Why you should care
To celebrate Mother’s Day, the Duchess of Sussex should insist her son’s face be kept out of the spotlight.
With hair perfectly coiffed, makeup and heels on, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, stood on the steps of the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. Shutters clicked and flashes burst around her as she and Prince William introduced their tiny baby son, Louis, to the world … just hours after Kate had given birth.
The royal couple did the same with son George and daughter Charlotte, making it a royal tradition. But when the newest royal baby entered the world last Monday, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle did not host a photo-call hours after the birth. They announced their decision to abstain from this tradition several weeks earlier, sending the British media into a tizzy. U.K. tabloid The Sun wrote that as taxpayers, it’s their “royal right” to see photos of the baby.
Their royal right to see photographs of someone else’s child? Hmmm, no, I don’t think so. In honor of Mother’s Day, we could all use a reminder that a mother is allowed to make whatever decision she feels is best for her child — even in the face of public outcry. While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did present their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, to the media two days later, they did not owe it to the media or the public to do so. In fact, that should be the last time Archie’s photo is in the news for the next 18 years.
The price of childhood fame is high.
Until Archie’s old enough to decide when and where he wants his image to appear, Harry and Meghan should insist that their son’s face is blurred from every single paparazzi snap.
The price of childhood fame is high. As we’ve seen with countless childhood stars — Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes — being in the spotlight from such a young age takes a significant toll. Heck, it’s hard enough just imagining that people are looking at you and judging you, much less when they’re invited to do so. Clinical psychologist and author of the book Kid Confidence, Eileen Kennedy-Moore, agrees. “Especially in the teen years when children are trying out different identities, there’s an imagined audience — we think everybody notices how dorky our hair looks,” says the parenting and child development expert. For the most part, no one is actually watching that closely, she says. But for celebrities, all eyes are on them. “Kids should have privacy so they can make mistakes and be dorky.”
In the age of social media, when everyone has a camera in their pocket, it’s hard to imagine successfully hiding the face of a prominent child. But it’s not impossible. In 2013, actresses Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner and Sandra Bullock banded together to get California Senate Bill 606 passed, making it a crime to harass a child because of their parent’s profession. This was an attempt to quell the nauseating frequency with which celebrity children were being photographed and yelled at by paparazzi trying to capture images of their famous moms and dads.
After the bill passed, the U.K.’s Observer reported that celebrity news publications stopped working with photographers known for going after these types of shots, and the number of crying kid photos dropped significantly.
Plenty of celebrities choose to keep their kids’ faces hidden from the spotlight — including on social media. Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman are just some of the megastars who have managed to keep their children almost entirely out of the public eye. And they all cite the same reasons for doing so: a desire to give their kids a “normal” life and let them make their own decisions about sharing their image with the world.
But could a royal baby ever receive the same consideration? It would be unprecedented.
“If the couple proposed that Archie’s face never be shown, the backlash would be pretty massive,” says Kristin Contino, senior reporter for Royal Central. “Obviously, the Sussexes have private wealth, but at the end of the day, they are living a taxpayer-funded lifestyle,” she says.
Tim Walker, veteran social commentator of The New European, says it’s ultimately an impractical idea. “The royal family can’t live with media attention, but they can’t live without it either.”
Then again, Meghan has already broken with royal tradition in many ways — in some cases, simply by being herself. She’s not only the first person of mixed race to marry into the royal family, but she has also chosen to actively break with tradition in other ways. Meghan and Harry decided to get married in May, for example, which the royal family considers an unlucky month. While pregnant with Archie, Meghan had a lavish baby shower in Manhattan, an American-style celebration royals tend to avoid. After the birth, the couple chose not to release official merchandise in honor of their son — something that Kate and William did for all three of their kids.
They also elected not to give Archie an official royal title, even though he was entitled to be the Earl of Dumbarton. “I think not giving him a title is certainly a start to living a more ‘normal’ upbringing,” Contino says.
It’s likely that Meghan and Harry made these decisions intending to maintain their right to personal choice and freedom, despite the strict nature of their lives. Not letting their baby be photographed, however, should come from a place of intense parental protection.
“Like any parent, it’s a good idea to minimize how much is out there about your kid,” says Kennedy-Moore. “Children are constantly growing and changing and we have a responsibility to protect their privacy — even more so if you’re a celebrity.”
This Mother’s Day, we should remember that moms get to decide how best to protect their kids — and that whatever their lineage or title, it’s their “royal right” to do so.