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‘Diana felt excluded – Harry and Meghan should christen Lilibet on own terms’

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Recent history has taught us that mums of royal babies are often sidelined and feel pushed out over the traditional christening plans – for Prince Harry and Meghan’s sake, they’d be better off planning Lilibet’s baptism themselves, writes royal historian and author Kate Williams

“I was excluded totally,” said Princess Diana of her son William’s christening in 1982, when he was six weeks old. “It was all decided around me.”

She was upset that the timing didn’t work for the baby’s schedule and so he was unsettled during the ceremony. Compared to the huge ceremonies we expect of royal weddings, funerals and coronations, christenings might seem rather simple affairs.

But they can end up being just as tense as great affairs of state.

There has been mounting speculation about the christening of Lilibet, second child of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who born in July. We have been given various accounts from sources: that the event might be held at Windsor, that it might not; that the Queen might or might not come; that other royals might be offended or they might not.

We don’t know if there are any firm plans – the christening of Eugenie’s son, August, had to be postponed due to a Covid case, as so many ceremonies have been delayed over the last 18 months. No spokesperson has made a statement. But still the speculation continues.



Prince William’s christening was fraught because Diana felt pushed out and sidelined over the royal plans
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MirrorPix)




The last royal christening was for Archie, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first child, in 2019 by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Windsor. The christening generated a blizzard of criticism, that ‘we’ the public deserved to see pictures of the royals entering the chapel and know the identity of the godparents – and much of this said to be because the public had paid £2.4 million for the renovation of Frogmore Cottage.





It was, for me, the peak of the Sussexes being attacked for what all other royals did without attracting any comment – in this case living in a house owned by the Crown, renovated with Crown money. Less than six months later, the Sussexes stepped down from the Royal Family. As they later pointed out, if Archie was not to have a royal title, then why should they reveal as many details about his christening as those with titles?

Archie wore the traditional christening robe of honiton lace. Queen Victoria made the original for her own first-born, Princess Victoria, after the style and material of her own wedding dress. Victoria’s gown had been considered surprising, even shocking – white was seen as unfitting, more like a nightgown.

The formal robe was worn by another 62 royal babies at christenings, including William and Harry, before a replica was made for the next generation.



Prince George wore the traditional christening gown when he was baptised in 2013
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Getty Images)






The Queen with Prince Charles after his christening ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 1948
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Getty Images)




Presumably Victoria wished for a calmer christening for her daughter than her own had been. At hers, in 1819, her father – convinced she would come to the throne despite him being fourth in line – wished her to have a traditional royal name. But his brother, the future George IV, was angry at his brother’s ambition and refused to give the child a regal moniker.

Her first name was agreed to be Alexandrina, after the Russian Tsar, but that couldn’t be her given name. No one knew what the child would be called until the very last minute – when the Prince Regent shrugged and decreed that she would be named Victoria, after her mother Victoire – a name that to the English seemed preposterous.



Harry and Meghan with baby Archie at his christening in Windsor
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SussexRoyal via Getty Images)




The Queen later said: “I was the first person ever to be called Victoria.”

Six generations later, Diana felt sidelined by the ritual of a day in which “everything was out of control”.

Hopefully, as we move forward, christenings can be less fraught – and Harry and Meghan can choose what they would like for their child.


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