Prince George news: How Theresa May had to deny bizarre link to young royal | Royal | News
Mrs May, who was Prime Minister from 2016 to 2019, was Home Secretary at the time and was quizzed about a bizarre tradition around royal births. In a now abolished protocol, it used to be required to have the Home Secretary present for a royal birth. Ahead of George‘s birth in July 2013, Mrs May was asked about this tradition while giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Tory MP Michael Ellis, chairman of the All Parliamentary Group on the Queen‘s Diamond Jubilee said: “Until relatively recently there was a convention that Home Secretaries attend royal births, I understand this happened with Her Majesty the Queen.
“Do you have any plans to visit the Lindo Wing any time soon, following this convention?”
Mrs May replied: “In fact, it is no longer the case that the Home Secretary is required to attend a royal birth, but I suspect Mr Ellis, with your royal connections, you might have more information about these things than I do.”
She added: “The Home Secretary had to be there to evidence that it was genuinely a royal birth and that a baby hadn’t been smuggled in.”
Theresa May denied bizarre Prince George link
Kate and William with a newborn George in 2013
In this, Mrs May was absolutely correct; the Home Secretary was the designated public official who should verify the child’s regal legitimacy and prevent “imposters”.
However, this was scrapped by King George VI in 1948 ahead of the birth of Prince Charles.
The last royal birth for which this happened was Princess Alexandra, the Queen’s cousin, in 1936.
The tradition dates back to the “Warming Pan Scandal” in the 17th century.
Queen Mother with the Queen as a baby
During the pregnancy of Queen Mary Beatrice (Mary of Modena), wife to King James II, there were rumours that she was not really pregnant.
Then, when the baby, James Stuart, was born in 1688, rival families claimed the baby was an imposter.
One theory was that the Queen had never been pregnant and another was that her child was born dead and another baby had been smuggled into her bedchamber in a warming pan to take its place.
To combat these rumours bubbling under the surface, 42 public officials were called to witness the birth and verify that James was indeed the legal child of Mary and James II.
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King James II portrait (left) and fleeing the country (right)
Visiting Cambridge University scholar Professor Mary Fissell described the scandalous rumours and the resulting crowd of officials at St James’s Palace as “the first media circus surrounding a royal birth”.
She explained that the rumours were spread by cheap broadsheets in coffee houses that a different baby was smuggled in on a warming pan or into the bed through a secret door in the bedhead.
Despite the 42 witnesses, there was a permanent question mark placed over the baby’s legitimacy and he never became King.
William of Orange and his wife Mary went onto seize the throne later that year in what is known as the Glorious Revolution.
Since then, it has been customary for public figures to be present at royal births.
From 1894, Queen Victoria declared that it was the role of the serving Home Secretary to provide this service.
Tory Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks witnessed the Queen’s own birth in 1926, despite the government at the time being embroiled in a bitter dispute with coal-miners.
He conveyed the news by special messenger to the Lord Mayor of London.
The birth of Princess Margaret in 1930 caused some difficulty for then-Home Secretary JR Clynes.
He had remained in Scotland while he waited to be present at the birth of the princess at Glamis Castle, which ended up happening two weeks after it was planned, according to royal historian Hugo Vickers.
When the baby was finally on the way, Mr Clynes was already ready for bed and had to quite get dressed again and scuttle up to the castle in time.
It is also a tradition that the Archbishop of Canterbury be witness to the royal birth.
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