IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1/3/18
What A Royal Homebirth Could Be Like For Kate?:
Photo Re-enacts Queen Giving Birth in 1964 at Buckingham Palace
Artist creates graphic but tender scene of Prince Edward’s birth in 1964
The Queen is little known for the multiple historic traditions she broke in her childbearing years, that culminated in her final birth at Buckingham Palace in 1964. Artist Natalie Lennard, 31, from Worthing Sussex, was inspired to shine a light on her story, and recreate the scene of the birth of Prince Edward in an unprecedented art photo for her graphic series, “Birth Undisturbed".
With a third Royal birth now rapidly approaching, the question of the chosen birth setting for the next Royal arrival has been more than once posed. Should Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, opt to deliver her third child at home at Kensington Palace or the Sandringham Estate as recent news stated, it would be the first time in half a century that Royal homebirth would return. The last of the Queen’s four children, Prince Edward, was born in 1964 at Buckingham Palace - a scene that has for the first time been re-enacted in a realistic photograph.
“For many years I've created elaborate images of women in beautiful dresses,” said the artist Natalie Lennard, “but after becoming a mother, in giving birth I found it hard to continue just directing static, conventional poses of women. I wanted to combine fine-art photography with childbirth, to make pictures that celebrated the raw and powerful act unique to women.”
To plan the picture, Natalie was helped by midwife Sheena Byrom OBE, who also connected Natalie to speak to midwife advisor Terri Coates who has worked for eight years on Call the Midwife, and who helped advise the choreography of Edward’s birth in The Crown Netflix series. Preparing over months of research, Natalie and her team transformed the Chinese Dressing Room at Belvoir Castle, Lincolnshire into the Belgian Suite of Buckingham Palace circa 60s, with medical props and era-specific 60s clothes - including a pink, ribboned nightie closely similar to that which the Queen is pictured in the photos of her sitting in bed post-birth in 1964 alongside the all-important wig for the Queen's iconic hair placed on model Laura Mancinelli. Prince Philip was portrayed in casual green cardie and trademark slicked hair, played by model Rich Penrose, and the baby by a prosthetic silicone doll commissioned by Emmy Award-winning SFX artist Davy Jones. Also portrayed were the Queen's midwife Helen Rowe and ob-gyn John Harold Peel, both present at all the Queen's 4 homebirths.
Queen Elizabeth II's first birth to Prince Charles in 1948 was the first to take place without the gruelling longstanding tradition of Royal observation (that which nearly crushed Marie Antionette to death in 1778). Not only was her birth to Edward the first of her four births to be active and undrugged, but she demanded husband Prince Philip stay by her bedside, holding her hand - the first royal father in modern history to witness the arrival of one of his children.
Our modern form of Royal birth 'disturbance' - hundreds of paparazzi surrounding the St Mary’s Hospital for Kate Middleton’s births in 2013 and 2015 - meant that Kate and William “didn't think it was fair on other patients and relatives at the hospital.” A source said: "Above all they have agreed that having a homebirth would avoid the "chaos" of her first two births, to “save a massive intrusion in the day-to-day running” of St Mary's Hospital in London, where George and Charlotte were born. Whilst we are yet to know the final location of her next child, Natalie Lennard feels that Kate may take inspiration from the Queen's story: “We don’t hear so much about the Queen’s interesting, obscure story of the birth of Edward, that is unlike any Royal birth that came before or after it,” she explained. “We've heard rumours every time that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant, that she is considering a homebirth. Just as her grandmother-in-law laid down the terms for her birth in 1964, I hope the Duchess will take inspiration to lay down hers, which could involve reverting to Royal homebirth tradition after 54 years."
Notes for Editors
Further info, references, quotes and images available from Natalie Lennard, firstname.lastname@example.org / +447950886250
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Natalie Lennard is a fine-art photographer whose work has been exhibited in the Saatchi Gallery and Houses of Parliament. In 2017 she became keen to turn her glamorous fashion photography into a more sobering series on childbirth, partly inspired by her own experiences of birth. The series, which plans to have 12 final pieces, has also controversially taken on a depiction of a birthing Virgin Mary in order to "showcase and spotlight universal female figures in the powerful act of creating life" (more at www.birthundisturbed.com) Her daughter Lilith was also born at home in 2015, on 21 April - the same birthdate as the Queen herself.
