UK Home Secretary not to witness royal birth

UK Home Secretary not to witness royal birth

With Britain dispensing with the centuries-old custom of having the home secretary 'witness' the royal birth, incumbent Theresa May will not be present at the hospital where Kate Middleton has been admitted, to ensure that a baby was not been smuggled in.

British home secretaries used to attend royal births. The last time was in 1936 for the birth of the Queen Elizabeth's cousin, Princess Alexandra.

The custom was ended in 1948 ahead of the birth of Prince Charles. At the time Home Office researchers could find no evidence for the belief that the home secretary's presence was anything to do with verification, according to a biography of the Queen written by Ben Pimlott.

Then Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks was present at the Queen's birth in 1926. He was reported to have conveyed the news by special messenger to the Lord Mayor of London, the BBC reported.

Thus, one person who will not be at the private Lindo Wing at St Mary's hospital in central London is Home Secretary May.

Asked by a fellow lawmaker this month whether she would be attending the royal birth, as was formerly customary, she replied: "In fact, it is no longer the case that the home secretary is required to attend a royal birth.

The tradition -- now defunct -- goes back many centuries, she said, explaining that "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."

The Archbishop of Canterbury also will not attend the birth, as was the custom in the past.

One exception was in 1841 for the birth of Queen Victoria's first son Albert Edward in 1841 when the archbishop and two companions - Lord Wharncliffe, Lord President of the Council, and Lord Stanley, Secretary of the State for the Colonies - turned up late and missed the birth.

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