By combining the names of the Queen and the Princess of Wales, Harry and Meghan have highlighted two very different approaches to the monarchy. But which will define the future?
The joyful delivery of a baby girl to Prince Harry and Meghan is lovely news. But it has been lost, ever so slightly, in the couple’s naming choice: Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor.
I don’t think they had any say in the surname, so let’s stick with the forenames.
Lilibet is, of course, the Queen’s nickname; not, as you might suppose, a contraction of Elizabeth that only posh people use, but rather what she called herself when she was too young to pronounce her own name.
Only George VI, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Prince Philip used it. “Lilibet is my pride.
Margaret is my joy,” the king was quoted as saying, evidently having not caught up with the parenting manual that says you are really supposed to keep the identity of your favourite child to yourself.
When Prince Philip died, the nickname died with him. So, was it sensitive or insensitive for Harry to revivify it so soon?
This is the question that is occupying the royal watchers, along with: is this an olive branch to the family, a reminder that underneath all the feuding lie real, human relationships?
Or is it a defiant statement: you can’t evict me from the family, because it is not a house, or even a collection of gigantic houses; it is a family. Or is it somehow a combination of the two – and is that even possible?
But what is a royal watcher, anyway? Their expertise is the weapons-grade fawning; the watching, any of us could do.
What if they are asking the wrong questions? Because there are two parts to this name: yes, there is Lilibet, but there is also Diana.
Plainly, the couple have chosen the two most different members of the family, each embodying a diametrically opposite culture, and named their daughter after both of them.
It could be that they are trying out something quite inventive, a monarchical third way.
The Queen is synonymous with a powerful sense of duty. “If you look up the number of engagements she’s missed, over 70 years, it’s unbelievable.
It’s three,” says Amy Jenkins, one of the writers on The Crown. Duty is an outcome rather than an input, but it is possible to infer character from it – rigidity, obedience, reticence, self-effacement, an absolute horror at showing emotion.
“It’s that British thing, isn’t it? ‘I challenge you to feel something,’” Jenkins says. “That’s like British bullying. We do it properly and we don’t feel things.”