Sunday, 5 July 2015

Charlotte's christening: ten things we already know

Princess Charlotte of Cambridge will be christened today, her first big royal public occasion. As the world gets ready to watch for another glimpse of the littlest Windsor, born nine weeks and one day ago, here are ten things we already know about the baptism of a princess.

The last time we saw Charlotte was in this photo taken by her mother, The Duchess of Cambridge, in mid May and released in early June by @KensingtonRoyal

1.  Everyone's off to Norfolk

The christening of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge will take place close to Anmer Hall, Norfolk where she has spent the first weeks of her life. The ceremony will take place at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham where the Royal Family usually gather for Christmas services. It's seen several royal christenings before, most recently that of Princess Eugenie. King George VI and King Olav of Norway were also baptised here. But it's most poignant link is with Charlotte's paternal grandmother - Diana, Princess of Wales was christened at the church on August 30th 1961.

The Church of St Mary Magdalene at Sandringham is the setting for the christening of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge which takes place on July 5th 2015

2.  It's a select royal gathering

Charlotte's christening will have a real family feel to it as there will around 20 guests as well as the Cambridge family in the church. Only the closest members of her family will be there - The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will lead the royal contingent with The Prince of Wales present to see his first granddaughter christened. He will be accompanied by his wife, The Duchess of Cornwall. There will be no place at the font for other leading royals including The Earl and Countess of Wessex and The Princess Royal. Prince Harry won't be there either - he's in Africa on a long planned visit. But big brother, George, will be stealing hearts and scenes at Sandringham.

3.  A family of four

George's presence means we get to see the Cambridges as a family of four for the very first time. Since Charlotte was born we've seen her with her parents and then separately with her brother but the quartet haven't been captured together yet. All that will change this afternoon at Sandringham.

4.  It's all about sharing

The royal christening will take place in the late afternoon with access to the paddock next to the church available for wellwishers from 2pm, an hour earlier than planned because of the huge numbers already turning up to see the Cambridge family walk the short distance from Sandringham House to the church for the service which is due to start at 4.30pm. Kate and William wanted to share their daughter's special day with those who wanted to celebrate with them and so asked for the paddock to be opened to allow people to see Charlotte and George - and the rest of the royals, of course - as they arrive at and then leave the ceremony. The christening itself will be private.

Royal superfan, Terry Hutt, is already at Sandringham for Princess Charlotte's christening
(photo James Elliot)

5.  A very special set of pictures

As well as the countless images of Charlotte that will be taken before and after her christening, there will be official photographs too. And the Cambridges have chosen a man with very special connection to their family and Charlotte's history. Mario Testino took the famous engagement photos of William and Kate and a set of celebrated snaps of Charles with William and Harry. But his best known and most iconic royal images are probably those of Charlotte's granny, Diana, taken in the late 1990s. The decision to ask him to take the photos of her only granddaughter's first big royal appearance is symbolic and very special.

6. A golden lily

The church where Charlotte will be baptised has two fonts but she will be christened at the silver gilt Lily Font commissioned by Prince Albert ahead of the birth of the first of the nine children he had with Queen Victoria and used for major royal christenings ever since. It is shaped like a lily and made of gilded silver. Victoria and Albert decided to have it made so that their children wouldn't be baptised at the same font used by Charles II for his many offspring - all of whom were illegitimate. The Lily Font is now kept with the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London but will make the journey to Norfolk for this special occasion.

7. Water from the River Jordan

The fourth in line to the throne will follow another royal tradition at her christening - she will be baptised with water from the River Jordan. The river, where according to the Bible Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, has provided the water for royal christenings for decades. 

8.  Not so old lace

Charlotte will wear the christening gown used by her brother, George, which is an exact replica of the famous Honiton lace dress commissioned by Queen Victoria for her first born and passed down through the generations ever since. The original was last seen at the christening of Lady Louise Windsor - after that it was deemed too delicate to be worn. So when the Earl and Countess of Wessex had a son, baby James was baptised in the replica which was commissioned by the Queen and made by her dressmaker, Angela Kelly, along with her team. Charlotte is the most senior royal girl to wear the gown yet.

Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge in the christening gown which will be worn today by his sister, Charlotte

9.  Not so royal godparents

Princess Charlotte will have two godmothers and three godfathers and all are family friends of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. William's cousin, Laura Fellowes, and Kate's cousin, Adam Middleton, are among those chosen. Friends Sophie Carter, James Meade and Thomas Van Straubenzee make up the quintet who stand sponsor to the fourth in line to the throne.

10. The Archbishop of Canterbury

Like every other senior royal before her, Charlotte will be christened by the present Archbishop of Canterbury. Justin Welby, who baptised her brother in 2013, will pour the waters onto her head while naming her Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. It will be the centrepoint of a very special day for a little princess and one that will go down in the history books.

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Camridge

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