“In a break with tradition…” officially wins the prize as the most over used statement this week with regard to Prince George’s christening. In fact for the first time since their wedding, William and Kate broke with their own tradition of breaking tradition by not breaking any of the traditions associated with a royal christening.
The couple chose the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace as the venue because, according to an aide, they “liked it”. Though steeped in history, the chapel holds personal sentiment for William and Kate. Kate was confirmed there prior to her wedding, and Diana lay at rest before the altar in the days leading up to her funeral. The presence of Richard Chartres, Dean of the Chapel Royal, who was responsible for confirming Kate and delivering the address at the couple’s 2011 wedding, only made the choice of the Chapel Royal more fitting.
The Cambridges’ choice was not, however, a “break with tradition”. In looking at the heirs who have gone before, William and his father, Prince Charles, were both christened in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, but a relatively recent two-time occurrence does not a tradition make. The Queen was christened in a private chapel at Buckingham Palace; her uncle, Edward VIII at White Lodge; her father, George VI at Sandringham, and her great-grandfather, George V, at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Traditions broken? None.
With regards to the guest list quite the brouhaha erupted over the apparent invitation snub to William’s uncles and aunt, but christenings are often small, intimate gatherings for immediate family. William and Kate invited their siblings just as Charles invited his siblings to William’s service in 1982. This was not a slight on the extended family, but rather in keeping with the way things are done. Princess Margaret, who would at the time have been the equivalent relation as Princess Anne today (great-aunt), did not attend William’s christening. Traditions broken? None.
William and Kate chose seven godparents for Prince George, reportedly a “break with tradition,” and yet Charles has eight, William has six, and Edward I had twelve. Find me the tradition in that and I’ll find you the key to the Crown Jewels. While the line-up does not, at first glance, appear to be quite as noble as the godparents of old, this bunch has more royal connections and lifelong ties to the royal family than you could shake an orb and sceptre at. Traditions broken? None.
The fact is William and Kate stuck rigidly to all the traditions of a royal christening, many of which date back to the mid-nineteenth century, some even earlier. Prince George, wearing the replica of the 1841 Honiton lace and satin gown, was christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury with water from the River Jordan contained by the silver-gilt lily font designed by Prince Albert…and therein followed in the footsteps of generations of royal babies. The christening party then retired to Clarence House for tea and a slice of cake cut from a tier of William and Kate’s two-year-old wedding cake (one tradition perhaps worth dispensing with).
While William and Kate are keen to put their own stamp on things and have been much lauded for modernizing the monarchy, it’s clear that some traditions die hard. Tradition is defined as doing something that has been done by the people in a particular group, family, or society for a long time. Given the vitality the couple has brought to the monarchy, there seems to be a staunch desire for them to break every tradition associated with the Royal Family. But let’s remember it’s continuity that has kept the monarchy going for well over a thousand years. There’s something to be said for sticking to tradition every now and then, even if it does mean wearing a frilly, lace and satin dress!