COMMENT: If there is one word that has come to define the mess, the misery, and the turbulence of the royal news in 2021, it is “why?”
Why did Harry and Meghan repeatedly provoke his family via a number of media appearances? Why define their post-Megxit brand as the pre-eminent anti-Windsor agitators? Why launch their US careers on a platform of family melodrama and acrimony?
Now we have a new and even more befuddingly “why” in the form of Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor.
The Sussexes’ second child was born at 11.40am on Friday, US time, at a hospital in Santa Barbara. The news was only announced overnight.
That her name was not so much a deviation from tradition was not a surprise but no one quite expected this wild swerve into “what the hell?” territory.
Lilibet is famously the Queen’s nickname, which she got when she was only a toddler. Unable to pronounce her own name, her grandfather King George V took to calling her “Lilibet”, lovingly mimicking her mangled pronunciation of Elizabeth.
Harry and Meghan naming their second child so blatantly, if not fawningly, after his grandmother – the woman whose life it would seem they have made considerably more difficult this year – just seems bizarre.
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Rather than coming across as reverential or respectful, Harry and Meghan’s decision to go with Lilibet just seems obsequious in the extreme.
If this is some attempt at patching things up with his family, at making amends after months of death by myriad media cuts, then it seems a very transparent way of going about it.
It also feels hypocritical.
If they hold Her Majesty in such esteem then perhaps not levelling charges of racism, cruelty, “bullying him into silence” and “total neglect” at the royal house might have been the way to go about it, not with a stunt such as this.
This seems like less touching gesture and more about a damage-limitation exercise.
The other motivating factor here might have something to do with Lilibet’s older brother, two-year-old Archie. Born in 2019, it had been widely speculated that he would assume the courtesy title of the Earl of Dumbarton, one of his father’s lesser titles, as is the custom. Instead, when adorable Archie popped out to greet the world, the palace announced he would be known as Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor in what looked like a powerful nod towards giving the poppet the best chance at some sort of normal life.
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Then came Harry and Meghan’s two-hour TV outpouring to Oprah Winfrey in May when Meghan accused the royal family of denying Archie the future title of prince (while he would only be entitled to assume the Dumbarton title now, once his grandfather Charles is on the throne, he will become Prince Archie automatically).
“They didn’t want him to be a prince or princess, not knowing what the gender would be, which would be different from protocol, and that he wasn’t going to receive security,” Meghan said.
“In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, so we have in tandem the conversation of, ‘You won’t be given security, not going to be given a title’, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.’”
So, it is against his backdrop that we need to consider today’s “what the dickens” news.
In this context, the choice of Lilibet seems like a flagrant ploy to remind the world of the little girl’s status as a member of the royal family.
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If the intended reaction to Harry and Meghan’s choice was designed to be a collective, global “awwwww”, then they might just be about to come up woefully short. It’s hard to be affected or charmed by this move given Archie has not seen his British family since 2019, a fact that the pandemic can only go some way to explaining.
There is also something a tad uncomfortable about their choice of name in that Lilibet was famously Prince Philip’s pet name for his wife of 72 years. To take something so intimate and personal and to recycle it in this manner, one would hope that they had Her Majesty’s okay. If that has been the case, neither side has said so thus far.
Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor has always going to make history in a number of ways – the first of the Queen’s 11 great-grandchildren to be born overseas, most likely the first of her great-grandchildren to be christened outside of the UK – but with the announcement of her bewildering name she now has the dubious honour of being the first future princess who has known controversy since she was two days old.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles
Originally published as Glaring problem with royal baby’s name