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British Royal Family

Behind Palace Gates with Juliet Rieden: How Duchess Meghan drew a new line in the sand within the age-old royal institution

It's been a big month for the royal Firm.

By Juliet Rieden
Meghan is relaxing in the grass, her head languishing in Prince Harry's lap, right hand resting on her bump, and both are beaming uncontrollably as they stare into each other's eyes.
The picture says it all. After all the pain of the past year – moving to the US, court battles, their heart-breaking miscarriage, family rifts and virus restrictions preventing travel – this was truly exciting and welcome news.
"We can confirm that Archie is going to be a big brother. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to be expecting their second child," a spokesman for the couple said.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting their second child. (Misan Harriman)
The black and white photo was taken remotely by long-time friend and photographer Misan Harriman. The Nigerian-born British photographer and social activist who shot UK Vogue's Black Lives Matter cover was the perfect choice for this precious memory.
"Meg, I was there at your wedding to witness this love story begin, and my friend, I am honoured to capture it grow. Congratulations!" said Misan.
"Archie is going to be a big brother," the couple's spokesperson shared. (Dominic Lipinski / PA / AAP)
Back in freezing England, separated by lockdown, Harry's family was informed in advance of the official announcement and was overjoyed.
"Her Majesty, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and entire family are 'delighted' and wish them well," said a Palace spokesperson.
As it turns out 2021 will be a bumper royal baby year. Only a few days earlier, on February 9, Princess Eugenie gave birth to a baby boy, delivering the news on Instagram with her own black and white photo showing their son's tiny hand entwined in those of his parents.
Eugenie's announcement came 10 hours after the birth and media were not invited to London's Portland Hospital. Buckingham Palace later officially confirmed that father Jack Brooksbank was present at the birth of his son, who weighed in at 8lbs 1oz (3.6kg), and that, "The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of York, Sarah, Duchess of York, and Mr and Mrs George Brooksbank are delighted with the news".

It was a different story 31 years earlier when Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York cradled newborn Eugenie outside the same hospital, smiling into the lenses of waiting photographers.
This was the traditional media scrum. Instead, Eugenie followed in Meghan and Harry's footsteps and opted for a more discreet entry into the world for her son and a less confronting one for herself.
While the Sussexes were roundly criticised for breaking with modern royal tradition and keeping this moment private when Archie, now almost two, was born, looking back, Meghan gave the House of Windsor the circuit breaker that I think was sorely needed.
No longer do new royal mums and their offspring have to face that barrage of flashbulbs as a required rite of passage.
Meghan also challenged the royal rule book with her privacy court case.
While not unprecedented – the Queen, Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Prince William have all taken legal action against the newspapers and tabloid press before – the result certainly drew a new line in the sand, breaking the much quoted 'never complain, never explain' Palace credo that dictates the traditional response to tabloid misinformation.
To recap, the Duchess of Sussex had the perceived audacity to take UK's Mail on Sunday and Mail Online to court for issues of privacy and copyright involving the publication of large sections of her private letter sent to her father in August 2018.
In a summary judgement that threw out the newspaper's case, Judge Mark Warby ruled that their publication of the letter was "manifestly excessive and hence unlawful".
For Meghan it was the vindication she had longed to hear for "two long years". She announced she was "grateful to the courts" and called the newspaper's actions "illegal and dehumanising".
"These tactics … are not new," she added. "In fact, they've been going on for far too long without consequence. For these outlets, it's a game. For me and so many others, it's real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep."
Meghan has challenged the royal rule book in more ways than one. (Getty)
But back to babies … It is Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's first child, the Duke and Duchess of York's first grandchild, and the ninth great-grandchild for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who won't be able to see the baby until COVID restrictions are lifted and may not see Archie or his new sibling this year.
And the next royal baby will be Zara and Mike Tindall's third child – which Mike has said he hopes will be a boy.
Mike and Zara Tindall will welcome a third child this year. (Getty)
Perhaps in preparation for his increased grandfather role, children were on Prince Charles' mind this month as he announced a series of nature challenges for the spring school holidays.
In a world increasingly led by technology there is something rather charming and comforting about the 72-year-old's suggestions that harked back to a calmer, simpler time of outdoor play.
"It's at this time of year that all sorts of wonderful things start happening as Nature wakes up the world from its winter sleep," said the Prince on a video shot outdoors with woodland crocii just starting to show.
"Buds on trees will soon become leaves, bulbs will start pushing spring flowers up through the soil and we'll soon be hearing the wonderful sound of birdsong every morning … Take a look at the range of activities, and why not report back, by posting your pictures of what you have discovered, or of the things you have made? See for instance, how many birds you can spot; plant the seeds left from cooking vegetables and see how long it takes them to sprout; decorate pebbles, stones or shells."
The nature focus was reminiscent of his daughter-in-law, Kate's, Back to Nature Garden revealed at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show in which Princes George, Louis and Princess Charlotte ran about with glee.
Currently, the Cambridge family are together at home where both Kate and William have been busy supporting doctors, nurses and parents in a raft of video calls. In one call with other parents Kate expressed how exhausting it was home-schooling children and revealed the person she leans on most in current times is her husband, William.
The issue of support also came up in the Duchess of Cornwall's work when she was overcome by an inspirational new scheme to help domestic abuse victims.
The SafeLives scheme is an initiative that allows victims to go to any one of the UK's 2300 branches of Boots chemists and more than 300 independent chemists and use the code word 'Ani' – standing for Action Needed Immediately – to appeal for help to escape their abuser. They are taken into a private room where immediate action can be implemented.
"It's pure brilliance because it's so simple yet so effective," said the Duchess, who is its Patron.
"My heart is well and truly in it."
Duchess Catherine and Prince William have been busy supporting doctors, nurses and parents in a raft of video calls. (Kensington Palace)

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