London— Some spent the night in the English rain, huddling under tarpaulins and keeping warm with flasks of tea outside St. James’s Palace. It was all to secure a good view of Prince George of Cambridge on his christening day Wednesday. The prince had not been seen in public since he was born three months ago.
Apparently it was worth it. “Aww,” the crowd cooed when the prince, third in line to the throne, arrived with his parents, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton. The sun was out and the prince was dressed in a lace and satin replica of the christening gown made for the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria in 1841. A royal christening has perhaps a special significance in a country that has its own church. Ever since Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church and established a more accommodating version in 1534 so he could divorce and re-wed (several times), Britain’s royals have been the guardians of the Church of England. Prince George, in other words, will not just be king one day, he will be defender of the faith and supreme governor of the Church of England.
The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, baptized the prince, whose full name is George Alexander Louis, with water from the River Jordan in a 45-minute ceremony. Archbishop Welby said he hoped that the event would inspire more Britons to come back to church.
If tradition was on ample display in some ways, in others it was conspicuously absent.
William and Kate, as the prince’s popular parents are most commonly referred to here, did not pick the usual crop of senior or foreign royalty as godparents for their firstborn. They instead chose contemporaries, including childhood and university friends and a treasured palace employee.
“It will be a long time before he is king — he might be a grandfather — and they want to have godparents that will follow him throughout his life,” said Clarissa Campbell Orr, who specializes in the history of the monarchy at Anglia Ruskin University.
A celebrity photographer, Jason Bell, best-known for snapping Scarlett Johansson and David Beckham, was chosen to immortalize the event. Mr. Bell will take a much-awaited photo of Queen Elizabeth II with three future kings: Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George — the first time four generations of the English royal succession will appear in a photograph together in more than a century.
Throughout the day, the memory of Prince William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, loomed large. Royal baptisms usually take place in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, but the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace was where Prince William, then 15, paid his respects at his mother’s coffin before her funeral in 1997. Diana’s close friend Julia Samuel was named one of the seven godparents. Later, at a private tea, guests were served christening cake, which per tradition was a tier from the couple’s wedding cake.
As for Prince George, he looked peaceful, docile even, which must have been a relief for his father, who says he has “a voice to match any lion’s roar.”