The European Royals Message Board
[ Post a response | The European Royals Message Board ]
Re: Birth witnesses
User logged in as Robert
I know that this is a discontinued practice, in royal Britain. It used to be that somebody other than doctors and midwives had to be present in a delivery room, in order to confirm that the birth was royal -- not some substitute child. Yes, I'm aware of the controversy surrounding the birth of a son and heir to King James VII/II and his queen consort, Mary of Modena ...
Anyhow, I was just wondering if this has been the custom in other royal houses as well. Given that monarchy evolved into an hereditary institution, legitimacy has been of utmost importance, when it comes to a child's status and rights. The opportunities for fraud are legion, so one would think that special pains would be taken to verify the identity of a royal child. As such, paternity is not the only complication to potentially compromise legitimacy ("Weren't the couple estranged, not having enjoyed relations in a long time? Did not the mother give birth alone in a far away land?").
Maternity, too, could be questioned in the days before modern molecular biology ("Did some peasant woman substitute her own child for the royal, to watch him grow up enjoying a life of privilege? Did some peasant woman substitute her child for the stillborn child of the queen, so as to spare her heartache and humiliation? Perhaps she took the dead child home and buried him in her own garden?").
There still are birth witnesses in Sweden, but they aren't in the room anymore. But the tradition still exists. The witnesses are the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, the Chancellor of the Realm and the Mistress of the Robes.