Pool photo by John Stillwell
The ducal Cambridge family including Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George, all greeted by clergy at the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace.
Prince George was christened on October 23, 2013 in a royal sea of blue and cream. His parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, tweaked the baptismal traditions in a few ways to bring the celebration into the 20th century. The next generation will have to bring it all the way into the 21st century.
Let's count the number of royal tradition-breakers in what looks to the rest of the world like a completely conventional event.
The mother of the baby, the former Catherine Middleton, is a commoner. In the past five generations there has been a steady dilution in the blue blood of the mothers of heirs to the British throne. Queen Mary was a mere Serene Highness, not a Royal Highness, followed by the Queen Mother who was a Lady (daughter of an Earl), then Queen Elizabeth the current monarch, and Diana, Princess of Wales who was another Lady (daughter of an Earl). Leaving us with Kate, daughter of a man with no title. In these days of Kardashians our Kate looks so eminently respectable that few seem to care about her lineage. It is still a noteworthy historic change.
The christening took place in the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace instead of the Music Room at Buckingham Palace. St. James's Palace in London is where Prince William and Prince Harry shared a private apartment before William's wedding, and where their staff had offices. The chapel itself has personal history for William and Kate. The casket of Diana, Princess of Wales, lay in the Chapel Royal until the night before her funeral. Kate was confirmed in the Church of England, shortly before her wedding, in a private ceremony in St. James's Palace; it is most likely that her confirmation occurred in the chapel.
The godparents themselves are potent symbols of changing royal customs. In previous generations of Windsors a future heir to the throne would be shepherded through life by monarchs. William's own godparents include the deposed King Constantine of Greece. Aside from an Earl, the new crew are title-free and their qualifications are that they are old chums of the baby's parents. How quaintly normal that is. The temporarily famous godparents are:
- Mr Oliver Baker (Oliver Baker attended the University of St Andrews with The Duke and Duchess)
- Mrs David Jardine-Paterson (Emilia Jardine-Paterson attended Marlborough College with The Duchess and has helped with the interior design of the family's digs at Kensington Palace)
- Earl Grosvenor (Hugh) (Earl Grosvenor is the son of The Duke of Westminster)
- Mr Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton (Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton served as Private Secretary to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry from 2005-2012 and continues to serve part-time as Principal Private Secretary and Equerry)
- The Hon Mrs Michael Samuel (Julia Samuel was a close friend of The Princess of Wales)
- Mrs Michael Tindall (Zara Tindall is The Duke of Cambridge’s cousin)
- Mr William van Cutsem (William van Cutsem is a childhood friend of The Duke of Cambridge)
What has not changed is that the baby was christened in the Church of England (of which he may someday be head and Defender of the Faith). Prince George was attired in a copy of the generations-old Honiton lace christening gown worn back in Queen Victoria's day. The Windsors' traditional Lily Font was used and George's head was dampened with water from the River Jordan. To cap it all off, the tea following the ceremony featured slices of the christening cake (the top tier of William and Kate's wedding cake, as predicted by Andrew Morton). Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales (oops, the Duchess of Cornwall as she is known) hosted the tea at their Clarence House home adjacent to St. James's Palace.
The royal tradition of color coordination sailed on as well, with all significant players wearing cream or blue or both. That includes the clergy.
In his first royal ceremony Prince George and his parents have nudged the royal family closer to the lives of their subjects. It remains to be seen if any but the most ardent royal watchers notice this slight democratization of the Windsors. The next color-coordinated appearance of the baby and his parents will be the official Christmas photograph. Stay tuned.