How expectant father Prince Harry and dad Prince William are changing royal fatherhood

Prince Harry is expected to be a hands-on dad to his first child with Meghan.

April 10, 2019, 4:05 AM

All signs point to Prince Harry being a very hands-on dad to his first child with Duchess Meghan, but it was not always that way for fathers in Britain’s royal family.

Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip, was not present at his children's births until his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, gave birth to their fourth child, son Prince Edward, in 1964.

Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten are photographed with their daughter Anne and son Charles in 1951.
AFP/Getty Images

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son, Prince Charles, on the other hand, was there when this then-wife, the late Princess Diana, gave birth to their two sons, Prince Harry and Prince William, at the Lindo Wing.

William, likewise, has been present for the births of all three of his children with Duchess Kate, also at the Lindo Wing.

The royals' increasing participation as fathers with each generation follows a larger societal shift.

"Dads are more than just babysitters; they want to be more involved in parenting their children and often feel shut out," concluded a 2015 survey of Millennial and Generation X parents released by Zero to Three, a non-profit that works to support kids in the first three years of life. "Many want to raise their children differently from how they were raised."

More than half of families in the U.S. now have both parents employed. In those families, a majority of mothers and fathers say they share tasks equally when it comes to household chores and responsibilities, disciplining and doing activities with the kids, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Just as dads around the world have progressed in time to become more involved as equal parents, so, too, have the royals.

"In contrast to perhaps the stiff upper lip or 'get on with it' attitude of previous generations, William and Harry are really keen to pave the way for men being able to show their vulnerabilities and emotionally connect," said ABC News royal contributor Victoria Murphy.

William, 36, second-in-line to the British throne, took some time off from duties after the births of all three of his children, although being a member of the royal family is not a job that comes with established maternity and paternity guidelines.

Princess Charlotte and Prince George hold the hands of their father Prince William while Kate, Duchess of Cambridge holds Prince Louis as they arrive for his christening service at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, London, July 9, 2018.
Dominic Lipinski/Pool Photo via AP

He has also spoken movingly about fatherhood and the importance of family in his life.

“I’m concentrating very much on my role as a father," William told the BBC in a 2016 interview. "I’m a new father and I take my duties and my responsibilities to my family very seriously and I want to bring my children up as good people with the idea of service and duty to others as very important."

William described in another interview how fatherhood had changed him.

"I'm a lot more emotional than I used to be, weirdly," he said. "I never used to get too wound up or worried about things. But now the smallest little things, you well up a little more, you get affected by the sort of things that happen around the world or whatever a lot more, I think, as a father."

William and Kate have spoken of the support they receive from family members and their nanny, Maria Theresa Borrallo, in raising their children while juggling royal obligations and charitable work.

William is also known, though, to regularly do school drop-offs and pick-ups with his two older children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

"While Charles adores his sons, there wasn't the same expectation on fathers of his generation to do the day-to-day things so everyone assumed he would carry on as normal with his duties when his children were young, which he did," said Murphy. "By contrast, in one interview William defended criticism of his official workload by saying that if he can't give his time to his children he worries about their future."

She added, "The idea that men will take time out from work or duties to be with children has shifted with each generation."

Prince William, Prince Charles and Prince Harry at Polvier, by The River Dee, Balmoral Castle Estate, Aug. 10, 1997.
Tim Graham/Getty Images, FILE

Harry, 34, is expected to carry on the generational change with fatherhood when Meghan gives birth to their first child. She has told well-wishers she is due in late April or early May.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are presented with native flowers from children, Dasha Gallagher and Finley Blue, during a ceremony at Taronga Zoo, Oct. 16, 2018, in Sydney.
Pool/Kristy Wigglesworth/Getty Images, FILE

Harry and Meghan recently moved from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, a town about 25 miles outside of London. The couple appears to have made the move to escape the glare of the spotlight in London and have a private place to grow as a family.

"It's a perfect place to raise children and for them that's what it's all about: finding normalcy, privacy and a safe family environment for when [the baby] is born," said ABC News royal contributor Omid Scobie.

The palace has not released any details on whether Harry and Meghan plan to employ a nanny or how much time they will take off after Meghan gives birth.

"William took time out when all his children were born but not as long as Kate," Murphy said. "Harry and Meghan might follow that model or they may go for a more shared parental model and both step back for equal amounts of time."

Harry is also expected to continue the work William has done in encouraging fathers, and men overall, to be more open and vulnerable, especially about their own mental health.

"The younger generation of royals are talking a lot about mental health and emotional support and it's clear they bring this into how they parent," Murphy said. "William has spoken about encouraging fathers to emotionally connect with their children and pointing out that fathers find it harder to talk about their own feelings but that it's vital to do so and that children need their father's support just as much as their mothers."

Members of Britain's Royal family leave after attending the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London, March 11, 2019.
Kirsty Wigglesworth/Getty Images

In a 2016 interview with "GMA" co-anchor Robin Roberts, Harry spoke about his love for little ones, saying he "can't wait for the day" he has children.

At the time, he said he tries to be the "fun uncle" for Prince William's children.

"I've got a kid inside of me, I want to keep that, I adore kids," he added. "I enjoy everything that they bring to the party, and they just say what they think."

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex greets school children after planting a tree from the Woodland Trust at St Vincent's Catholic Primary School, March 20, 2019, in Acton, England.
Alastair Grant/Getty Images

Harry has also given a preview of what he'll be like as a dad through his interactions with kids at his events, from stepping into a ballet class with 6-year-olds to comforting a young boy in New Zealand whose mom had also passed away.

“I have a beautiful wife and a baby on the way,” Harry told the boy, pointing to Meghan. “Your life is going to be sorted. Don’t you worry about that.”

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