Harry and Meghan had hoped their first child would be born at home, but things quickly changed to give birth in a US owned hospital.
Instead of cradling his son in their home, that first precious moment was conducted 27 miles away in central London in a delivery suite at the Portland Hospital.
Privacy had dominated the couple’s thinking in the run-up to the delivery, hoping upon hope that at 37 the Duchess of Sussex would be able to fulfil her dream of giving birth amid the familiar surroundings of home. Ultimately, though, it was their unborn baby’s welfare that prevailed. There was no emergency, no late night high-speed dash to hospital, but a planned admission.
As the day of the Duchess’s due date came and went, plans were quietly made for the Portland to be ready. Conversations were held with administrators as well as medical staff while back at Frogmore, Harry, Meghan and the Duchess’s mother Doria Ragland packed bags of toiletries and other essentials.
‘There was no panic,’ I am told. But by Sunday, and with the baby thought to be a week overdue, medical advice was crucial. Gentle persuasion was the order of the day. In other words: safety first.
Late that evening a two-car convoy nosed out of Windsor Great Park, heading for London. Only a handful of people were told, certainly not other members of the Royal Family.
Harry, Meghan and Doria were in one car while a ‘back-up’ vehicle of police bodyguards followed closely behind.
On Bank Holiday weekend the traffic along the M4 from Windsor to central London was light and it took the party not much more than 40 minutes to arrive. And the fact that they did not travel under flashing blue lights suggests that Meghan’s labour had not begun.
Even so, with privacy still vital, the couple had no wish to draw attention to themselves. More than anything they wanted to avoid the circus that surrounded the births of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s three children.
With an entrance via an underground tunnel, the Portland was ideal. In fact so secret were their plans that they were able to arrive and depart from the hospital without being spotted by onlookers.
There are as yet no details of the birth; whether the Duchess had to be induced, for example.
What we do know is that the baby boy weighing 7lbs 3oz, born at 5.26am on Monday, was healthy. Doctors and midwives will have checked both mother and son to look for any signs that something may be wrong. Happily there were none.
It is thought Harry and Meghan spent around four hours at the hospital getting to know their new arrival before the prince alerted the outside world.
And it is at this stage, around 9.30am, that things start to get a little unclear. Harry is believed to have contacted aides to let them know that all was well and that he was the proud father of a son.
But it was not for several hours – at 1.49pm – that the Palace released a statement saying that Meghan was in labour, even though she had in fact already given birth some eight hours earlier.
Was there panic among royal staff that an agreement to tell the world when the Duchess had gone into labour had not been kept? Or was this simply another sign of two strong – some might say headstrong – individuals wanting to have control over every aspect of their son’s birth?
Certainly father, mother, baby and granny Doria were safely ensconced back at Frogmore by the time this first announcement was made. Somewhere along the line Harry also found time to have two hours of sleep himself.
It was at 2.15pm that a beaming Harry had made his way to the stables at Windsor Castle for a pre-arranged interview where he delivered the happy news himself – at that stage only to the TV crew. A few minutes later at 2.38pm the interview was broadcast, along with an update on the couple’s Instagram account.
All day yesterday questions remained about the announcements and their significance. Were they, as some suggested, timed to coincide with New York TV breakfast shows, for instance?
Others suggested that it was ‘cock-up’ rather than ‘conspiracy’. Harry and Meghan have a new media team unfamiliar with handling a breaking royal story and its huge international implications.
Why, for example, did they choose not to include the names of the team who supervised the birth on the official announcement posted on its traditional easel at Buckingham Palace?
Previous royal births have generally included the names of the consultant obstetrician and anaesthetist. Perhaps, suggests a courtier, had they done so it would have indicated the hospital at which the baby had been born, at a time when they still wanted to keep such details private.
Then there was the Palace’s bulletin announcing the birth which poignantly singled out Harry’s Spencer relatives – his two aunts Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, and his uncle Earl Spencer. But there was no mention of his royal aunt and uncles, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew, who also happens to be his godfather.
Wiser, more experienced heads might have prevailed, persuading the couple to handle the announcements in a more orthodox manner. There is a well-oiled machine at the palace very used to handling royal births.