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Oh baby! What the future holds for the royal George

October 23, 2013|Patt Morrison
  • Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, carries her son, Prince George of Cambridge, after his christening in London. He wears a replica of the royal family's historic 1841 christening robe.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, carries her son, Prince George of Cambridge,… (John Stillwell / WPA Pictures…)

These are not going to be the kind of baby pictures that his mother will embarrass him with by showing them to his girlfriend 20 years from now.

That’s partly because they’re not embarrassing, they’re historic.

And it’s also because she (or maybe he? revolutionary!) will already have seen the photos.

Anyone with a computer can see the new pictures of Prince George of Cambridge, future king, future head of the Church of England, who was christened Wednesday.

It happened not in the traditional spot for royal christenings, the Music Room of Buckingham Palace, but in the chapel royal of the much older St. James' Palace, built by Henry VIII. Here, King Charles I slept before his execution, and here, the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, the baby’s late grandmother, lay before her funeral.

The most historic christening photo will be the one of baby George with his father, William, Duke of Cambridge, his grandfather Charles, Prince of Wales, and his great-grandmother, Elizabeth II. It’s the first time since 1894 that a monarch and three direct heirs to the British throne have been alive and photographed.

Much is being made of the fact that the baby’s godparents are regular people. That word comes with an asterisk. Certainly they are not the godparents of the past, when czars and queens stood up for royal babies. They may be “regular” compared to crowned heads, but they’re not blokes in the street.

One is the heir to the richest non-royal dukedom in the country; one is William’s cousin, the daughter of his aunt, Princess Anne; one is William’s private secretary; one is a friend of the late Diana. Another is a second-generation friend of the royals. Some of the couple’s college friends are on the list, perhaps the most ordinary folks in the chapel royal, where they joined royal and non-royal grandparents and great-grandparents.

The 1841 christening gown QE II wore has been retired. It had a lot of wear and tear, starting with Victoria’s nine children. Prince George wore a stitch-for-stitch copy of the original.

Most of us go through our lives with the names we were given at birth, but George will have as many as five royal titles in his lifetime, apart from his basic trio of George Alexander Louis.

He was born HRH Prince George of Cambridge, because his parents are Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. A royal duke is far superior to your garden-variety aristocratic duke. George takes his name from his dad’s dukedom, the way Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie of York take theirs from their royal father, Andrew, Duke of York.

Then, Prince George of Wales. Once the queen dies, the heirs move up a notch. The baby’s grandfather, Charles, will become king, and he will probably follow tradition and make his elder son, William, the Prince of Wales. That will make William and Kate the Prince and Princess of Wales, and George will be Prince George of Wales.

Prince George, period. When his father, William, becomes king, George becomes the king’s heir. When the baby’s bachelor great-great-great uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated and left his younger brother, the Duke of York, to become king, the new king’s younger daughter, Margaret, moped that her father’s new role meant she was no longer “Princess Margaret of York” but “Princess Margaret of nothing.”

The Prince of Wales. George’s father, by then King William V, will probably also do the traditional thing and when George is old enough, give him the heir’stitle of Prince of Wales.

The king. When King William V dies, his son becomes George VIII, which is what he will be on the coins and in the history books. But when courtiers and journalists talk about “the King,” there’s only one they will mean. The previous king is dead, long live the new one. Unlike the papacy, the British throne is never vacant. George will no longer be “your royal highness,” but “your majesty.” Only he and his spouse — and his mother, if she survives to become a dowager queen — can be called by the “majesty” title.

When the current queen was christened with the same silver-gilt Victorian Lily Font they brought out for little George, her grandmother, Queen Mary, noted with a touch of asperity, “Of course poor baby cried.” A good swallow of the folk remedy dill water was duly administered to calm her down.

So if George cried during the christening, I hope they let him. It won’t be the last time he feels like crying, but it may be the last time he’ll be able to get away with it in public.


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