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The Royal Family’s Christening Traditions

In a year filled with royal excitement, minds are already turning to what’s expected to be one of the significant events of the summer, the christening of Prince Louis of Cambridge. The youngest child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, born on 23 April at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, is expected to be baptised before the Royal Family start their summer holidays. And on his special day, he will have plenty of traditions to enjoy as royal christenings are steeped special moments unique to this celebration. Here are some of the traditions little Louis will take part in on the day he is christened.

The Christening Gown

The fifth in line to the throne will wear a replica of the famous Honiton lace christening gown, so associated with royal baptisms. This new version was commissioned by The Queen and made by Angela Kelly and her team as a copy of the famous original which was deemed too fragile to remain in use. James, Viscount Severn was the first baby to wear the new outfit at his christening in 2008. His big sister, Lady Louise Windsor, had been the last royal to wear the original gown.

That original was made in 1841 for the christening of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s first child. Their daughter, Victoria, was dressed in the gown with her proud mother declaring she looked ‘’very dear’’ in it. The christening outfit was made by Janet Sutherland using the same fabrics which Victoria had incorporated into her wedding dress the year before  – Spitalfields silk and Honiton lace.

The finished product, which would be used by over 60 royal babies in total, clearly left Victoria feeling amused as she gave its creator the title of ‘Embroiderer to the Queen’.

The Baptismal Font

Another tradition begun by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert is the use of the Lily Font for royal christenings. The gilded silver font, which weighs in at 21 pounds, was commissioned by the royal couple ahead of the birth of their first baby. Back in 1840, there were concerns about associations of the font then in use for royals – it had been commissioned by Charles II whose children were all illegitimate.

Prince Albert contributed to the design of the font which was made by the London firm, Barnard and Co., who charged the princely sum of £189 9s and 4d for their work.  The bowl is a large, open lily and the font is decorated with more lilies, chosen as they represent purity. It’s also decorated with cherubs and representations of ivy.

The font is kept at the Tower of London but will be brought to whichever location the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge choose for Prince Louis’ christening. That could prove to be a major move – when Princess Charlotte was christened, in July 2015 at St Mary Magdalene Church at Sandringham, the operation to bring it to Norfolk was surrounded by secrecy.

The Baptismal Water

Royal babies are usually christened with water brought from the River Jordan where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. In 2015, specially sterilised water was flown in for the baptism of Princess Charlotte.  The water is traditionally poured from a silver ewer made for the christening of the future King George III in 1735.

What else to expect

The baptism is usually carried out by one of the most senior clerics in the Church of England. The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex, Prince George and Princess Charlotte were all christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time while the Queen’s baptism was performed by the then Archbishop of York.

Royal babies tend to have a good collection of godparents around the font to offer their support with six or seven the usual number for the modern House of Windsor. And while we expect an official photo or three from any major royal event, christening portraits provide us with a first chance to see the newest member of the House of Windsor with their extended family.

Places may vary, times may change, but some things remain the same, and the christening of Prince Louis will be steeped in royal traditions.

 

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