Over the past few decades, it's become expected for royal babies to be photographed in their mothers' arms just hours after birth. But Meghan and Harry are breaking from that tradition, and will not have a photocall directly outside the hospital.
According to a statement today from the royal family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, "have taken a personal decision to keep plans around the arrival of their new baby quiet. The Duke and Duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family."
Original: 4/4/2019: Shortly after Prince Louis was born last spring, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge exited the iconic doors of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital Paddington to introduce their newborn son to the world's media for the first time. They posed for a few minutes, as a sea of photographers, reporters, and news crews captured history in the making.
But as the royals smiled and waved for the cameras, William pointed out one photographer in particular, Arthur Edwards, the royal photographer for The Sun, saying "There's Arthur, there he is."
Edwards has been photographing the royal family for more than four decades, and Prince William grew up seeing him on a regular basis. His familiarity with the royal family is well known: "Other photographers always want to stand next to me because they always think that might happen," Edwards sheepishly tells T&C over the phone.
Edwards, in fact, was there for Prince William's first Lindo Wing portrait—the one he took with his parents. "I’ve been covering him all his life, from when he started nursery school all through, right to when he got married," Edwards says. "I photographed William when he came out of hospital in his mother’s arms."
He has photographed eight royal births, and watched as the tradition of posing for photos outside the hospital took root. While Princess Diana wasn't the first royal to give birth in a hospital—and she wasn't even the first royal to be photographed leaving a hospital with a newborn—she was the first royal to deliver an heir in the hospital, and that changed everything in the 1980s.
"There was fascination, and so of course hoards of photographers and the media were all outside waiting for her to leave with William," explains royal commentator Victoria Arbiter. "It really offered an opportunity to capture a moment in history. There is the future heir Prince Charles with his wife walking out with the future, future heir."
From there, it became a modern tradition for new royal mothers to give the world a glimpse of their babies right outside the hospital doors. "It's interesting when you think about thousand years of royal history, this is only two generations that have done this," Arbiter muses. "In this media-dominated world, it’s definitely something we’ve come to expect."
But over the past 36 years, the magnitude with which these moments are captured and broadcast around the world has changed enormously.
"With [Prince William's birth], there were two TV crews, the BBC and ITV, about 20 photographers, and about five or six reporters. When Harry came out of the hospital two years later, there were about another five more photographers," Edwards recalls. "When William carried out his eldest son George, there was 300 yards of media."
Those reporters represented outlets from around the world.
"There was a massive, massive media crowd. All the television networks were there, with an easy way to distribute news," Edwards says. "Every American network there; every Australian network there; there were New Zealand networks there; there were Mexican networks; there were Greek networks there. Everybody was there."
As the crowd of reporters grew, so did the number of photographs they were taking.
"As soon as those press pens were introduced, there were a lot of photographers there, but of course, they’re shooting film, so you only have thirty-six exposures," explains Bob Ahern, the director of archive for Getty Images. "When you’re talking about today, you’re talking about thousands of pictures."
And as technology advances, it's changing the type of images photographers try to capture.
Edwards's ideal picture is still "both the Duke and the Duchess holding the baby, looking straight at me," but there's also a desire for close-ups of the newborn, along with style-focused shots of the Duchess's outfit, and images of the royals as they get into the car.
"You have to get that great shot that’s going to be on the front cover of the world’s papers the next day, but I think in and around that, there’s just as much interest in scrolling through galleries of how the day unfolded," Ahern says.
"We want to know every detail, right? We want to know who makes the car seat that William uses. We want to know how Kate styled her hair. We want to know what the baby was wrapped in, all those little details. It’s an exponential interest. It’s kind of incredible, really."
And of course, now that everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times, royal fans are known to camp out outside the hospital, hoping to capture their own photos of the special day.
"I think the desire to participate is at its kind of peak. I think it’s a wonderful thing, but I don't think it changes what a professional photographer does," Ahern says.
As the Duchess of Sussex's due date draws near, it's unclear which hospital she will give birth in (or indeed, if she will opt for a home birth). Whether Meghan, Harry, and their new baby will pose for a portrait on their way out the door is an unknown factor as well.
Victoria Arbiter thinks they will, if only to quell the rabid interest in unsanctioned pictures. "If I were a betting person, I would think Meghan and Harry would stop for a photograph because by standing and giving the press what they need in that photograph and in that moment, it reduces the value of any kind of paparazzi pictures," she says. "That first photograph has the potential to be incredibly valuable. Which is when you see royals take control of the narrative. And they say, 'We’ll give you this picture but in exchange you’ve got to leave us alone and respect our privacy.'"
But she says there's still a chance they might want to protect their newborn from scrutiny.
"Bless this baby’s little heart because it’s a huge historical burden to carry, but the child happens to be the first mixed race heritage baby in the royal family. That is very exciting, that’s reflecting society as it is today. But as I say, that is also a tremendous historical burden for that little baby to have on his or her shoulders," she says. "Harry and Meghan are going to be keen to protect that baby."
Edwards is hoping for a photograph as well, but Harry and Meghan are known to break tradition. "I’ve asked the question and I’ve got no answers, so I don’t know," he says, when asked if he thinks Harry and Meghan will pose for a few snaps with their newborn outside the hospital.
"I photographed Harry coming out of that hospital in his mother’s arms, and I hope to photograph Harry’s baby when coming out in Harry’s arms," Edwards says. "But Harry might do it differently. He may have his own plans. We’ll know soon enough."
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