Hall of fame: royal babies and The Gazette

Queen Elizabeth II as a babyHere’s how The Gazette has marked the happy occasion of a royal births throughout the last century.

The official public record has been documenting royal births since the 17th century. Since then, some royal traditions and customs have changed, but others have steadfastly remained.

A not so private birth

From 1894, home secretaries were required to attend royal births for reasons of verification – to ensure that the baby and potential heir to the throne was a descendent of the monarch, and not an imposter. Previous to this, the royal birth room would have been even more crowded with privy councillors and ministers (along with medical practitioners and ladies-in-waiting, among others).

Queen Mary of Modena, wife of James II, gave birth to James Francis Edward on 10 June 1688, celebrated by the ‘Firing of the Cannon of the Tower, with all the Demonstrations of the Extraordinary Joy’ (Gazette issue 2354). Rumours at the time suggested that the little boy was a changeling who had been brought or smuggled in via a warming pan, or through a secret panel. But 70 eminent figures attended the birth at St James’s Palace and gave witness to it, with details published in The London Gazette: 

‘This Day between Nine and Ten in the morning the QUEEN was safely delivered  of a PRINCE at St James’s, his Majesty, the Queen Dowager, most of the Lords of the Privy Council, and Divers Ladies of Quality being present;’

It was decided by Queen Victoria that for the birth of the future Edward VIII (Gazette issue 26525), the home secretary would be sufficient for purposes of verification.

The custom was to happen for the final time on 25 December 1936, when the Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra, was born with home secretary John Simon present (Gazette Extraordinary, issue 34354). 

Some traditions haven’t changed, though. The centuries-old custom of posting a signed announcement on an ornate easel outside Buckingham Palace, and a 41-gun salute by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, are expected to mark the birth of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge's second child.

Royal babies announced in The Gazette: 20th and 21st century

Prince John (John Charles Francis)

George V and Princess Mary

12 July 1905

Gazette Extraordinary, issue 27816

Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary)

Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

21 April 1926

‘Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York was safely delivered of a Princess at 17, Bruton Street, Mayfair. His Royal Highness The Duke of York and the Countess of Strathmore were present. Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks was also present. Her Royal Highness and the Infant Princess are doing perfectly well.’ (Gazette Extraordinary, issue 33153)

Princess Margaret (Margaret Rose)

Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

21 August 1930

Gazette Extraordinary, issue 33636

Prince Edward (Edward George Nicholas Paul Patrick)

Prince George and Princess Marina

9 October 1935

Gazette Extraordinary, issue 34206

Princess Alexandra (Alexandra Helen Elizabeth Olga Christabel)

Prince George and Princess Marina

25 December 1936

Gazette Extraordinary, issue 34354

Prince Michael (Michael George Charles Franklin) 

Prince George and Princess Marina

4 July 1942

Gazette issue 35623

Prince Charles (Charles Philip Arthur George)

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth

14 November 1948 

‘Yesterday evening at fourteen minutes after nine o'clock Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, was safely delivered of a Prince at Buckingham Palace. His Majesty the KING, Her Majesty the QUEEN and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh were present. Her Royal Highness and the Infant Prince are both well. The happy event has been commemorated by the firing of the Park and Tower guns.’ (Gazette Extraordinary, issue 38455)

Princess Anne (Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise)

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth

15 August 1950

(Gazette Extraordinary, issue 38995)

Prince Andrew (Andrew Albert Christian Edward)

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth

19 February 1960

Gazette Extraordinary, issue 41961

Prince Edward (Edward Antony Richard Louis)

Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth

10 March 1964

Gazette Extraordinary, issue 43236

Peter Mark Andrew

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips

16 November 1977

Gazette Extraordinary, issue 47380

Prince William (William Arthur Philip Louis)

Prince Charles and Princess Diana

21 June 1982

‘This evening at 9.03 o'clock Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales was safely delivered of a son at St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was present. Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.’ (Gazette Extraordinary, issue 49027)

Prince Harry (Henry Charles Albert David)

Prince Charles and Princess Diana

15 September 1984

‘This afternoon at 4.20 o'clock Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales was safely delivered of a son at St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was present. Her Royal Highness and her son are both well.’ (Gazette Extraordinary, issue 49869)

Princess Beatrice (Beatrice Elizabeth Mary)

Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York

8 August 1988 

Gazette supplement 51436

Princess Eugenie (Eugenie Victoria Helena)

Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York

22 March 1990

Gazette supplement 52087

Prince George (George Alexander Louis)

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

22 July 2013

‘This afternoon, at 4.24 o’clock, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge was present. Her Royal Highness and her son are both well. This happy event will be commemorated by the firing of the Park and Tower Guns.’ (Gazette Extraordinary, issue 60576)

Using Letters Patent (not requiring parliament involvement), the Queen formally granted the title of prince or princess to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's children on 31 December 2013. Previous to this, a future daughter would have had the title of ‘lady’:

‘The Queen has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm dated 31 December 2012 to declare that all the children of the eldest son of The Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of Royal Highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour.’ (Gazette issue no 60348)

Princess Charlotte (Charlotte Elizabeth Diana)

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

2 May 2015

'This morning at 08.34, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a daughter at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge was present. Her Royal Highness and her daughter are both well. This happy event has been commemorated by the firing of the Park and Tower Guns.' (Gazette Extraordinary, issue 61216)