Having reported on the Royals for more than ten years, I’ve heard some extraordinary things.
But the information I was given at the end of last week left me startled.
Meghan and Harry, I was told, are considering raising their child ‘gender neutral’ – understood to mean they will not enforce any male or female stereotypes.
The exact phrase the Duchess apparently used, that they plan to take a ‘fluid approach’ to child rearing, initially sounded so odd that I wondered if it could possibly be true.
Gender neutral: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are said to be looking at bring up their child without gender stereotypes
According to the source, who has known the Duchess for many years and was at her wedding: ‘Meghan has been talking to some of her friends about the birth and how she and Harry plan to raise their baby.
‘She said they plan to raise their child with a fluid approach to gender and they won’t be imposing any stereotypes.’
So what will this actually mean?
By far the most likely scenario is that the couple could choose to forgo traditional blues and pinks to match the baby’s gender. They could also avoid conventional gender-biased toys such as dolls for girls and train sets for boys.
The story, first reported in The Mail on Sunday last weekend and later in Vanity Fair, was picked up around the world.
Significantly, last night a senior Kensington Palace aide refused to rule out the possibility of the baby being raised gender neutral.
This could be yet another sign that the Duchess is determined to shake up the way that young Royals are raised.
Gone with traditional: Meghan pictured meeting youngsters on a recent trip to Morocco will do away with blue and pink colour schemes and would not wish them to be surrounded with conventional toys
Keeping quiet: Kensington Palace have refused to comment on plans to bring up the baby gender fluid
Wanting her say: The duchess very much is determined to put her own stamp on things
Take the couple’s new home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, for instance. The couple are currently renovating it, and are understood to have chosen neutral grey and white hues for the nursery, rather than the blue or pink.
Meghan is, of course, already known for being her own person at the Palace.
‘She is a 37-year-old woman who had a career before coming here. She’ll have ideas and influences over things,’ says a close source.
The Sussexes claim publicly that they do not know the sex of their baby. But in private Meghan is understood to have told friends who attended her recent baby shower that the child is a boy.
Whatever the gender, those close to the couple insist they will be ‘open-minded and liberal’ parents.
There has been a recent trend for celebrity parents, such as British singer Paloma Faith and Hollywood actress Kate Hudson, to raise their children as completely gender neutral – in other words, as neither girls nor boys – an approach which allows, apparently, the freedom for the youngsters to define themselves as they see fit.
But it’s doubtful the Royal couple will take it to such an extreme. So don’t expect to see a Prince in a tutu, or hear news that they’re abandoning ‘he’ and ‘she’ pronouns altogether.
‘They’ll have the baby and then decide how to raise it,’ one source said. ‘If they choose to go down a gender neutral route then there will be a balance.
‘If it is a boy, they will dress him like a boy and if it’s a girl they will dress her like a girl.’
But what they won’t be keen on is forcing their child to conform to other gender stereotypes.
The Cambridges have allowed their children enjoy ‘normal’ lives through their modern view of parenting
The Cambridges have also taken a modern view of parenting – although not to this extent.
Prince George was educated at a Montessori and attends a co-educational school in Battersea, South London. William and Kate do the school run and the children enjoy relatively ‘normal’ lives.
Yet they are still traditional in some crucial respects. They have a Norland-trained nanny, Princess Charlotte is rarely seen out of a dress and Prince George was even spotted playing with a toy gun last summer.
How far the Sussexes plan to take their ‘fluid’ approach does, of course, remain to be seen.
Meghan has transformed her husband in many ways: Harry has given up alcohol in solidarity with his pregnant wife, quit smoking and recently revealed he starts the day by meditating. But the Duke is still very much a traditionalist at heart. He has continued his passion for hunting and shooting despite Meghan’s love for animals.
And as a young boy, he was always running around Highgrove in military fatigues, climbing trees and playing toy soldiers with Prince William.
Meghan has also revealed she played with dolls as a child.
A spokesman for Kensington Palace last night said: ‘The Duke and Duchess are extremely excited to welcome their first child in the spring.’
Harry and Meghan to hire a traditional nanny after the birth of their first child following advice from Will and Kate who chose a Norland College graduate
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to hire a traditional nanny after the birth of their first child, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Informed sources dismissed speculation that Meghan will recruit a doula, a non-medical assistant who provides support during pregnancy and the early days of motherhood, or opt for a New Age-style birth.
And they say reports that Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland will move permanently to Britain from America to help bring up the child are also wide of the mark.
Instead, the couple plan to be hands-on parents, and will bring in a nanny later this year ahead of a rumoured royal tour. The approach mirrors that adopted by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for their children, George, five, Charlotte, three, and Louis, ten months.
Hiring a nanny: That is the long-term plan by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as Kate, Duchess of Cambridge has done for all her three children
They later appointed Maria Borrallo, a graduate of the prestigious Norland College, when George was a few months old, although it is understood that Meghan may bring in a nanny when her child is younger than that.
Last night Norland College declined to say if they had been approached by the couple.
It is understood that Harry and Meghan have been ‘listening to advice from friends’ including George Clooney’s wife Amal, who had twins in June 2017, and fashion stylist Jessica Mulroney, who has three children.
While Meghan will take formal maternity leave and is unlikely to attend public engagements, she is determined to remain active behind the scenes working for her various causes. But a source said: ‘This is her first baby and there will be a certain degree of playing it by ear.’
In January, Meghan became patron of the National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the animal welfare charity Mayhew and Smart Works, which helps women get jobs.
Women’s Day: The Duchess of Sussex will be speaking out alongside former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on issues affecting females
She will this week join a panel including singer Annie Lennox and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to mark International Women’s Day, where they will discus issues such as ‘access to education and limitations in employment’.
Meanwhile, builders have been working feverishly to complete the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage in Home Park, Windsor. Harry and Meghan hope to move to the Grade II listed property from Kensington Palace within the next three weeks.
The move may mean that Meghan chooses not to give birth at the Lindo Wing, the exclusive maternity ward at St Mary’s Hospital in Central London where the Duchess of Cambridge had her three children, but instead use a hospital ‘closer to home’.
One option would be Frimley Park Hospital in Berkshire, which is about 15 miles from Windsor and where the Countess of Wessex had her children.