Never has a royal baby arrived with so much anticipation – or with so much seemingly dependent on her.
But for a child whose fate will almost certainly be far removed from the Crown, her influence on the future of the monarchy and its long-term well-being can be profound.
And what an arrival! A great-grandchild of the Queen, born not on British soil but in America, and named after the two women who, for completely different reasons, have had more influence on the lives of the Royal Family for decades than any other.
A family divided: Harry and Meghan in Oprah TV interview
Prince Harry’s decision to honor both his mother and grandmother in his new daughter’s names is, of course, testament to the impact both Princess Diana and the Queen have had on him personally.
If he and Meghan had decided to call Archie’s new sister Elizabeth Diana, their choice is believed to have been warmly received.
But naming the baby Lilibet, the nickname of the Queen’s family — even though they plan to use the diminutive “Lili” for their daughter — poses a risk.
Will it be seen as a presumptuous choice for a royal baby who is eighth in line to the throne but will grow up on the other side of the world with an American accent? And how would Prince Charles feel if his fifth grandchild bears such an intimate family name that he himself has never used?
It’s tempting to wonder if Harry would have been so encouraged in his choice if his grandfather Prince Philip – the only close relative the Queen is allowed to call ‘Lilibet’ – had still been alive.
Kate and her sister-in-law in 2019
No doubt there will be some discomfort and a strange eyebrow raised among the more cautious courtiers in the palace at this latest convention-destroying Exocet of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. They are a couple that thrives on disruption with their interpretations of royalty. And on the one hand, Harry and Meghan are commendable.
They have chosen the names of the two women who have been Harry’s lodestars. Few public opportunities these days pass without the prince cherishing the mother he lost in a car accident when he was only 12. In Diana’s absence, it was his grandmother who took on a strong maternal role in his life. The lost boy who followed his mother’s coffin was shrouded in a warm cocoon of love—one that has survived all the damaging acts of self-harm Harry hurled at the royal family, from Megxit to Oprah. In all the trials that Harry has seen lash out at his father, his brother William and the monarchy, the door has still never been completely closed. And that is largely due to the patience and love of the original Lilibet.
Such is the close relationship between grandmother and grandson that many will assume Harry must have asked for her permission to use such a private name.
Since he, unusually, announced the gender of the baby he and Meghan were expecting, it has been assumed he would like to give his daughter his mother’s name.
And since William and Kate had already given Princess Charlotte Diana as their middle name, Baby Sussex was more likely to have Diana as her first name. But Harry and Meghan enjoy doing the unexpected.
So while Elizabeth was a race certain, Lilibet was an outsider. While her names may prove to be a blessing or a burden, Baby Sussex’s arrival is full of opportunity.
How often have new babies brought reconciliation in warring families? And baby Lili’s healing powers could be vital to resolve the grief in the heart of the royal family. This is the gap between Harry and William. Now that both are fathers of boys and girls and the challenges that come with it, Lili’s arrival presents a unique opportunity.
William and Kate will of course share their joy at the news, but will it go beyond just superficial?
The brothers might start by reminding themselves of the importance their mother placed in them to take care of each other, something she wished they would continue to do for the rest of their lives.
Of course it will be difficult – Harry’s choice of exile and California over duty and the Crown remains a major obstacle. Long gone are the days when newly engaged Harry and Meghan could make it from Nottingham Cottage to William and Kate’s stately Kensington Palace apartment.
Five thousand miles now separate the brothers, though the gap is far greater than just physical distance. For the sake of family unity, can they find common ground that the birth of a new baby can often bring?
The rift between William and Harry was the most baffling and the most damaging. For years, their mutual trust was an enduring and endearing part of the royal story. But the aftershocks of Harry and Meghan’s snitch to Oprah Winfrey in March have not improved the situation, but only made it worse.
The only bright spot was their grandfather’s funeral at Windsor Castle in April. Then it was Kate who seized the opportunity to bring the brothers together, ably realizing that a photo of the two side by side and deep in conversation as they left St. George’s Chapel would be a public relations masterpiece. .
And so it seemed – but unfortunately there was no breakthrough.
Prince Charles, who has been deeply hurt by Harry’s constant emotions – especially his claims of racism within the family – will be mixed. Joy at the arrival of his second granddaughter, but sadness that he will see as little of Lili as of Archie. Will there be a baptism for him to attend when so much wrong can be righted? And if so, where?
Harry and William at Prince Philip’s funeral
As always, the Duke and Duchess announced the happy news in their own unique way. Not a stiff courtroom circular, but a chatty and cheerful statement from their US PR team – clearly postponed until after mom and baby got home.
Although the news of the birth came two days after Lili’s arrival, there was no subterfuge associated with Archie’s in 2019, as officials still reported Meghan was in labor after the baby was born.
Nor was there any secrecy about the place of Lili’s birth. Indeed, the statement thanked the “trusted care” of the medical team at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Inevitably, much attention will be given to the names Harry and his wife have chosen. It should be noted that there is no acknowledgment of the inspiring woman in Meghan’s life – her mother Doria – and no reference to the family of her estranged father Thomas Markle.
In this Summer of Diana – the unveiling of a statue on what would be her 60th birthday and the 40th anniversary of her wedding to the Prince of Wales – Harry is sure to continue his tribute to his mother’s memory. Like Lili, he was also known by a diminutive: he was given the first name Henry. But Harry grew up in the heart of the royal family. His daughter is destined for a very different experience, with no title and an upbringing that will have little in common with George, her cousin and future king.
But there’s a chance George’s passage to the throne could be infinitely safer if his first American-born cousin plays her part in helping end the crisis that has so damaged the House of Windsor.