Are Meghan and Harry really going to Africa?

There's still no official word on Prince Harry and Meghan's highly anticipated royal baby. But as the Baby Sussex waiting game has churned on, much speculation has also been swirling about what life will look like for the new family down the road.

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With no official word that Prince Harry and Meghan's first baby has arrived, speculation continues to swirl around the much-anticipated birth and what's in store for the young family down the road. (Chris Jackson/AFP/Getty Images)

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There's still no word on Prince Harry and Meghan's highly anticipated royal baby. But as the Baby Sussex waiting game has churned on, much speculation has also been swirling about what life will look like for the new family down the road.

That speculation hit a fever pitch when word broke recently that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex might be planning a lengthy stint — maybe two or three years — in Africa. Or maybe there would be visits lasting several weeks or a few months in various Commonwealth countries on that continent.

But is any of it actually true? Would the high-profile couple and their young child actually decamp from England for a protracted period of time?

"This is a difficult one as it's all conjecture – nothing is confirmed," Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, said in a recent email interview.

"We are guessing that Harry and Meghan will be spending time in Africa and possibly South Africa, but the baby has not been born yet, and we have no idea as to what will happen for a few months at least."

If there is some time in Africa, it wouldn't necessarily be a surprise. Harry and Meghan have spent time there and seem to have a deep interest in people and issues in countries such as Botswana and Lesotho.

Harry watches as Meghan takes part in a henna ceremony on Feb. 24, 2019, in Asni, Morocco. (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Some of the speculation has also focused on whether Meghan and Harry spending time in Africa might in some way be related to a froideur that may have developed between Harry and his older brother, William.

As far as it's possible to know, it seems some sort of distance has developed between them.

"I think there was a fallout as there often is with siblings, but as to how bad it was and when it was we cannot be certain," Seward said. "Harry has always been in competition with William and now [that] Harry is married, the dynamic of their relationship has obviously changed."

But whatever rift there may be, some observers don't see it having a role in any plans Harry and Meghan might have to spend time in Africa.

ITV's royal editor, Chris Ship, wrote recently that Meghan and Harry are talking about moving to a Commonwealth country in Africa for a few months when their child is a bit older. But he threw cold water on any suggestion that it would be an attempt to put distance between the brothers.

"All of the chatter and gossip that this plan is response to a claimed 'rift' between William and Harry is not true," Ship wrote. "The brothers might not be best of friends at the moment ... but the Africa plan is not connected to it."

In the absence of any official word, however, speculation is bound to keep churning. And churning.

A life of its own

The Baby Sussex waiting game has taken on a life of its own. And in the absence of official information, those eagerly awaiting word of the child's arrival are trying to glean hints anywhere they can.

Harry turns up unannounced at events, and people conclude the birth must not be imminent, otherwise he wouldn't be there. He was supposed to be off to the Netherlands on Wednesday, and then plans for that visit were called off two days later. But he's still expected in The Hague on May 9. What could that all mean? An ambulance is spotted in Windsor, maybe somewhere in the vicinity — or not — of Harry and Meghan's home, and Twitter lights up that things must be happening.

Equally quickly, however, other voices chime in, bringing a welcome dose of reality to the situation.

A warming pan baby? Of course not.

While there have been a lot of rumblings about how Harry and Meghan may be breaking with tradition around their royal baby, one thing that doesn't change through the generations is the ability for wild rumours to spread.

Drift back to 1688: James II's second wife was expecting again after having had a number of miscarriages, stillbirths and daughters who died at a young age. But James was sure the next baby would be a boy.

"James the Second's confidence that he would have a son was thought to be suspicious," said Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris.

When a baby boy did, in fact, arrive, it meant there was going to be a Roman Catholic succession. "For Protestants who wanted to see a Protestant succession, it was convenient to argue that perhaps this wasn't a genuine royal baby, and that a baby had been smuggled in in a warming pan," said Harris.

That set off another royal tradition requiring government ministers to be present for royal births, a tradition that continued in various forms until King George VI decreed it was no longer necessary, prior to Prince Charles's birth in 1948.

Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth, sits with her son Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace after his christening on Dec. 15, 1948. (AFP/Getty Images)

Fast forward to the latest royal pregnancy, and among the many unfounded rumours swirling is that Meghan isn't actually pregnant and there's a surrogate stashed away somewhere.

"Those unpleasant conspiracy theories emerged when Kate was expecting as well, simply because she looked so good leaving hospital," said Harris. "Sadly, those kinds of comments have emerged and continue to emerge without basis. It's the modern equivalent of the warming pan theory, which is a rumour that spreads without basis."

Kate's anniversary present

Kate's interest in youth was at the forefront during a visit to the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families in London on May 1, 2019. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

William and Kate's eighth wedding anniversary on April 29 brought a new and significant honour for her. The Duchess of Cambridge was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order "for services to the sovereign."

It's a notable honour because it comes personally from the Queen and is the highest female rank in the order. Other female members of the Royal Family who have received the honour include Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Anne and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

Royally quotable

Prince William arrives at Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on April 26, 2019. (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

"I do not believe that grief changes who you are. Grief — if you let it — will reveal who you are. It can reveal depths that you did not know you had."

Prince William reflects on moments of loss in his own life and for others in moments of tragedy, during a visit to New Zealand to pay tribute to those affected by the Christchurch mosque attacks last month.

Royals in Canada

Princess Anne, left, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip relax as they sail to Victoria on May 3, 1971 accompanied out of Vancouver harbour by numerous small boats. (Bill Croke/The Canadian Press)

Members of the Royal Family have often visited Canada to mark significant milestones or anniversaries. In May 1971, it was British Columbia's turn to host royal visitors, with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Princess Anne on hand to mark the centennial of the province joining Confederation.

The nine-day tour that began on May 3 was something of a whistle-stop affair, with visits to Victoria, Vancouver, Tofino, Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, Williams Lake and Comox.

"Penticton bade a reluctant and regretful farewell this morning to a radiant sovereign who has carved a niche for eternity in the hearts of its people," the Penticton Herald noted in a report on May 6, 1971.

By that account, it was a highly successful visit, as the Queen "wooed the most responsive crowd in this city's 63-year history — a crowd that jammed every vantage point at the airport, along the parade route and at the Peach Bowl ceremonies preceding the civic banquet."

Royal reads

  • Fifty-nine years ago, royal wedding fever had London in its grip. Our friends at CBC Archives look back at the anticipation surrounding Princess Margaret's marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones.
  • Princess Charlotte turned four on May 2, and there were new photos taken by her mother to mark the occasion. Nine days earlier, Prince Louis turned one, and there were new pictures to mark that birthday, too. 
  • It was a big secret at the time, and a lot of planning went into keeping word that Prince Harry was serving in Afghanistan out of the public eye. 
  • Royal milestones were marked internationally within the past week, with a new emperor in Japan and Thailand's next king — who, incidentally, married his fourth wife (and bodyguard) just before his coronation. 

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.