Less than 24 hours after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced the birth of their baby daughter, Lilibet, the narrative back home has descended from one of unadulterated joy at the arrival of new life into another episode of rancorous Windsor family dysfunction.
Rumors are gathering force that the queen was not asked in advance for her blessing or permission for Harry and Meghan to use the intensely private name of Lilibet, a nickname originally bestowed on the queen by her father, King George VI. It derives from her inability as a toddler to pronounce her own name, Elizabeth.
Harry and Meghan’s statement announcing the birth of their child said, “Lili is named after her great grandmother, Her Majesty the Queen, whose family nickname is Lilibet.”
While it was initially assumed that the couple had sought the queen’s explicit permission to name the child after her, it now increasingly appears that the couple, as is becoming a hallmark of their dealings with Harry’s family, went ahead and gave the baby the name before telling the queen about it.
The Times of London, for example, reported this morning, “It is understood that the Queen was informed by the duke that her 11th great grandchild would be named after her,” feeding into the sense of some now-customary irritation at the palace of Harry and Meghan jumping the gun. Question marks over whether the couple are “cashing in” have followed as surely as Henry VIII follows Henry VII.
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace did not respond to The Daily Beast when asked about the exact detail of whether the queen was asked for her blessing or simply “informed” of the name.
Fueling the notion that Harry and Meghan are still not on good terms with his family was a suggestion that the palace was blindsided by news of the birth.
The royal family’s Twitter account, for example, started posting items about an engagement carried out by Princess Anne earlier in the week, even while the news of the birth was being carried live by TV news. Belatedly, the queen’s official social media account appeared to try to catch up and sent out a tweet congratulating Harry and Meghan.
The mood towards the country’s most famous exiles in Blighty has not been helped by royal commentators lining up to slam Meghan and Harry for the choice of their name on TV.
For example, Angela Levin, who many years ago wrote a sympathetic biography of Prince Harry but has since become one of his and Meghan’s most ferocious critics, said that she thought calling the baby by the queen’s nickname was “quite rude” and speculated without evidence that the queen would be, “desperately unhappy” that the couple have used her “very private” family name.
Levin also made a bizarre accusation that Harry and Meghan have “licensed” their child’s name, apparently making the claim on the basis that the domain name lilibetdiana.com was bought up in recent days.
Piers Morgan, also famously no great fan of the couple, called the decision to name the baby Lilibet “ironic,” given the damage that the couple have wreaked on the reputation of the monarchy in their recent television appearances. He did however congratulate the couple.
The idea has been floated that the Sussexes were using the baby's name to signal that they wish to continue being known for their royal connections. In support of this theory were reports that Prince Charles has never called his mother Lilibet, believing it to be a private nickname that in her later years was only used by Prince Philip, who died in April.
However other commentators pushed back against the idea that the name was likely to have annoyed the queen.
The BBC reported that The Sunday Times royal editor Roya Nikkhah told BBC Radio 4’s Today show, “It’s a very intimate name that the queen has used since she was very little and for me, I thought perhaps this was a diplomatic olive branch offered to the royal family after what has been a fractious year between Harry and Meghan and the rest of the royal family.”
It was left to royal peacemakers William and Kate to pour oil on the troubled waters of royal dysfunction.
“We are all delighted by the happy news of the arrival of baby Lili. Congratulations to Harry, Meghan and Archie,” they posted on Twitter yesterday evening.
It was a reassuring sign that at least somebody in this family apparently knows how to do the simple things properly.