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Royal Baby Christening Breaks with Tradition

Prince George, the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is being christened in Britain on Wednesday. In a break from tradition, the christening of the world's most famous baby will be as low key as possible.

Three months ago, Prince William and his wife Catherine shared their bundle of joy with the world. And just as the royal couple broke with tradition when they released family snapshots as Prince George's first official photos, Will and Kate continue to do things their way.

Prince George will be christened in the small Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace, rather than the traditional music room in Buckingham Palace. Kate was confirmed into the Church of England there, and the coffin of William's mother, Princess Diana, was put on display at the chapel after her death in 1997.

Penny Junor, Prince William's biographer, stresses the personal connection both have to the smaller Chapel Royal.

"I think this chapel basically has got meaning for them, whereas a room in the vast Buckingham Palace is a bit more impersonal,” said Junor.

The guest list will be limited by the small space and the couple's preferences. Immediate family will attend, but some senior royals have not been invited. Royal author Ingrid Seward says this shouldn't be viewed as a snub.

"Princess Anne wasn't at Prince William's christening because she said she had a rabbit shoot at her country house on that day, and it caused a huge scandal. Everyone thought it was because Anne and Diana didn't get on, but it was actually because they were doing something else," recalls Seward.

Even William's godfather, Constantine II, the former king of Greece, won't attend.

"If the family wanted a big affair, they would make it. They wanted a small affair? They get that. I think it's perfectly all right," said Constantine II.

Britain's top clergyman, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, says he is happy to be a part of this baby's relationship with God.

"The great good news is that God doesn't care who we are. The baby is committed into God's hands. I will mark Prince George with the sign of the cross. And that's exactly what every priest always does," commented Welby.

No matter how small or private the ceremony, Britons like John Loughrey are pleased to share in the royal family's personal moment.

"I will be excited, the crowds will be excited, the fans will be excited, the press are going to be excited, everybody is excited. Of course the royal family will be very excited. And of course the late Diana, Princess of Wales, will be shining down on them," said Loughrey.

Margaret Tyler has devoted her entire London home to royal family memorabilia, with a collection of 10,000 pieces. She hopes to buy souvenirs from the christening for her collection. Perhaps she'll join other Britons in saving a commemorative coin: the cheapest is priced at about $20, with the gold "Kilo" costing more than $80,000.
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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.