Royal christenings: Cake, boisterous toddlers and holy water

As the Duke and Duchess of Sussex prepare for Archie’s christening, here is a look at what goes on at royal baptisms:

Wedding cake

The top tier of a royal wedding cake is traditionally set aside for royal christenings, just like William and Kate did with their seven tier fruit cake.

But Harry and Meghan chose a layered lemon and elderflower sponge cake, decorated with fresh buttercream, by Claire Ptak of the Violet Bakery, for their wedding reception.

Royal wedding
Royal wedding

Fruit cakes can be stored for years, but sponge cakes should generally be eaten within two to three days.

The duke and duchess may have decided instead to call on Ms Ptak to make a new cake for Archie’s big day – or could turn to palace chefs as they entertain their christening guests at a reception afterwards.

Royal Wedding preparations
Royal Wedding preparations

– Harry’s christening

The Prince and Princess of Wales had three-month-old Prince Harry christened four days before Christmas in 1984 in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Prince Harry's christening
Prince Harry's christening

Baby Harry was said to have dozed and behaved impeccably during the private ceremony, but became tearful during the reception until he was comforted by his great-grandmother the Queen Mother.

– William’s mischief

Boisterous toddler Prince William was only two-and-a-half at his brother’s christening.

He charged around with cousins Peter and Zara Phillips, running between the guests as they chatted in the castle afterwards, before taking centre stage in the official photos.

– Harry’s godparents

The duke’s six godparents were named as his uncle the Duke of York, the Queen’s niece Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones (now Lady Sarah Chatto), Lady Vestey, Diana’s former flatmate Carolyn Bartholomew, the artist Bryan Organ, and Gerald Ward, who was a close friend of Charles.

Andrew and Harry
Andrew and Harry

– Ted Hughes

The then Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, only two days into the job, wrote a poem commemorating Harry’s christening.

Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes

He gave it the lengthy title, Rain-Charm For The Duchy: A Blessed, Devout Drench For The Christening Of His Royal Highness Prince Harry, and focused on describing a rain storm in Cornwall after a long drought, rather than on Harry’s ceremony.

– Meghan’s recent baptism

Meghan was only christened and confirmed into the Christian faith just over a year ago.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit Birmingham
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit Birmingham

The secret ceremony carried out by the Archbishop of Canterbury took place in the Chapel Royal in March 2018 ahead of her marriage.

Holy water was poured on the former Suits star’s head as part of the religious ritual, in front of a small number of guests including Harry and the Prince of Wales.

Meghan was seen wearing a bracelet featuring a cross just days later.

– Princess Charlotte

At Prince Louis’s christening, Princess Charlotte was taking no nonsense from the photographers outside the Chapel Royal.

Prince Louis' christening
Prince Louis' christening

“You’re not coming,” the three-year-old remarked, fixing them with a stern stare, with William just about able to contain his amusement at his daughter’s outspoken comment.

– Godparents

Royal babies traditionally used to have kings and queens and other royals as godparents.

Prince Charles’s godparents in 1948 included King George VI, Queen Mary, Princess Margaret, the King of Norway and Prince George of Greece.

Christening of Prince Charles
Christening of Prince Charles

But the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge picked mostly friends for their children.

– Holy water

According to tradition, the water used for Archie’s service, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby, will be holy water from the River Jordan, where it is said Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist.

Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury

– Lily font

Royal babies are also christened using the ornate silver gilt Lily Font – part of the Crown Jewels.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

It is decorated with lilies and ivy foliage around the rim, features three cherubs around the base, and the main bowl is a large lily bloom.

– Protecting reputations

The font was specially commissioned by Queen Victoria to prevent her children being tarnished by association with the illegitimate offspring of Charles II, who were all born out of wedlock and christened using the previous font, the Charles II Font.

– The first public royal christening

Most christenings are private. Princess Eugenie was the first royal baby to have a public christening.

Princess Eugenie
Princess Eugenie

She was baptised during morning service at the church of St Mary Magdalene at Sandringham just before Christmas in 1990.

– Troublesome royals

Queen Victoria’s mother the Duchess of Kent broke down sobbing during her daughter’s christening in 1819 when a cantankerous Prince Regent, the future George IV, refused to allow her to name her daughter Georgiana and insisted she be called Alexandrina Victoria instead in honour of the Russian Tsar Alexander I.

Learn more about #GeorgeIV, eldest son of George III & Queen Charlotte, and his keen interest in collecting art. https://t.co/cpfrwPEOzY#RoyalCollectionSeasonpic.twitter.com/ukbWwQhGIw

— RoyalCollectionTrust (@RCT) January 30, 2018

At the christening of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Alice, in 1843, the Queen’s uncle, Ernest, King of Hanover, arrived late, behaved rudely and made a public fuss in a dispute with Victoria over the ownership of certain royal jewels.