Television·Story

From celebrity godparents to a quiet cottage home: How Meghan and Harry may shake up royal parenting

The documentary Secrets of The Royal Babies looks at royal family traditions from the past and speculates how the life of the newest royal baby may be different
BIRKENHEAD, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 14: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet members of the public during a visit of Birkenhead at Hamilton Square on January 14, 2019 in Birkenhead, UK. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage) (WireImage)

In so many ways, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have already challenged the royal status quo. By being a divorced, biracial American who is famous in her own right, Meghan has already changed how people imagine a royal spouse. That, combined with Harry's history of chafing at the constraints of royal life, makes them a very different royal couple than those that came before them.

The new documentary Secrets of the Royal Babies looks at how royal parenting has changed over the last several centuries and speculates as to how Meghan and Harry may do things differently than their predecessors.

Here are five ways that Harry and Meghan might shake up what it means to be a royal parent.

Picking a less-traditional name

The protocols around royal naming are famously strict, but according to the Secrets of the Royal Babies, the most modern royal couple yet may try to push the envelope just a little bit.

"Although I doubt we'll see a full-blown American name, maybe they will be a little bit bolder, a little bit less royal in their choices than William and Kate felt the need to do," says historian Sarah Gristwood.

On British betting sites, traditionally royal names are the odds-on favourites — Alice, Diana and Victoria for a girl, Arthur, James and Alexander for a boy — but there are some more unorthodox choices on the board as well. Spencer, the late Princess Diana's maiden name, ranks fairly high. Shane and Amalia also appear as long shots.

Hands-on parenting

For centuries, little royals have been raised largely by their nannies. Royal duties are time consuming and often involve gruelling travel schedules, which can make hands-on parenting hard. But Harry's mother took an unusually active role in raising her children, and royal watchers who appear in the documentary say that Harry and Meghan may try to be similarly involved.

If they do end up getting a nanny, she'll almost certainly come from Norland College. Norland has been training nannies for the Royal Family — and other members of the elite — since 1892.

In Secrets of the Royal Babies, a modern Norland nanny is described as a mixture of Mary Poppins and James Bond. They're not only taught about child development, but these ninja nannies are also trained in skidpan driving and military self-defence techniques.

It's like James Bond visiting Mary Poppins. Take a peak inside the Norland Academy, a special school to train nannies of VIP babies, including the royals. 1:39

A more modern wardrobe

BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 19: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge arrive at Berlin Tegel Airport during an official visit to Poland and Germany on July 19, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have opted to dress their children in a very traditional, conservative style. Or, as royal biographer Duncan Larcombe puts it in Secrets of the Royal Babies, "William and Kate's children … look like they've dressed as extras from an Enid Blyton novel — you know, the little shorts and the black shoes and the little socks." But Harry and Meghan might opt for a more modern look for their little one.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see this little toddler romping in a pair of dungarees," says royal reporter Katie Nicholl.

Celebrity godparents

Traditionally, the godparents of young royals have been members of the English aristocracy, close relatives or members of other royal families. But some royal watchers think Meghan and Harry may make less traditional choices. Their wedding guest list read like the cover of a celebrity tabloid, featuring David and Victoria Beckham, George and Amal Clooney, Idris Elba, James Blunt and Priyanka Chopra.

According to the royal watchers in Secrets of the Royal Babies, there's every possibility that some of these names could appear on the shortlist of potential godparents.

A cottage home

Kensington Palace was Harry's childhood home and is currently home to Prince William's family. Harry and Meghan were even thought to be moving into a 21-room apartment in the palace, until recently. But that doesn't mean Harry likes palace life.

"Harry finds the constraints of Kensington Palace too much," says royal biographer Ingrid Seward in Secrets of the Royal Babies. "He was the one that said that Kate is a prisoner there because although it's absolutely beautiful, the minute you go outside the protective walls, you've got people gawping at you."

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 10: A general view of Frogmore Cottage at Frogmore Cottage on April 10, 2019 in Windsor, England. The cottage is situated on the Frogmore Estate, itself part of Home Park, Windsor, in Berkshire. It is the new home of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. (Photo by GOR/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Instead, Harry and Meghan will forgo palace life and set up their family in Frogmore Cottage. The Cottage, located just south of Windsor Castle, has been used as a home for exiled Russian royalty and, most recently, as housing for royal staff. And what it lacks in grandiosity, it makes up for in privacy. In the documentary, former royal chef Darren McGrady, who used to live next door to Frogmore Cottage, describes it as a "little sort of cocoon."

"It's so peaceful, so tranquil," McGrady says in the documentary. "The castle grounds are so big that they can just hide away … opening the back door into the gardens of Frogmore and just being able to go walking and just sort of have new family time together."

Watch Secrets of the Royal Babies Saturday, April 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on documentary Channel and CBC News Network, repeating Sunday, April 28 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBC News Network.

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