A double christening in the House of Windsor is a rare event. In modern times, their babies have usually been welcomed into the Church of England individually but this is no ordinary year, for the Royal Family or for any of us. In the space of a few months, The Queen has welcomed four new great grandchildren and said a final farewell to their great grandfather, Prince Philip, all against the backdrop of a pandemic that has kept even the most famous of families apart at a time when they needed and wanted to be together. So while the decision to christen two of the new arrivals at the same time is highly unusual, it has a deep and rather special significance.
In some ways, it’s a bit of a leveller. Much was made of Princess Eugenie’s own christening at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene at Sandringham in December 1990 when she became the first royal baby to have a public baptism. Now her own son, August Brooksbank, has been christened alongside her cousin’s little boy, Lucas Tindall. And in that way, Eugenie and her fellow royal mum, Zara Tindall, have followed a path trodden by parents across the UK. Many churches now baptise several children at one ceremony or include the christening of a group of youngsters as part of regular service where they are welcomed by the whole congregation. Rather than the traditional royal route of individual ceremonies, these two great grandsons of The Queen have been christened in the same way as thousands of the other babies born this year.
And this extraordinary time may well have been a factor in that. Princess Eugenie was due to baptise her son this summer but the pandemic forced a change of plan. While restrictions have eased, concerns linger. One get together means just one set of contacts outside immediate family units.
But it also means quite a but of juggling. The christenings of Lucas and August took place on November 21st 2021, exactly 181 years after the birth of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s first child, Princess Victoria. She was the baby for whom the famous Honiton lace christening gown was created. That was retired after the baptism of Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor in 2005, as its age had rendered it too fragile for further use. Since then, royal babies have been baptised in a replica. However, as far as we know, just one copy of the gown was made meaning the royal mums either had to do a quick swap in the vestry or their sons were christened in different outfits which would have a symbolism all of its own.
Other royal traditions are easier to observe, even with a double event. We do know that the boys’ great uncle, the Prince of Wales, brought back several bottles of sterilised water from the River Jordan from his trip to the Middle East in the past week, meaning the royal christening tradition that sees all Windsor babies baptised with water from this holy place has continued. And if the Lily Font was brought from its home at the Tower of London to the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Windsor for this celebration then it’s big enough for both sets of parents to gather around as their children are welcomed into the Church of England.
But perhaps the most significant part of this special event is its date. As well as its link to Victoria and the beginnings of her dynasty, it comes at a deeply personal moment for The Queen. On November 20th 2021, she marked the anniversary of her wedding for the first time since losing her beloved husband. A year earlier, she had sat with him, looking at homemade cards celebrating their long and successful marriage. As 2021 wound to an end with its darkening days and cooling temperatures, she was alone at the Castle where the man she called her ”strength and stay” had died just months earlier. It was, perhaps, one of the hardest days she has known.
Twenty four hours later, the family she built with him came together to rejoice in the two great grandchildren born in the final weeks of his life, babies he had celebrated and who he knew carried his name. August Philip Hawke Brooksbank, born on February 9th 2021, and Lucas Philip Tindall, born on March 21st 2021, may never inherit the throne but they were much loved and much wanted great grandsons for a man who helped shape the House of Windsor in the 20th century. At a time when all that was lost was perhaps felt more keenly by the wife he left behind, the House of Windsor rallied to support the Monarch at one of her saddest times.
And that is perhaps the sweetest symbolism of this rare, double christening.