Still less than a year since she married into the Royal Family, yet we have come to expect the unexpected from the
What is clear, however, is that it is a further and highly significant step in showing Meghan’s insistence on doing things her own way at the expense of convention, never mind royal tradition.
It is decades since a royal mother last gave birth at home rather than in hospital. But let’s be absolutely clear, if Meghan does go ahead and give birth at home later this month, this will be unlike any normal home birth.
A friend said that Meghan (pictured) is in extremely good health and sees no reason why she could not enjoy a safe delivery in the privacy of the cottage
She will be attended by a full complement of medical experts and a helicopter will be on standby to whisk her to hospital should an emergency develop. Frogmore Cottage, her and Harry’s newly-renovated home on the Windsor estate, will be prepared for every eventuality.
It should be pointed out that though Meghan is keen to have a home birth – and follow in the footsteps of the Queen who gave birth to all her four children at either Buckingham Palace or Clarence House – no final decision has been taken.
And according to insiders when that decision is taken, it will be a medical one. ‘The duchess will accept what is best for both and for her unborn child,’ said a source. Nevertheless the fact she is even considering a home birth demonstrates yet again how the American-born duchess feels able to challenge accepted royal norms.
In many ways her reluctance to follow the example of her sister-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge who gave birth to all three of her children at the private Lindo wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington is commendable.
Kate merely followed the example of Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana whose sons were both born at the Lindo. And Diana followed the lead of Princess Anne, the mother of the Queen’s eldest grandchildren, Peter and Zara, who were also born at St Mary’s.
Ruling out the Lindo was Meghan’s first decision. The move to Windsor and the fact that their new home was ready before the birth due date was an enormous help.
Harry and Meghan have not ruled out a hospital delivery because a woman having a baby over the age of 35 is at an increased risk of premature birth
But the matter was settled when, just weeks before last May’s wedding, Meghan watched on television the circus surrounding the birth of Kate’s youngest child, Prince Louis with photographers and TV crews recording all the comings and goings.
I understand she had misgivings about the public nature of the event and considerable sympathy for her fiance’s sister-in-law who within hours of the birth was posing with William and their infant on the hospital’s steps.
She of course could not know that in under a year she too would be nearing the date for the delivery of her first child, but it did help make up her mind. Her main wish throughout the pregnancy has been that the birth should be as private as possible, that it should be a moment above all for her and Harry and not one that had to be shared with the world.
Meghan, 37, is keen to have a midwife-led birth at Frogmore Cottage, the new home she shares with Prince Harry on the Berkshire estate
Harry, who shares her thirst for privacy, is understood to be fully behind the idea of a home birth, but like any soon-to-be father, is anxious. Unlike his grandfather, Prince Philip, who was playing squash when Charles was born, Harry is certain to be on hand.
Theirs is a modern, equal partnership between a proud feminist who is determined to make her voice heard and a man who appreciates that power rather than feels diminished by it.
The couple have been hugely helped in that unlike Kate, Meghan has breezed through her pregnancy without, as far as we know, any complications. Certainly she was not admitted to hospital as Kate was in the early stages of her first pregnancy with Prince George with an extreme form of morning sickness which also affected her subsequent pregnancies. Thanks to her daily exercise and yoga routines she is also extremely fit. Harry and Kate have also been helped by royal genealogy. Their child will be seventh in line of succession and may not even be styled an HRH if they follow both Prince Edward and Princess Anne who wanted less of a spotlight on their children.
Everything we have learned since the pregnancy was announced indicates that Meghan will be a thoroughly modern mother, not hidebound by the traditions of her husband’s family. But she is also an acute observer of historical precedence.
The couple have been hugely helped in that unlike Kate, Meghan has breezed through her pregnancy without, as far as we know, any complications
‘She embraces ancient and modern,’ says one insider. So on the one hand she appears to be breaking with the past by choosing, if possible, to have a home birth, but at the same time she is aware that this is precisely what the Queen did. In 1948 there was no question that the Queen would give birth anywhere other than Buckingham Palace, where Charles was born by caesarean. She was attended by obstetricians and midwives. Two years later, Princess Anne was born at Clarence House – because the Palace was undergoing renovations following Second World War bomb damage. Both Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964 were born back at the Palace.
The Queen was also born at home in 1926. In her case it was the Mayfair townhouse of her maternal grandparents the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.
Four years later Princess Margaret was born at Glamis Castle, the Strathmores’ ancestral home where registration of the birth was delayed by several days so that she was not number 13 in the parish register. Meghan’s desire for a home birth fits too with her other subtle changes. Like the Queen she is keen on a midwife-led team to deliver her baby, though reports that she has snubbed the Queen’s highly experienced physicians, consultant gynaecologists Alan Farthing and Guy Thorpe-Beeston are said to be wide of the mark.
Both men, who attended at the arrival of all three of Kate’s children, are expected to be involved, but just how involved has yet to be decided. Many will have nothing but sympathy for Meghan and Harry at their wish for privacy at such an intimate moment in their lives as the arrival of a newborn.
But despite this there will be considerable public interest in the birth for whether they like it or not the new baby will symbolise the diversity of contemporary Britain.
One subject under discussion has been whether the couple will observe the niceties of posing with their infant child. It is understood Meghan does not want the pressure of dressing up and posing almost immediately after the birth just because it is expected.
Rather than facing scores of cameras she would much prefer a picture taken later by a friend or trusted insider. A home birth would avoid any media circus.
Certainly it would make her mother, Doria, who is expected to be there for the birth, feel much more at home.
Ever since that May wedding, Meghan has demonstrated a remarkable degree of independence from and flexibility with the Royal Family.
When her father failed to turn up to give her away she turned a potential crisis into a cool and fashionable statement by walking part of the way up the St George’s chapel aisle on her own, before accepting the arm of Charles for the walk to the altar.
She showed that she was not afraid of criticism over her and Harry’s decision to move out of the comfort zone of Kensington Palace to Windsor while breaking with Prince William.
She also demonstrated a remarkable ability to grasp the details of her life early on – extraordinary really when you think of her background and the fact that Princess Diana never did. In particular she recognised that the break with William was entirely natural because he and Harry were set on different paths.
Of course along the way there have been mistakes. The very public breakdown of her relationship with her father has been a tragedy and the decision to allow friends to defend her in glossy magazines was also risky. Her lavish baby shower trip to New York with its glitzy hotel and money-no-object extravagance was also criticised. Preachy public utterances have not helped either.
But the joy of a new baby will change all that. In years to come having a home birth for their first child is likely to be seen as the least remarkable aspect of this intriguing royal couple.