Archie has arrived: From the baby’s name to the big reveal, Meghan and Harry defy royal convention

by - 9 min read

Archie has arrived: From the baby’s name to the big reveal, Meghan and Harry defy royal convention

by - 9 min read

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Hello royal watchers. This is a special edition of the newsletter following the birth of the first child for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox.


The arrival of any child tends to instill some common and time-honoured reactions — happiness for the new parents, hope for the future and so on. But the arrival of Prince Harry and Meghan’s first son, Archie Harrison, has upended common and time-honoured traditions surrounding a royal birth.

And the strongest example yet of that is the child’s name, which caught royal watchers and bettors off guard (more on that a little later).

While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been making it clear for quite a while that they intend to do things their way, and said they wanted the arrival of their baby to be private, no other high-profile royal baby has had quite this introduction to the world.

Today’s careful and controlled unveiling of the child in the ornate and storied St. George’s Hall at Windsor Castle was reportedly before a select few cameras — including one from a U.S. network, something that has been raising eyebrows for the U.K. media, but is perhaps not that surprising, given Meghan’s American heritage.

It was all certainly in keeping with the desire Harry and Meghan seem to have to strike a path quite different from that of other high-profile revelations of a newborn royal — including Harry himself — where considerably less historic hospital steps and a doorway were the backdrop before a wall of cameras.

It was just the latest example of the Sussex way of doing all things royal, right down to the official notice of the baby’s arrival.

“The notice was very inclusive of the newborn’s family on both sides,” said Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian. “In addition to members of the Royal Family, the announcement stated that Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, is overjoyed at the arrival of her first grandchild.”

The notice went on to mention Harry’s aunts and uncle on the side of his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex clearly want to emphasize the significance of Diana’s and Meghan’s families in the baby’s life in addition to his royal connections,” said Harris.

But the official notice was as noteworthy for what wasn’t included.

Unlike previous high-profile royal births, there’s been no official confirmation of where it occurred or the medical staff involved. It’s been reported it was at the private Portland Hospital in London, which has been favoured by celebrities and other members of the Royal Family, including Sarah Ferguson, for the births of her daughters, Princess Beatrice and Eugenie.

When the notice for Meghan and Harry’s baby was finally posted on the easel in front of Buckingham Palace, it was in keeping with a particular tradition dating to the 18th century. But in ways, it seemed almost like an anachronism. It certainly didn’t tell anyone keeping up with these things anything they didn’t already know.

“The announcement ‘It’s a boy’ on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Instagram page, however, makes clear that this is very much a 21st-century royal birth, where the news spreads quickly on social media,” said Harris.

Given how things have unfolded in the baby’s first few days, there’s every reason to think Instagram may offer the best view — albeit carefully curated and controlled —into what his life is really like for the next few years.

What about Grandpa on mom’s side?

Amid all the attention on the new arrival, there was another noticeable absence — any official reference to his grandfather on his mother’s side.

Perhaps it’s not that surprising, given the angst and turmoil there seems to be in the relationship between Meghan and her father, Thomas Markle, which hit a fever pitch just before the wedding last year.

There’s also no evidence that Harry has even met his father-in-law, so the continued and apparent distance would seem to show no signs of imminent change.

What’s in this royal name?

The new baby’s full name is Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via Associated Press)

Well, that was something of a surprise.

In the royal name game, it’s safe to say Archie Harrison wasn’t riding high on any lists for those speculating outside palace walls about what Harry and Meghan might call their first child. Unless you consider that Harry and Meghan have been doing things their own way all along, so maybe it’s not that big a surprise (see above).

Certainly, the baby’s name has no echoes of multi-barrelled traditional names of past generations within the Royal Family. Archie and Harrison also didn’t figure anywhere near the top of the bookies’ lists, which had been leaning lately toward the likes of Alexander, Arthur or Philip.

But Archie has some interesting tentacles of meaning and popularity. It’s a shortform of Archibald, a name royal expert Harris says was popular in Scotland in the 19th century. Then it faded from view in many ways, only to have something of a resurgence in recent years, reaching No. 18 in England and No. 21 in Scotland and Wales in 2016.

“So Harry and Meghan have chosen quite a trendy baby name,” Harris said.

Of course, Archie also has a broad resonance in pop culture — the Archie comics come to mind. Various baby name sites suggest Archie could mean brave or bold.

As for the second name, Harrison, there is a royal echo there, but in a different way than might have been expected by those wondering if one of his names might be his father’s formal first name, Henry. Harrison is a more literal recognition of the baby’s dad — it means son of Harry.

“There had been some speculation that Harry’s name would appear in some context,” Harris said.

Today’s announcement of the name includes no indication the baby will have a title.

“It seems Harry and Meghan are making clear that their son is going to be able to grow up to chart his own course,” Harris said.

In that, he would follow in the footsteps of Royal Family members such as Princess Anne’s son and daughter, Peter and Zara, who also have no titles.

Harris says in some ways, the baby’s surname, Mountbatten-Windsor, could have been predicted.

