Monday, June 17th, 2024

This is not the first time there has been a clandestine element to the birth of a Royal baby

Following Prince Harry and Meghan’s decision not to disclose the location of the birth of their first child for now, My Sevenoaks Community Publisher and Editor Frank Baldwin recalls his own brush with the clandestine birth of a Royal baby

ONE of my first ever tasks, when I started my career in journalism at the Fleet Street News Agency in London 42 years ago, was to do all night shifts, sitting outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.

For two long cold nights in November 1977 I sat waiting for Princess Anne to arrive to have her first baby. Even as a ‘newbie’ I knew there would not be much to report on but my task was to note the time of arrival of Princess Anne, who she was with, what she was wearing etc as, whatever your views on the Royal family, there has always been a thirst for this type of detail from the public.

There was a whole row of cars parked outside the Lindo Wing door at the hospital which was being guarded by two uniformed policemen.

Members of the UK and international press sat inside these cars smoking and drinking endless cups of coffee to help them stay awake. I was in one car with a photographer and found the camaraderie and excitement surrounding the event intoxicating even though it involved hours of mind-numbing boredom. Then at 8am on the second day of my all-night shifts, the radio news announced the baby – Peter – had been born.

While we were all watching the door with the policemen outside, the royal bodyguards had decided to sneak Princess Anne in another entrance earlier in the night. I personally found this quite amusing, but several of the photographers jumped out their cars and started shouting at the policemen and waving their fists at them!

I found a phone box (no mobiles in those days) and called the news desk for instructions. They told me to get inside the hospital! Having only just started my new job, I was torn. The last thing I wanted to do was intrude but I was also worried that I must do as I as told by my news editor. I relayed the instructions to my photographer colleague. He was a bit more thick-skinned than me and explained my Fleet Street career would be very short-lived if I didn’t do as I was told. While the rest of the press pack were still berating the policemen outside the Lindo Wing, we simply went around the corner and marched in the front door of St Mary’s Hospital.

We decided we could cover more ground if we split up. I went down into the kitchens and up on a couple of wards asking hospital staff and nurses I encountered along the way if they had seen anything or had any news? They all quickly retreated from me and refused to say anything of note.

I was sort of relieved and thought I had better find the photographer in the hope he had found something, and we could leave. I made my way back to the main hall where I stood and waited. Despite this area being fairly public and open to anyone, a thick set man in a black overcoat approached me.

“Are you looking for someone?” he said.

Now, I may have been the new kid on the block, but from his manner I quickly ascertained he was either a Royal bodyguard, special branch or something similar.

“A friend,” I replied.

“Maybe I can help,” he said, “what’s his name?”

It suddenly dawned on me that even after two nights in a car together, I didn’t know the photographer’s name! The game was up, so I admitted I was waiting for a photographer.

“They are all outside,” said the thick set man, who was now looking rather menacing. I insisted I was meeting my ‘friend’ inside whereupon my questioner grabbed me by the collar and said: “Nope, he’s outside.”

He then marched me to the door and helped me down the front steps with the aid of his boot up my backside!

And he was right, the photographer was outside having suffered the same ‘boot up the backside’ fate.

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