Much has been said about Meghan Markle breaking royal protocol and modernizing the royal family, but we can’t forget that Princess Diana was the original trailblazer. From her refusal to say that she would “obey” her husband in her wedding vows to the way she eschewed gloves and hats during royal engagements (“You can’t cuddle a child in a hat”), Diana was a rebellious princess. Perhaps most notably for those who would follow in her footsteps, it was Diana’s resistance toward the royal family’s childbirth traditions that paved the way for Kate Middleton (and Meghan soon) to give birth on her own terms.
As far back as the 1840s, royals would enter what was called “twilight sleep” during childbirth. This process involved medicating the mother with morphine and scopolamine so that she could give birth pain-free while still somewhat conscious. Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth both opted for this method when they delivered their children, which was also carried out at their palace homes.
On the other hand, Princess Diana started the practice of giving birth in a hospital instead of at Kensington Palace, delivering both Prince William and Prince Harry at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. Even more shocking was her decision to be 100 percent awake and to give birth to both her boys “in an upright position,” according to natural childbirth activist Sheila Kitzinger. “I said that Charles looked strong enough to hold her,” Kitzinger recalled while writing for The Daily Mail. “And that is what happened. It was the first active royal birth — a complete contrast to the queen’s.”
In 2013, Kate Middleton followed her mother-in-law’s lead by giving birth to Prince George at St. Mary’s Hospital as well. Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were later also born in the same hospital.
We’ll have to wait and see what Meghan does for her first pregnancy, but if the special tributes to Princess Diana peppered throughout her wedding are any indication, the Duchess of Sussex might very well continue to pay homage when it comes to birthing the next generation of royals.