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Princess Diana left an undeniable mark on the royal family, especially when it came to her role as the mother of two princes. From sending William and Harry to nursery school instead of having them home-schooled, to letting them eat pizza and potato skins, she paved the way toward making royalty more like any ol’ family (that just so happens to live in a palace). And her just-a-typical-mom mentality shone through even before her kids were born.
Home births were the norm for royal and non-royal families alike until the 20th century, but royals being royals, they weren’t about to change tradition just because hospital deliveries were becoming popular. George VI was born at Sandringham Estate in 1895, Queen Elizabeth II was born at her grandparents’ home in 1926, and Prince Charles was born in Buckingham Palace in 1948. So when Princess Diana headed to the hospital to give birth, it caused quite the stir.
Prince William was the first future monarch to be born in a hospital when his mother opted for the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in 1982, following the footsteps of her sister-in-law, Princess Anne. That day also set the precedent for future royal births. Not only did Diana go back to St. Mary’s to give birth to Prince Harry, but Kate Middleton welcomed all three of her and William’s children in that same hospital. Find out which other 14 pregnancy rules royal women have to follow.
But that wasn’t the only way Diana changed royal birth traditions. Queen Victoria had given six natural births before discovering anesthetics—chloroform, at that point—in 1853. She famously hated pregnancy but loved the modern medicine, declaring it “that blessed Chloroform … soothing, quieting, and delightful beyond measure.” Queen Elizabeth II is said to have continued the tradition with three of her four babies by using drugs to enter a “twilight sleep” that would keep her from being fully awake during their births.
Diana, meanwhile, had “the first active royal birth” and delivered Prince William while standing up, natural childbirth Sheila Kitzinger, who attended to the birth, wrote in her memoir, which was published in excerpt form on the Daily Mail. Kate Middleton followed Diana’s footsteps, opting for a “natural birth” for all of her kids. Check out these 21 adorable royal baby photos from throughout history.
With a new royal baby on the way, only time will tell if Meghan Markle ends up following in Diana’s footsteps or taking on the tradition of earlier royal women. Rumors are circulating that she’s considering either Frimley Park Hospital or a home birth. Whatever she and Prince Harry decide, they can thank Diana for the fact that either choice will be perfectly acceptable. Don’t miss these other royal rules Princess Diana changed for good.