By Royal standards today’s christening of Prince George Alexander Louis, heir to the throne, was a wholly humble affair. OK, aside from the baby being christened into a church which he will eventually be supreme governor of, and aside from being doused with waters from the Rivers of Jordan by the Archbishop of Canterbury – yes, all that was a bit bonkers. The service itself, however, was rather intimate.
A tiny guest list, a quick “in and out” running order, a distinct lack of horses, carriages, men in velour pantaloons parping bugles, and, thankfully, no more bloody boats. Perhaps Prince Philip has a contract clause nowadays denoting that he will only do future public engagements if it doesn’t involve four hours on the Thames in sideways drizzle while being man-handled by Captain Pugwash.
Prince William, who is more everyman than many of the prats wandering around west and east London, arrived carrying the royal pudgy lump in his own arms, face first, like a bag of spuds. George himself is nothing to write home about at present. If any royal toady correspondent tries to write that he is either beautiful or unique they are telling a bald-faced fib. He is standard, requisite baby-shaped with translucent/mousy hair and a general look of dismay at being in any situation that doesn’t involve milk or being asleep. For this, I rather like him.
The Duchess of Cambridge appeared, like any new mum, a little spaced-out – almost as if she’d been up at 5am for an early feed and a boggle-eyed stare at CBeebies. The Middleton clan were at a thankful minimum. Zara Tindall arrived with husband Mike, a squash-nosed man who always looks thoroughly bewildered, as if he has just woken up after a particularly rowdy rugby stag weekend in some sort of terrifying parallel world where Princess Anne is his mother-in-law.
The christening very much felt like Will and Kate’s way of doing things. And all said, I rather like the growingly down-played pomp-phobic face of the new young monarchy. If they carry on like this they have a fighting chance of George actually becoming monarch without a revolution demoting him to some gulag in East Shropshire.
One of the most pleasing touches of Baby George’s day of officially renouncing Satan etc. was the selection of his godparents, who appear – quite miraculously for posh people – to be a collection of people his parents are actually close personal friends with. This flies in the face of most of monied-, or wishing-to-be-monied London who tend to use their offspring’s godparentage as tedious battering rams into other more lofty social circles.
This is why Elton John lives in a house with big gates and security guards, in constant mortal fear of the flapping of the stork at the Portland Maternity Wing. But no, no begging Obama or Clinton to be god-daddy for William and Kate, no tugging at the hem of Rita Ora. Instead, Zara Tindall and six other actual friends have been chosen.
It’s a small but important touch if a child hopes to have a normal life. William’s former private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton – who has been an emotional rock to William for years – has made the grade. William Van Cutsem, Emilia Jardine Paterson, Oliver Baker and Earl Grosvenor are all hands-on friends and Julia Samuel is a friend of Diana, William’s late mother. A privileged, pampered bunch they might be, but also they’re the sort of people who might have an actual bond with their baby. I’m not sure how much facetime Prince William ever managed with one of his own godfathers – King Constantine II of Greece – but the name does not suggest a man who knew his way around a Lego Duplo train set. It was a most ordinary very special occasion. Baby steps for the new era of the British monarchy.