Since their engagement, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have demonstrated time and time again that they wish to live as normally as possible within the bubble of the monarchy. The first example of this was when William and Kate scrapped the official wedding guest list, which was made up of mainly dignitaries and government officials, and instead focused on including close friends and family. A few months later, on their first official tour of Asia, they kept the fuss to a minimum by limiting the number of staff traveling with them, instead preferring to handle as much as possible themselves. Later, after the July birth of their son, Prince George, William and Kate decamped from Kensington Palace to the country home of Kate’s parents, where they spent several uninterrupted weeks bonding with their new baby. As anticipation grew over the first photographs of Prince George, instead of enlisting a famous celebrity photographer, William and Kate issued a modest photo taken by Kate’s father Michael. The homey image showed a young couple enjoying a summer day outdoors with their baby and dogs. These small breaks with tradition and protocol are quickly becoming a trademark of the young couple who will serve as King and Queen, allowing William and Kate to shape the monarchy to fit their personalities, rather than allowing the monarchy to shape them.
The recent christening of Prince George provides additional examples of how William and Kate are damping down royal protocol in an attempt to live life as normally as possible within the royal firm. The days leading up to the christening were full of speculation about the identities of the royal godparents, with Prince Harry and Kate’s sister Pippa reported as the odds-on favorites. As a future King, some in the media believed the pedigrees of Prince George’s godparents would equal those of his father, whose godparents include King Constantine of Greece, Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy, the Duchess of Westminster, Lady Susan Hussey, Lord Romsey and Sir Laurens van der Post. Instead, William and Kate chose a thoughtful selection of friends and family to act as godparents to their first-born son. The eight people chosen included Prince William’s cousin, Zara Tindall, the daughter of Princess Anne, Oliver Baker, a close friend from the couple’s time at St. Andrew’s University, and Emilia Jardine-Paterson, a long-time school and university friend of Kate’s. One of the most accurately predicted names on the list was Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, who worked as Prince William’s private secretary from 2005 through this year and whose son William was a pageboy at the royal wedding in 2011. Two of William’s closest friends, Earl Grosvenor and William van Custem were also named, as was Julia Samuel, a close friend of Princess Diana. Another way the choice of godparents broke with tradition is that members of the royal family traditionally have six godparents, but William and Kate chose seven for Prince George to accommodate a wide mix of friends and family.
Tradition dictates that royal christenings take place in the ornate and imposing Music Room of Buckingham Palace. Instead, William and Kate chose to hold the christening in the more modest Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. Many in the press speculated that the Chapel Royal was selected because this was where the body of Princess Diana rested in the hours before her 1997 funeral and that using the Chapel Royal was one more way for William to keep his mother close. In fact, the Chapel Royal holds another, more recent and much happier memory for William and Kate: It was where Kate was baptized in 2011 prior to her wedding at Westminster Abbey. It is also likely that the couple preferred the intimacy of the small chapel instead of the opulence and formality of the Music Room in Buckingham Palace.
While Prince William’s christening included many extended relations, the 22-person guest list for Prince George’s christening was limited to godparents, close friends and family. Senior royals, such as Princess Anne, Princes Andrew and Edward and their families, were not invited in order to preserve the intimacy of the special day. The small number of guests helped to preserve the tone of family and privacy, rather than sending a message that the christening was a full-blown royal event. Royal author Penny Juror observed, “I think they want this to be a private, family, normal kind of event.” Juror continued, “I don’t think they want it to be overly royal, overly posh or overly formal. They just want to get their child christened.”
Although these instances show how William and Kate streamlined the royal christening ceremony, some examples of royal tradition remained. The christening gown is a replica of the one worn by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter in 1841. Since then, this gown (or the replica created in 2008) has been worn by over 60 royals on their christening day. The christening was performed as expected by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the water used to make the sign of the cross on Prince George’s forehead was from the River Jordan, a tradition for royal infants. On a lighter fashion note, the Queen herself also followed tradition by wearing a blue outfit to both William and George’s christenings.
After the ceremony, the royal party and their guests adjourned to a reception hosted by Prince Charles at Clarence House for refreshments and the obligatory christening portraits. Those who attended the ceremony and reception commented that Prince George was well behaved throughout the proceedings, much to his parents’ relief. With his first official royal engagement completed flawlessly, Prince George can look forward to a lifetime of future royal events. Thankfully, he has fiercely protective parents who feel that privacy and normality is a valuable commodity. It is these traits that will continue to serve William and Kate well as they shape their lives outside of tradition while living inside the very public royal bubble.