Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle won't have custody over their baby

Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle won't have custody over their baby

This year has seen the culmination of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's love story. After meeting on a blind date in 2016, the pair quickly fell for each other, and just over a year into their romance, announced their engagement in November 2017, breaking the hearts of millions around the world with the knowledge that the Playboy Prince was officially off the market.

Famed for his rebellious ways (who could forget that Nazi costume? or that incident in a Las Vegas hotel room?), it was only natural that Prince Harry would choose an unconventional bride and that woman came in the form of the divorced, mixed-race American actress Meghan Markle, who after being swept off her feet by Harry, gave up her old life for royal duty.

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Now, since her wedding to Harry in May, Meghan has been embracing life as a member of the British Royal Family, flaunting tradition where possible, such as when she attended her first Trooping of the Color and wore an off the shoulder dress - such garments are considered immodest on Royal women, who are encouraged to be as conservative as possible.

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The eyes of the world have also been very much fixed on Meghan's stomach since she wed, with the couple making their intention to have a family clear in their engagement interview, and after months of speculation, the announcement everyone had been waiting for was made on Monday of this week - albeit on the poorly timed Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

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The palace has released the following statement about the new Royal baby:

"Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019."

"Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public."

At the time of the announcement on Monday, Meghan had had her 12-week scan and was described as being in good health.

However, one thing which Meghan likely did not know before deciding to start a family with her prince was that she and her husband would not have custody over their child. Yes, you read that correctly - and it's all because of Royal protocol.

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In addition to all the rules which Meghan has had to get to grips with in recent months (and the many which she'll have to abide by as a new mother), it turns out that there's a bizarre custody agreement in the Royal Family.

Royal expert Marlene Koenig explained to the press: "The sovereign has legal custody of the minor grandchildren."

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So, in short, neither Harry or Meghan will have custody of their child, but the child's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Confused? Don't worry, we are too. Koenig continued: "This goes back to King George I [who ruled in the early 1700s], and the law's never been changed. He did it because he had a very poor relationship with his son, the future King George II, so they had this law passed that meant the King was the guardian of his grandchildren."

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Now, although this rule is over 300 years old, it's legally still standing. While it's seriously unlikely that the Queen will meddle in this child's life, she does, officially, have the final say in big decisions, like where they go to school etc.

While this news about the custody of Meghan and Harry's imminent arrival's custody is surprising, it's just one of many interesting revelations which have been made since their pregnancy announcement.

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Another is that despite the child being seventh in line to the British throne, they will not be a prince or a princess.

This, like the custody rule, was the result of Royal protocol established a very long time ago by King George V, who, in 1907, decided that anyone in this child's position was too far down the line to eve become monarch.

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George V declared that: "the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms."

So what exactly will Harry and Meghan's child be known as? A son would be known as the Earl of Dumbarton, a title the Queen gave to Harry on the morning of his wedding, and a daughter would be known as Lady (first name) Mountbatten-Windsor, and any subsequent sons Lord (first name) Mounbatten-Windsor.

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As is the case in almost all Royal affairs, the Queen does have the power to step in and give the child an HRH title, as she did with Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis - although only time will tell whether or not she does this.

Unlike in Royal generations gone by, Meghan and Harry will be comparatively older parents and at the time of their baby's birth, which is estimated to be in mid to late April 2019, Meghan will be 37 years old and Harry will be 34 years old.

So, having waited until their mid to late thirties to start a family, the pair are understandably going to be nervous and excited by the prospect of having children of their own.

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This is something which Prince Harry adorably demonstrated when talking about becoming a father for the first time on the first day of the couple's 16-day tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand: 

And even though the Royal couple are currently far from their home in London, their happy news has been met with much excitement in the commonwealth, and they were given their first baby toy by Governor General Peter Cosgrove and his wife, Lady Lynne Cosgrove - a stuffed kangaroo (which had a baby joey too!) and a pair of baby Ugg boots.

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Now, I don't know about you, but while I'm excited to follow Meghan and Harry's parenting journey, I don't envy them when it comes to having to abide by so many rules - even if does mean their kid is going to have more toys than they could ever play with!