History of Royal births
Historically in Royal births, it was customary for hoards of witnesses to observe the arrival of any potential heir to the throne and the room would be full of ladies-in-waiting, servants and staff to ensure no funny business happened, and the baby wasn’t swapped in a bedpan. Marie Antoinette was famously nearly crushed to death by the barrage of witnesses that burst into her chamber after the birth of her first daughter in 1778.
In 1894 that Queen Victoria decided for the birth of Edward 8th, no ministers or counsellors were needed and that the home secretary would be enough. It wasn’t until 1948 when all observation was called to a halt for the Queen’s first birth to Prince Charles.
The Belgian Suite
The birth of Edward took place in the Belgian Suite at Buckingham Palace, the same room the Queen had previously given birth to Charles and Andrew. The Queen’s parents had suggested moving to another room away from the crowds of well-wishers that were gathering outside the front of the Palace. The Queen was reported to have refused, saying “I want my baby to be born in my own room, amongst the things I know”.4 “I’m not afraid of childbirth - after all, it’s what we’re made for”,5 she had been quoted saying to her former nanny Marion Crawford in 1948.
Back in the 1940s, homebirth was more a norm, with 1 in 3 women giving birth at home compared to the 1% of women that today forego a hospital delivery. There are many factors as to the drastic change in norm over the past half a century, although recently the UK’s leading supplier of private midwives revealed a surge of women planning home births or considering hiring private midwives. In 1,592 surveyed, 29% claimed they would prefer to give birth in their home surroundings. One might ask however, with the clout of the Royals, the decision is somewhat easier given they have the added advantage of turning their home environment into a medical suite for an emergency should it arise.
The Crown Netflix series
The births of Prince Andrew and Prince Edward are both portrayed in the Netflix series The Crown, confirming the difference in birthing method of Andrew and Edward, only 4 years apart. We view through the Queen’s blurring perspective as she is injected with “a little twilight sleep” for Andrew’s birth in 1960, whilst Philip is depicted nervously playing squash elsewhere. His wife lays unconscious in the same bed that she is then portrayed in another episode giving birth to Edward 4 years later, sitting up and pushing, this time with Prince Philip cheering by her side.
“Pregnant Kate Middleton 'wants home birth for next baby' to avoid "chaos" that followed George and Charlotte's arrivals”
“Britain's Queen Elizabeth was the first to break royal tradition during Prince Edward's birth”
“Pregnant Kate Middleton 'wants home birth for next baby...' https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pregnant-kate-middleton-wants-home-11890050
OTHER SOURCES USED TO CONFIRM FACTS:
“All four of the Queen’s children: Charles (1948), Anne (1950), Andrew (1960) and Edward (1964) were Royal homebirths: all born in the Belgian Suite at Buckingham Palace except for Anne who was born at Clarence House”
“Princess Anne born Clarence House” - http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/15/newsid_2956000/2956684.stm
“Prince Charles born Buckingham Palace...”
“Prince Andrew was born in the Belgian Suite of Buckingham Palace…”
“Prince Edward was born on 10 March 1964, at Buckingham Palace,”
“I want my baby to be born in my own room, amongst the things I know” she was quoted saying in 1948” ‘Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family: A Glorious Illustrated History’ (p. 126-127)
“Midwife/nurse Helen Rowe and obstetrician-gynaecologist John Harold Peel were present at all 4 births”
“The first three of the Queen’s children were reputedly born by the fashion of the era, a controversial process called ‘twilight sleep’”
Midwife consultant Terri Coates (advisor to The Crown TV series) confirmed verbally to the artist Natalie that it was very likely all 3 - including Anne - were born by twilight sleep, and not Edward who was born consciously. The twilight sleep birth of Prince Andrew in 1960, and conscious birth of Edward in 1964, were both visually portrayed in The Crown TV series.
NB: Despite one newspaper source claiming that Charles in 1948 was born by Caesarean, the book ‘Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family: A Glorious Illustrated History’ (p. 126-127) confirms he was born by forceps [vaginally].
“Poignantly, at her side holding her hand was her husband Prince Philip, who had up to then been a nervous and squeamish expectant father spending the time thrashing around the Palace squash courts and pool”
“Recently the UK’s leading supplier of private midwives revealed a surge of women planning home births or considering hiring private midwives. In 1,592 surveyed, 29% claimed they would prefer to give birth in their home surroundings.”
The Crown TV series - birth of Andrew 1960 (unlisted on YouTube)
The Crown TV series - birth of Edward 1964 (unlisted YouTube)