What to Expect at Prince George of Cambridge’s Christening

The Duchess of Cambridge leaving the hospital with Prince George of Cambridge on July 23, 2013 the day after his birth.

The next big event in the life of the newborn Prince George of Cambridge will be his christening. The ceremony will probably take place in September or early October, after Queen Elizabeth II returns from her summer holiday at Balmoral.The baby’s gown, the christening font and the location will follow tradition but the choice of godparents may reflect the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s personal preferences.

The newborn prince will wear a replica of the 172 year old Honiton lace and white satin gown designed for the christening of Queen Victoria’s eldest child, Princess Victoria in 1841. Royal babies from Princess Victoria  to Lady Louise Windsor in 2004 wore the original gown before it was deemed too delicate for further use and a replica was created for subsequent christenings.

The Lily Font

Prince George’s christening will also follow the precedent set by Queen Victoria by including the Lily font. From the Restoration in 1660 to the christening of the future Queen Victoria herself in 1819, the silver-gilt font and basin commissioned by Charles II was a fixture of royal christenings and continued to be in use as a secondary font for Victoria’s three eldest children. Victoria reputedly disliked the Restoration font because it had beenused for the christenings of her illegitimate cousins and Prince Albert designed the new “Lily Font” as the primary font for their children.

Since the reign of Queen Victoria most royal christenings have taken place at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. The private chapel at Buckingham Palace was damaged during the Blitz and both Prince Charles and Prince William were baptized in the Music Room, which has become a familiar setting for royal christenings. A number of nineteenth and twentieth century royal parents chose non-traditional venues for christenings.

Queen Victoria holding the future Edward VIII at his christening, flanked by her son, the future Edward VII and her grandson, the future George V on July 16, 1894

The future Edward VIII was christened at White Lodge in Richmond Park in 1894 and Princess Eugenie of York became the first member of the royal family to receive a public christening as part of a regular service at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham in 1990. Due to Prince George’s place in the line of succession, his christening will probably take place in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, following the precedent set by his father and grandfather.

While the setting, gown and font for Prince George’s christening will follow tradition, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may personalize the ceremony through their choice of godparents. There has been speculation that Prince William, Prince Charles and the Queen may select all the godparents because there were no representatives of the Spencer family chosen as godparents to Prince William in 1982. William’s godparents were The Prince of Wales’ second cousins, Constantine II, King of the Hellenes and Norton Knatchbull, Baron Romsey, Prince Charles’s favourite author, Sir Laurens van der Post, the Queen’s cousin Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Westminster, and the Queen’s Woman of the Bedchamber, Lady Susan Hussey.

Princess Elizabeth with Prince Charles at his christening in 1948

The exclusion of family or friends of the Princess of Wales from the list of William’s godparents actually broke with tradition as previous generations of royal babies had sponsors chosen by both their father and mother. Prince Charles’s own godparents included Queen Mary and the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, the surviving grandmothers of the future Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Uncle, Prince George of Greece and cousin, the former Lady Patricia Mountbatten were also godparents, in addition to Princess Margaret, King George VI, the honourable David Bowes-Lyon and King Haakon VII of Norway.

Just as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have welcomed the involvement of Catherine’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, in the upbringing of their son, it is likely that they will select a godparent from the Middleton family in addition to royal cousins, such as Peter or Zara Phillips and mutual friends. The royal couple may also choose a godparents from the Duke of Cambridge’s numerous Spencer cousins, which include a George, an Alexander and a Louis. Where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may break with tradition is the selection of foreign royalty. While there may be a member of the Greek royal family chosen in honour of Prince Philip, it is unlikely that there will be same array of foreign royal godparents that were present at the christenings of previous generations of British royal babies.

The autumn christening of Prince George of Cambridge will follow traditions established by Queen Victoria. The baby Prince will wear a replica of the 1841 honiton lace robe and the Lily Font will be the centrepiece of the ceremony, which will probably take place in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may personalize there ceremony through their choice of godparents, selecting more Spencer and Middleton relatives and family friends and fewer members of Europe’s royal houses.

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