Why Diana Broke The "Twilight Sleep" Royal Birth Tradition

And other traditions you didn’t know about.

by Sophie McEvoy
Originally Published: 
Princess Diana and Prince Charles after the birth of Prince William.

This year we're set to have royal baby fever, with Meghan Markle, Zara Tindall, and Princess Eugenie all having welcomes little ones, and Princess Beatrice due to introduced a new addition to her family in 2021, too. So now feels like a great time to look back at some of the most notable royal births throughout the years.

Whether following royal protocol or ditching tradition altogether, there's always a ceremony of sorts to welcome new members of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II started the trend of going against a few royal traditions, while her daughter, Princess Anne, led the charge on the Lindo Wing becoming the unofficial official place of to give birth to little princes, princesses, dukes, etc.

Each royal generation has taken their own approach when it comes to announcing a new royal baby to the world, as well as sharing the experiences they face during pregnancy. Princess Diana and the Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, were both known to have suffered severe morning sickness, and more recently Zara Tindall and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, opened up about their experiences with miscarriages.

Although it’s a while yet until Beatrice introduces her latest addition to the royal family, why don’t you take a look back at some of the most memorable royal births in British history?

Queen Elizabeth II

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The Queen had traditional home births with her four children. Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward were born in Buckingham Palace, while Princess Anne was born in Clarence House due to renovations at the Palace.

It's not entirely clear whether the Queen had maternity leave, but it seems she had a much more flexible schedule with Charles and Anne as they were both born before she was coronated.

With the birth of her first child, Her Majesty put an end to one particularly unusual tradition: the practice of having a senior politician present at royal births to verify the baby's "regal legitimacy." This duty, which dates back centuries, would usually be carried out by the Home Secretary.

Princess Margaret

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Princess Margaret followed in her sister's footsteps and gave birth at home, having her son, David, at Clarence House and daughter Sarah at Kensington Palace. Both were born via Caesarean section at Margaret's request.

Princess Anne

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Princess Anne truly broke royal tradition with Peter and Zara. Instead of having her son and daughter at home, Anne started the trend of giving birth at the private Lindo Wing of London's St Mary's Hospital, as well as posing for photos on the hospital steps.

In even more firsts, Peter became "the first untitled grandchild of a British sovereign," as The New York Times reported in 1977. No reason was given as to why, but speculation at the time suggested it was down to Anne and her partner Mark Phillips' "freewheeling and independent" spirit. Love.

Princess Diana

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Princess Diana carried on Anne's tradition of giving birth at the Lindo Wing, having both Prince William and Prince Harry at the private hospital. Diana also opted to have a fully natural birth as opposed to a "twilight sleep," like Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II before her. This is where "the baby would be pulled out with forceps while the mother was under general anaesthetic," per Marie Claire. Diana reportedly also chose to give birth in an upright position as opposed to lying down. "It was the first active royal birth — a complete contrast to the queen's," natural childbirth expert Sheila Kitzinger told the magazine.

During her first pregnancy, Diana experienced severe nausea and sickness — a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarium. "I didn't know anything because I hadn't read my books, but I knew it was morning sickness because you just do," she said in the book Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words (via International Business Times).

She also experienced post-natal depression following William's birth. "Post-natal depression hit me hard," Diana said, "and it wasn't much the baby that produced it, it was the baby that triggered off all else that was going on in my mind. Boy, was I troubled."

Sarah, Duchess of York

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Unlike Princess Anne and Diana, the Duchess of York decided to have her two daughters at the American-owned Portland Hospital in Westminster. This made Sarah the first royal to give birth in a non-NHS hospital, too.

That didn't stop the obligatory photoshoot outside, however, with Sarah following Princess Anne and Diana's tradition of showing their newborn additions to the world.

Kate Middleton

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Kate followed in her mother-in-law's footsteps by having all three of her children at the Lindo Wing, as well as posing on the front steps of the private hospital.