“The surname Mountbatten-Windsor reflects a compromise in many ways that has taken place over the Queen’s reign,” said Harris.

As for whether Archie will be a prince, not right now — unless Queen Elizabeth were to step in and change the rules, as occurred for William and Kate’s children. But there is no indication that’s in the works. Under those same rules established by King George V in 1917, there is also the possibility the child could become a prince once his grandfather, Prince Charles, becomes king.

Royal fans react

The Kibue family came out to Windsor Castle to take part in the festivities over the Royal Baby announcement. (Lily Martin/CBC)

Renée Filippone reports from Windsor Castle, outside London.

Outside the castle walls, there is always a buzz when visitors come to watch the changing of the guard in Windsor — but it had a celebratory feeling Tuesday with the latest addition to the Royal Family. Bottles of champagne, balloons and banners all added to the atmosphere.

“I can’t believe the timing was so perfect,” said Vancouver’s Dayah Johal, who was there on vacation.

“I have always followed the Royal Family — even growing up back in Canada,” but Johal wished the new parents were willing to spill more details. “I support them in keeping things private, but at the same time, always wondering and curious — so can’t wait to hear more.”

Zahra Kibue, who was born in Kenya but now calls the U.K. home, said Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, “is bringing a fresh flavour. I think Meghan is making people see that it doesn’t have to be a set line of rules you have to follow.”

For her, this baby is special not only because he shares a birthday with her own one-year-old son, but also because of Meghan’s mixed-race heritage — which Kibue hopes signals change in the Royal Family.

“They are embracing the more modern aspect of things and embracing where the world is moving toward,” said Kibue.

Spanish-born artist Kaya Mar showed his latest piece in front of cameras outside Windsor Castle. (Lily Martin/CBC)

For others in the crowd, the royal birth provides a great distraction. Time to swap “B” words: baby for Brexit, at least for a couple of days. “Bang on there — definitely a break for that. At this point in time it’s just dragging on,” said Windsor resident Mick Everett.

Spanish-born artist Kaya Mar paraded his latest piece in front of cameras lining the sidewalk. His painting shows Meghan with a glowing halo — holding a swaddled baby. “Like Mary waiting for Jesus, it’s almost that,” he said sarcastically.

“People worship them like they used to worship saints,” Mar said, calling the royal mania a farce about which he is here to make a point.

Mar has called England home for decades and uses art to question popular culture and politics. To say he isn’t buying into the royal hype is an understatement, but he does feel the duchess hasn’t been treated fairly, neither by the press nor her critics.

Brothers, but different

Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge are seen outside St Mary’s Hospital in London in April 2018, after the birth of their third child, Louis. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)

As much as Harry and his older brother, William, were in many ways considered an inseparable pair in their early years, they have always had strikingly different personalities. Harry has always been seen as the more outgoing and spontaneous, while William is more measured and reserved.

The way they have publicly reacted to fatherhood has shown that in stark contrast. Harry could hardly contain his elation on Monday as he spoke of his son’s birth (against that rather odd backdrop of those horse stables at Windsor). He was equally chuffed today, even if he was somewhat calmer. (A sleeping baby in his arms could have had something to do with that.)

“In his public appearances, Harry has shown a strong rapport with children and is clearly thrilled to be a father. In past interviews, Harry has spoken of wanting children of his own and he is overjoyed with his newborn son,” said Harris.

Contrast that with William as he went in and out of St. Mary’s Hospital in central London at the births of his children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. There were smiles, waves, a few short answers to a few questions from the media crowd. But that was it.

“William was more reserved in his first public appearances with his children, but was also clearly happy to be a father,” said Harris.

Why the buzz around this royal baby may not last

It’s worth revisiting some topics we’ve touched on in the past few weeks, including what the future could hold for this baby. And it may not be a life that draws the level of international fame and attention we’ve seen focused on him over the past few days.

Since word broke that Meghan was pregnant, the buzz around the baby at times seemed relentless. The pending arrival of a child who is seventh in line to the throne spawned everything from bets on potential names to tabloid speculation about how the child will be raised. (Among the rumblings was a suggestion that the child would be raised in a gender-fluid way — that was one rumour Kensington Palace quashed.)

But the buzz around Baby Sussex now and in his early years may fade over time.

“More junior members of the Royal Family often have attracted a lot of attention at the time of their birth, only for that attention to dissipate as they grow older [or] go down the line of succession,” said Harris.

Witness Lady Sarah Chatto. When she was born as seventh in line to the throne in 1964, there was a definite buzz around the daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s glamorous and well-known younger sister, Margaret, and her husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones.

“A royal child born seventh in line to the throne often has a balance between attending events as a member of the extended Royal Family, but also being able to pursue their own career and interests as well,” Harris said, pointing to the experience of Sarah, who now sits 23rd in line to the throne.

“She’s had quite a successful career as an artist, and has carried on some of her mother’s … artistic patronages.”

Royally quotable

I have the two best guys in the world.

Meghan Markle, standing next to Prince Harry, who was holding their new son, in Windsor Castle on Wednesday.

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This story originally appeared on CBC

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