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This Royal Revives a Royal Birthing Tradition After 50 Years

A side-by-side image of Zara and Mike Tindall at an event and a painting of Queen Mary of Modena and Prince James
Source: Wikimedia Commons/Ann Longmore-Etheridge/Flickr

Princess Anne’s daughter, Zara Tindall, is the first royal woman in over 50 years to welcome a child at home rather than in a hospital.

Zara, who married former England rugby player Mike Tindall, revived the royal tradition of home births after her second child, Lucas, was born on the bathroom floor of the family’s Gatcombe Park house in March 2021.

On an episode of the “The Good, The Bad & The Rugb‪y” podcast, Mike announced, “Sunday got even better because a little baby boy arrived at my house.” Mike added that the baby “arrived very quickly.”

“Fortunately, the midwife who was going to meet us at the hospital wasn’t that far away so she drove up just as we had assumed the [position] and the second midwife arrived just after the head had arrived,” Mike said.

While Lucas’s birth may have been a last-minute accident, babies were typically born in palaces and residences for most of British royal history. Known by the euphemism “confinement,” historian Carolyn Harris says that royal mothers would disappear from the public eye a month before giving birth, as reported by the Times.

Henry VIII’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, traced the tradition back, designing a space exclusively for women. According to the Times, “The first royal child born after the mother secluded herself in that way was Henry VIII’s elder brother Arthur Tudor in 1486.”

The last royal family member to give birth at home was Princess Margaret, the late Queen’s sister, who gave birth to Lady Sarah at Kensington Palace in 1964. Queen Elizabeth II also had four children born at home, either at Buckingham Palace or Clarence House.

“The best thing about being at home, the best thing was, as soon as he’s wrapped up, he’s skin on skin, straight downstairs. TV room. Golf on. This is what we’re doing,” Mike said about the pros of having an at-home birth.

While childbirth is often a very private experience these days, some royal women had to give birth in public after a fake news crisis had massive geopolitical consequences. King James II was rumored to sneak a baby perish after birth and sneak a replacement baby in a warming pan. This incredible disinformation campaign is one of the big factors that led to the so-called Glorious Revolution in 1688,” Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, says (via the Times).

While the public had to witness royal births for a while, Queen Victoria chose only a select group, including Prince Albert, the doctor, and attending ladies, to be in the room when she gave birth. Government officials would gather in an adjacent room, and peer through several open doors to see the birth. This practice then evolved into the tradition of royal births.

It was the birth of King Charles in 1948 that changed the tradition again. “Until the birth of [King] Charles, the Home Secretary had to be on hand for the births of direct heirs to the throne,” says Harris, “but it had already been made clear that the Home Secretary didn’t have to be present for people further down the line of succession.”

While historically, the public has viewed royals as public property, there has been conversation about how much privacy they are allowed. This became a hot-button topic when Princess Kate Middleton disappeared for a few months after her planned abdominal surgery. Her absence had lead to widespread speculation among the public and media about what was happening behind the palace doors.


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