but from the royal office. No return address? The gift will get donated to local hospitals or charities; Kate Middleton followed the same protocol since her children were born. “The royal mail room, you can imagine, is pretty intense,” Arbiter says; security is paramount.
Brands should also forget about sending free products. “If they’re sent from a company, they will definitely be sent back [or donated], because the royals don’t want to be walking billboards,” Arbiter says.
That doesn’t mean that new baby Archie will go gift-free. “There’s no official royal prohibition against members of the royal family receiving gifts from their friends or family members,” says royals expert Leslie Carroll. Tennis star Serena Williams and lawyer Amal Clooney, for example, reportedly arranged for the penthouse location of Markle’s Manhattan baby shower in February. While it has not been made public exactly what was bestowed on Markle at that time, experts guess there were plenty of “sweet and sentimental” presents to unwrap. “If Serena or Amal want to give Meghan a cute little onesie for the baby,” Carroll says, “that’s not a crime.”
But for those who aren’t part of Markle’s inner circle, it’s best to hold off on sending gifts their way. That said, there is one thing the royals always accept: regular mail. “If people send cards congratulating them on the baby, they will get a reply at some stage. It may take some time, but they will get a reply,” Arbiter says, “and it’s a nice way to show their appreciation.”