What’s in a name? Quite a lot, if you’re royal. There’s always plenty of sensitivity and “meaning” in the chosen names of offspring – nods to history and politics as much as family affection, and the usual soppy stuff about something sounding nice or, less often, being trendy.
Harry and Meghan, who are in the celeb fame game properly now (for good or ill), have layered another consideration onto the usual ones in naming their daughter. Little Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor is certainly charming and her name seems well chosen, both on historical and sentimental grounds, with her famous gran and great gran memorialised. However, her name will always remind people who she is. Less trouble booking a table at a fashionable restaurant, getting a ticket for the must-see musical, or – you never know – a job.
The downside, of course, as with all celeb stuff, is that giving her such a name will merely heighten interest in her as she grows up; and, though it seems unkind to remark on it now, will inevitably attract the kind of media intrusion with which Lilibet Diana’s wider family are only too familiar. Her name may turn out to be more of a curse than a blessing, if the poignant experience of the past is anything to go by. The papers will be doubly interested in who she resembles as she grows up; whether she inherits Diana’s sense of style or the Queen’s sense of duty; and, of course, who she’ll be dating.
The public appetite for the habits and doings of even the most minor member of the royal family is astonishing, and probably unprecedented. It does leave some of us who are less obsessed with the Windsors a bit bewildered, however – something best satirised in a Viz comic quiz titled: “Which Kent Are You?”
We’ve become so old-fashioned about venerating our royal traditions – abetted by a government intent on weaponising them in our culture wars – that I’m only surprised Boris Johnson hasn’t reinstated the convention that the home secretary attend a royal birth to ensure no imposter is substituted for a genuine royal child. It would have meant Priti Patel flying to California to observe Meghan and Harry in the maternity suite, which would have entertained all concerned. Patel might have taken the opportunity to give Lilibet Diana a special, points-based UK visa, seeing as she would qualify under “semi-estranged royal personality”, a category of skilled worker for which post-Brexit Britain is of course crying out.
You might argue, for what it’s worth, that “Lilibet” is anyway a confected name – which is true, but it’s not like they’ve called her “Chardonnay” or “Renault Clio” or something. It seems to have grown out of the way the Queen, as baby Princess Elizabeth of York, was unable to quite pronounce her name, and so “Lilibet” caught on as a family sobriquet. It wasn’t on her birth certificate, or how she was known publicly, but the same might be said of Prince Henry of Wales, who, of course, has been universally referred to as Harry since his little red head popped out at the Lindo Wing in 1984. Once upon a time, the gin-soaked super-snob Princess Margaret was the sweet Princess Margaret Rose of York, until somewhere along the line the rose wilted in its acidic soil.
Lilibet is charming enough, and might itself be contracted to Lili, or she might prefer Diana, or “Diana the Second”, as she’d no doubt be dubbed by the media if she ever dared to emulate her paternal granny’s love of fashion. I happen to think it’s a shame that Doria Loyce and Jeanette, of the maternal line, didn’t get a look-in, but it’s none of my business.
Maybe, one day, the royal family will be enlightened enough to see what a tremendous asset they have in the American branch of the family, and how much Harry, Meghan, Archie and Lilibet – a new Fab Four – can contribute to the work and duties of a modernised British monarchy. Society has changed so much in recent decades that the Windsors have found it difficult to keep up, and they now find themselves being seen as symbols not so much of the nation and Commonwealth as a whole, but of tradition and resistance to “woke” values – hence the insane decision by the government to press on with a new £200m royal yacht, the main point of which is to wind up the left of the Labour Party and get patriotic voters in the red wall to vote Tory. There are even signs that William and Kate are being lined up, in effect, to lead the campaign against Scottish independence. This politicisation will not end well.
The rift between Harry and Meghan and the rest of the family has been unhappy and in nobody’s interests. It’d be nice to think that as Archie and Lilibet Diana grow up, the divisions can be healed, and that the family might even move back to Britain, fulfilling the kind of role they proposed before they were pushed into exile by the media making their lives hellish. You’d doubt it, though.
Like her namesakes, Lilibet Diana has a challenging life ahead of her, so we should wish her well.
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