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After what seemed like the longest wait, there is finally a Royal baby, a boy, as just announced by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Instagram.
“It‘s a Boy!” the post was headlined. “Their royal highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to announce the birth of their child.”
The baby was born Monday at 5.26 a.m. British time, and weighs 7 lbs. 3 oz. Harry said he and Meghan were still mulling a name for the boy, and that they would introduce the baby to the public in two days time.
There is something simple to this story: joy for new parents Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. And then there is something in the birth, and all the hullabaloo around it, that was there also when Harry and Meghan got married: change.
Already, in the couple’s planning around the birth, in how they want to bring their child into its unique world, we have seen a very different way of doing things. Meghan and Harry have made it clear, as evidenced in the birth announcement itself, that they are doing things their way.
Royalty is about ceremony and symbol, about handshakes and smiling. If you are a young royal, this means going around Britain and the world, breathing your own life into a willfully antic brand.
If you believe the royals have purpose, if you are a royal fan, this frenzied circus of history, glamour and social good is appealing. That the Royals stand for history and a particularly British kind of class privilege is also attractive to fans; to non-fans it seems arcane, absurd, and a symbol of the very worst aspects of class and conferred privilege. The royal family lives in palaces; they are a strange performance of fairy tale in a world that supposedly long ago stopped believing in them.
The relationship of Harry and Meghan has elements of a fairy tale about it; as with Kate Middleton there is the non-royal marrying into the Firm. But Meghan is different from Kate; she is clearly more opinionated and eloquent. She wants to be out in the world, actively campaigning for whatever change and awareness her chosen charities symbolize.
In how they have brought their first child into the world, Harry and Meghan have defied royal and media convention. There was to be no posing on hospital steps. There was no kowtowing to the usual demands of a royal baby-obsessed media.
Harry and Meghan made it clear that they were doing things at their own speed and discretion, and it seems entirely likely that they will continue to do so when bringing up their first child. Expect a desire for privacy and a determination to bring their child up on their terms rather than royal tradition and modern media expectation.
The excitement around this baby will be stoked and nurtured by royal fans themselves; and in confronting this behavior—set on repeat for each royal birth—Harry and Meghan have, however deliberately, injected some sanity into the bizarre carnival. They have become more private as the din around them has grown louder. Their unwillingness to play the royal birth game is significant and revealing of their own brand of royal autonomy.
Both could be mindful of dark precedent. Harry witnessed the combined effects of the fishbowl nature of royal life and media intrusion in the experience of his mother. He and William both feel that Diana was hounded by the media, and observe the institution balefully.
Harry and Meghan are clearly determined to build the safest, sanest, and healthiest environment for their child. They already know the luxuries and constraints of royal life; they know the boundaries and expectations they are operating within, and yet they are also keen to test whatever elements of those boundaries and expectations don’t work for them.
Royal watchers have already seen how Meghan and Harry are using their Instagram account as their own news feed. Prior to the baby’s birth, the public backed their desire for privacy.
And yet they know they are not a regular family. For all their mistrust of the media, they are both expert media players. Attractive, charming, and determined to make a difference in the world (through the charities and causes they support), Harry and Meghan and their first child are a new kind of royal unit.
Harry may be the spare to William’s heir, but he knows that he has his own power that may even outstrip his big brother’s. His marriage to Meghan increases the currency of that power. She is American, and so has a given immediate access point to American royal watchers, old and young.
The fact that she is bi-racial, and that this should still be radical and historic in the Royal Family in 2019, is telling enough. But Meghan has written before about racism in America and her biracial identity, indeed has written about both things powerfully in Elle in 2015.
Harry and Meghan are a little more free in what they can do, and what voices they can have in the world, than throne-awaiting William and Kate. Meghan herself is not a pliant royal wife. Prior to her marriage, she had an impressive resumé of campaigning and activism. She is likely more intelligent and politically astute than her husband. Not for them a life of ceremony and protocol; Harry and Meghan are motivated by a committed belief in social justice.
They are also, as the pre-birth and birth of their child showed, simply unwilling to play by the old rules of the game. But they will also not be consigned to a supporting act role, or available jesters. The formation of their own royal court makes their intent to craft a globally-dominant brand apparent.
Harry and Meghan have their own power, and they know it. They also know that the future of the royal brand lies with them. They know that this means a balance of tradition and modernity; expect walkabouts, flowers and hugs, and also radicalism.
See how they have behaved with the birth of this first child as a test run. Harry and Meghan are doing things their own way, and in so doing they are initiating a new era of royalty—and maybe even being royal.