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The A-Z of Royal Births

From lie ins to push presents – Lottie Goldfinch embraces the fever of another British royal birth by exploring the myths and rituals linked to pregnancy in monarchies

A... This for AUDIENCE

Queens of the past gave birth in front of dozens of people, including royal officials and servants to ensure that there was no scandal around the delivery. In 1778, Marie Antoinette did so in front of an audience of up to 200. According to her chambermaid: “When the obstetrician said aloud, ‘ The Queen is going to give birth!’ the persons who poured into the chamber were so numerous that the rush nearly killed the Queen’.” Two chimney sweeps, the chambermaid adds, “climbed upon the furniture for a better sight”.

B... This for BIRTH TRAY

In 14th-century Italy, to celebrate a successful birth, new mothers were often given elaborately painted ‘birth trays’ (desco da parto), decorated with religious, mythological or literary themes. After giving birth, the exhausted mother would be presented with the tray, which was covered with a protective cloth and laden with nourishing food and sometimes small gifts. The trays – many of which were specially commissioned – could then be hung on the wall as a piece of treasured art and in celebration of a healthy birth. Florentine ruler Lorenzo de Medici kept his, illustrated with the ‘Triumph of Fame’, in his private quarters until his death.

Birth trays bring a whole new meaning to ‘sentimental value’

C... This for CRAVINGS

Expectant mothers are known for their strange food cravings, but for a royal mum-to-be, the world was your oyster when it came to obtaining your heart – or stomach’s – desire. Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, apparently developed a craving for quail meat whilst pregnant with the future Edward VI. Anxious to keep his expectant wife happy, a devoted Henry shipped the delicacy from Calais to fulfil her demands.

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About History Revealed

In this month’s issue… Secrets of the Templars They were the most formidable military order of the middles ages, feared as crusaders and answerable only to the pope. This month we tell the tale of how they fell from grace, and try to unpick their legends from the truth. Plus: the Jarrow March; the RAF and the battle of Britain; Martin Luther King; 26 weird facts surrounding royal births; how to make a mummy; and the crowning of Charles II