Like Diana, Kate Middleton also experienced hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancies. "I got very bad morning sickness, so I'm not the happiest of pregnant people," she said on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast hosted by Giovanna Fletcher. "Lots of people have it far, far worse, but it was definitely a challenge. Not just for me but also for your loved ones around you, and I think that's the thing, being pregnant and having a newborn baby and things like that, impacts everybody in the family."

"I was really sick," Kate continued. "I wasn't eating the things I should be eating. But yet, the body was still able to take all the goodness from my body and to grow new life, which I think is fascinating."

Meghan Markle

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The Duchess of Sussex decided to follow the Duchess of York’s lead and have her first baby at Portland Hospital. However, instead of posing on the steps, Archie was shown to the world two days after his birth at Windsor Castle. "It's magic, it's pretty amazing!" Meghan Markle said of motherhood (via USA Today). "I have the two best guys in the world, so I'm really happy."

In November 2020, Markle wrote an article for The New York Times where she revealed that she had a miscarriage earlier in the year. "Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few," she wrote.

On June 6, 2021, Harry and Meghan announced the birth of their baby girl, Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, who was born at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California according to Retuers.

Their daughter is named after an affectionate nickname given to her great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, and her late grandmother Diana, the Princess of Wales. “On June 4th, we were blessed with the arrival of our daughter, Lili. She is more than we could have ever imagined, and we remain grateful for the love and prayers we’ve felt across the globe,” the couple shared in a statement on the Archewell website. “Thank you for your continued kindness and support during this very special time.”

Zara Tindall


In December 2020, former England rugby player Mike Tindall announced that he and Zara Phillips were expecting their third child. "I'd like a boy this time, I've got two girls, I would like a boy," he said on The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast. "I'll love it whether a boy or a girl — but please be a boy!"

Well, Mike’s wishes were answered as Zara gave birth to a baby boy on March 21. And in contrast to his two sisters, Mia and Lena, little Lucas was born at home rather unexpectedly, according to his father. As Mike explained on his podcast, Lucas was delivered in their bathroom with the help of Zara’s friend, Dolly Lucas. “She was there and recognised that we wouldn’t have got to the hospital in time, so it was a run to the gym, get a mat, get into the bathroom, towels down, and brace brace brace!”

Zara also detailed her experiences with miscarrying in an article for The Sunday Times (via BBC News), where she described having to give birth due to the baby being so far along. "You don't talk about it because it's too raw," she said. "But as with everything, time's a great healer."

Princess Eugenie

Princess Eugenie followed in the footsteps of her mother and Meghan by giving birth at Portland Hospital in Westminster. She welcomed her baby boy, August Philip Hawke, on Feb. 9, 2021. The princess shared a photo of her and husband Jack Brooksbank holding their son’s little hand the day of his birth, accompanied by three blue hearts.

While Eugenie didn’t pose on the steps of the hospital as her mother did with her, the princess has since shared dozens of photos of her son on Instagram. The first official photograph of the family of three came on Feb. 20, with August being cradled by Jack. “We wanted to introduce you to August Philip Hawke Brooksbank.. 💙💙💙” Eugenie wrote. “Thank you for so many wonderful messages. Our hearts are full of love for this little human, words can’t express. We are excited to be able to share these photos with you.”

The most recent photo of August is through a series of photos celebrating Jack’s birthday on May 3. “You are exceptional.. Happy birthday my love,” the princess captioned the post.

Princess Beatrice

Princess Beatrice announced she too is expecting her first child this year, with her due date being in and around autumn. The happy news was announced via the Royal Family’s official Instagram page on May 19. “The Queen has been informed and both families are delighted by the news,” the statement read.

Eugenie also celebrated the news, writing that the bees would have to share their special day with her sister (it was World Bee Day). “Beabea and Edo huge congratulations on your news – can’t wait to meet the little one 🥳🥳,” she wrote.

No details have been revealed as to where they’re planning on having the baby, but it wouldn’t be surprising if she followed in her mum (and sister’s) footsteps.

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