Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton, and the Changing Game of Royal Pregnancy Announcements
In 1948, the British media received a statement from Buckingham Palace: The queen, then Princess Elizabeth, would “undertake no public engagements after the end of June.” The message was cryptic, but the subtext wasn’t: She was pregnant, and this was “official” confirmation.
Fast-forward to September 2017. Kensington Palace tweeted to millions: “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting their third child.” Clarence House, the official account of Charles and Camilla, retweeted them, and then did a tweet of their own: “TRH are delighted with the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child. #RoyalBaby.” In a viral video, Prince Harry gave a thumbs-up to reporters and declared it “fantastic.”
As is inevitable with time, a lot has changed for the British monarchy in 70 years—including how they publicize their pregnancies. But how exactly did they go from vague, read-between-the-lines statements to, well, #RoyalBaby?
Queen Elizabeth II’s pregnancy announcements, ironically, made no reference to her condition, or included joyful language of any kind. In fact, in 1959, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew, she downright apologized. “The queen will undertake no further public engagements. Her majesty deeply regrets the disappointment which her inability to carry out her projected tour in West Africa as arranged this autumn may bring to many of her people in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia.”
Part of it was the times. Yes, the public was thrilled with the news—especially one still reeling from the lingering effects of WWII. But discussions about Queen Elizabeth II’s physical state, let alone one that implied she, you know, had sex, was likely seen as improper for the “Keep Calm and Carry On” Brits. Even Americans felt weird about it: In 1948, when she was just a pregnant princess, a New York Times headline blared “A Baby Makes the British Seem Somewhat Unbritish: A Reticent People Is Not Reticent When It Is a Question of Royal Offspring.” But part of it was the attitude of duty-conscious Elizabeth. “Why does everyone make such fuss? I am not the only woman who is going to have a baby,” she reportedly said pregnant with Charles.
But by the ’80s, the mood was different. Punk and disillusion swept the land. The formality enshrouding the monarchy seemed out of date, out of touch, and out of place. “God Save the Queen” was not the national anthem, but the Sex Pistols’ song— “God save the queen/She’s not a human being/and there’s no future/In England’s dreaming.”
Yet, there was a fresh-faced hope: Princess Diana. She was warm. She was friendly. She’d go right up to barriers and touch people, while other royals waved from a distance. When she got pregnant, her and Charles’s statement was joyful, and reflected a new, approachable attitude: “The Prince and Princess of Wales, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and members of both families are delighted by the news. The princess is in excellent health.” Diana also reportedly even chatted with reporters about it.
The unprecedented openness was what Britain needed. “For this weary nation, struggling with no visible sign of success against the currents of economic decline, a pregnant princess will be a vivid symbol of the continuity of the monarchy, with its links to the past and its promise of at least one element of stability in the future,” wrote R.W. Apple Jr. in The New York Times.
When Kate Middleton and Prince William started having children, they, too, adopted the “Diana” method of sharing the news. However, they added their own spin: social media.
While their parents and grandparents did traditional press releases, William and Kate broke the news of baby number three via Twitter. It was, no doubt, the most informal royal pregnancy announcement in history.
Part of it could be the quick time crunch: Reportedly, the couple wanted to wait, but with Kate canceling an appearance because of her hyperemesis gravidarum, they announced it earlier than planned. But also, it showed how, like Diana, Will and Kate are tailoring their actions to the times.
By doing it in a tweet—the millennial generation’s preferred way to break news—they ensured that they are keeping up with the times, rather than falling behind them. And, as their quick tweet back shows, Charles and Camilla are trying, too.
There’s been a lot of chatter of what the monarchy will look like post-Elizabeth, especially since she’s so beloved by the public. It’s impossible to tell—but it looks like there will be a lot more tweets and hashtags in the future.
Source: vogue com
Tags: Prince William, Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Prince Charles, Baby Announcement