Now we’re seeing an even greater expansion in terms of the definition of the royal spouse; Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, is from a middle-class background, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has been married before. In the past, that would have been a problem for marrying into the royal family, but the attitudes toward the remarriage of divorcées in the Church of England have relaxed in the 21st century.
Escobar: Why did the Crown care about a royal bloodline at all?
Harris: Well, part of the reason was the prestige of a royal house, and that a monarch would be able to state their connections to other European royal houses. Until the early 19th century, there were thought to be very strong diplomatic advantages to these various royal marriages, as well.
Read more: How the British royal family became a brand
Escobar: Since Markle hasn’t become naturalized as a British citizen yet, I’ve read that the royal baby will have both American and British citizenship. Is there a precedent for members of the royal family being dual citizens?
Harris: There are cases within the wider royal family of members who are married to spouses who are not British and bring their own citizenship into the family. Prince Harry’s cousin Peter Phillips is married to a Canadian named Autumn Kelly, so their children are eligible for Canadian citizenship.
Escobar: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in how the royal family approaches parenting over the centuries, or even just more recent decades?
Harris: Perhaps the biggest change is the idea of royal children having an upbringing that’s relatable to the wider population. For centuries, there was an expectation that royal life did not have very much in common with the lives of ordinary people. It was expected that royalty would look like royalty; it was considered questionable for royalty to live simpler lives or to not take an interest in pomp and circumstance, such as King Edward II, who liked rowing and ditch digging.
This changed in the 19th century with the rise of the mass media and photography. There’s a lot more images of the royals out there, and there’s an expectation that the royal family will live a life that reflects the values of their time. In the first photograph of Queen Victoria, she’s not wearing her crown, but is dressed relatively simply and is posing with one of her children, putting forward that she is a wife and mother as well as a queen. We’ve seen that process accelerate over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. There’s now more of an expectation that a royal child will engage with other children from outside royal circles; we now see Prince George attending a co-educational school in London.
Escobar: Are there certain practices that you’ve seen hold constant? For example, how might the way the new royal baby will be raised be similar to how a royal baby born 200 years ago was raised?
Harris: I would say that media scrutiny and judgment of royal marriages and parenting has remained constant over a very long period of time. Critiques of the royal family or of royal parenting served as a way of making a broader political critique. Sometimes there’s the assumption that before tabloid culture, there wasn’t this scrutiny of what went on behind palace doors. But I think there has always been a very strong interest in how royal children are raised.