10 of the Strangest Rules and Rituals for Royal Births Over the Centuries
10 of the Strangest Rules and Rituals for Royal Births Over the Centuries

10 of the Strangest Rules and Rituals for Royal Births Over the Centuries

D.G. Hewitt - July 9, 2018

10 of the Strangest Rules and Rituals for Royal Births Over the Centuries
Even Queen Victoria needed to be blessed and purified before returning to her royal duties after giving birth. Wikipedia.

A lady needed to be ‘cleansed’ before resuming her royal duties

Even when she had finally given birth, the ordeal wasn’t over for the new mother. In Tudor times in particular, great emphasis was placed on the idea of ‘cleansing’ – that is, on making sure the queen or princess was not only physically ready to leave her sealed-off chamber and return to court life, but emotionally and spiritually ready too. As with the ‘lying in’ state, this final stage could take several weeks, and it would undoubtedly have been a tedious and frustrating time for the new mother, especially since she would have been separated from her child.

According to most historians, the ‘cleansing’ stage lasted between four and six weeks. During this period, the new mother was expected to stay in bed and rest. Moreover, she was also expected to pray regularly – this was especially the case in 15th and 16th century England, where the royals were expected to be extremely devout and pious. This was because it was generally accepted that women were ‘unclean’ after giving birth and so a queen or princess needed to be ‘cleansed’ before she could return to her royal duties.

During the cleansing period, it was expected that the father – in many cases, the king – would take on the woman’s royal duties, even looking after domestic affairs of the court. Once the designated period had come to an end (at least two weeks for the birth of a girl, double this for a boy), the new mother would be brought to church or to the royal chapel and then blessed by the priest. She was now spiritually renewed and able to get back to her royal duties, which usually meant ready to give her husband another child! Often, of course, this meant that the mother missed the first few weeks of her child’s life, including their baptism and presentation to the court and to the public.

Notably, this idea of cleansing a royal lady after she had given birth was not confined to the Medieval and Tudor periods. Famously, Queen Victoria of England was required to wait through month-long confinements four times. What’s more, the legendary monarch was also required to be blessed and purified by a priest after the births of all four of her children. By this point, however, the process of ‘churching’ had become largely symbolic and was more a question of tradition than superstition – after all, it would have taken a brave priest to keep Victoria from returning to work.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Royal Baby Traditions You Didn’t Realize Existed”. CAROLINE PICARD. Good Housekeeping. May 6, 2019

“Childbirth in Medieval and Tudor Times.” Sarah Bryson, The Tudor Society.

“Why Giving Birth to a Monarch Was a Queen’s Darkest Hour.” The Raven Report, August 2017.

“Was Queen Victoria Really “Purified” After Giving Birth? This Religious Ritual Has A Long & Complicated History.” Leah Thomas, Bustle.com, January 2018.

“Warm Caudle: A Potion for Regency Women in Childbed.” Diane Morris, Moorgate Books, November 2014.