Family

How the British Tabloids Are Covering the Royal Baby in the Absence of Pretty Much Any Real Information

Tabloid cover featuring Meghan and Harry's heads and the following headlines: "IT'S A BOY!" "AMERICAN ACTRESS HAS BABY!" "Prince Harry 'Over the Moon' "
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Dominic Lipinski—WPA Pool/Getty Images and Steve Parsons—WPA Pool/Getty Images.

The world now knows that the Duchess of Sussex, aka Meghan Markle, gave birth to a baby boy early on Monday morning. The world also knows … actually, hardly anything else. For more than 24 hours now, we’ve been in a news vacuum when it comes to the 7-pound, 3-ounce newborn. But the world is curious! The world, in fact, is getting rather desperate. And when the world is desperate, the British tabloids shine.

Let’s take a tour, then, of how the tabloids have spun content from the first full day of Baby Sussex’s so-far mysterious existence. The biggest source of intrigue is the baby’s name, which the couple has not yet revealed publicly, leading to a bumper crop of speculation (and jokes!). The Sun reported that “royal watchers” are speculating that the names of the horses in the stable behind Harry during his brief announcement to the press may have been a clue. (One horse’s name is George, already taken by one of the baby’s cousins, but the other is Sir John.) The Express generated an entire story out of a television segment in which a commentator guessed “Alexander.” The Mirror ran a story about a British pop star’s jokey claim on a morning talk show that she knows the name but can’t share it.

Meghan and Harry have made subtle changes to royal birth customs, barely perceptible to the non-British eye. Take, for example, their quietly altered use of the royal easel, an elaborate gold stand traditionally placed in the “forecourt” of Buckingham Palace to announce royal births to the public. This time, the birth was announced first on Instagram, and then on the easel. So there’s been a lot of easel coverage. “How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Have Broken a New Tradition With Royal Baby Easel,” Hello! magazine announced. The new baby’s easel announcement also did not include the signature of the doctor present at his birth. This was in contrast to the births of his cousins, whose easels were signed by—I’m not making up these names—Dr. Guy Thorpe-Beeston and Dr. Alan Farthing.

When in doubt, a tabloid can never go wrong with some fresh Princess Diana content. Many outlets reported on a new television interview given by Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, who has made a decades-long career of being Diana’s former butler. Drawing on his intimate relationship with the princess, he revealed that she likely would have been “thrilled to bits” with her new grandchild. The Daily Mail sussed out a “touching tribute to Diana” in the fact that Harry and Meghan included the late princess’s siblings in the list of people formally informed of the birth. And the Mirror spoke with a “royal biographer” who employs her expertise to speculate that Harry is both “overjoyed” and “very sad that his mother is not there to see the baby.”

The award for most plucky free association, however, goes to an almost 800-word story about the significance of the baby’s birth date, May 6. If you thought there could be no connection between the queen’s great-grandson and Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett, you have underestimated the creative powers of the Daily Mail. Its headline reads: “Baby Sussex Shares a Birthday With Potential Godfather George Clooney, Former PM Tony Blair and a Foo Fighters Rockstar.”

The story goes on to list any remotely famous person born the same day, including Bob Seger, Gabourey Sidibe, a soccer player and manager named Graeme Souness, and Leslie Hope, a Canadian actress best known for appearing on the first season of 24. The article briefly ruminates on the unsubstantiated rumor that Clooney will serve as godfather. Finally it resorts to listing notable historical events that happened on May 6, including Roger Bannister running a mile in under 4 minutes in 1954, the opening of the “Chunnel” in 1994, and the 1966 guilty verdict of the perpetrators of a notorious series of child sexual assaults and murders. Happy birthday!