On Sunday July 5th, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was christened at St. Mary Magdalene church where her grandmother, the late Princess Diana, was baptized in 1961.
Dressed in the traditional royal christening gown, the 2008 replica made by Angela Kelly of the 1841 christening gown which had been worn by approximately sixty royal babies until it started disintegrating into lace dust, Princess Charlotte was brought to the church in a vintage pram borrowed from the Queen. The pram had been used to bring Charles to his christening in 1948.
Baptismal water was obtained from the Jordan River while the Lily Font which also dates back to the 1841 baptism of Victoria, Princess Royal, and the silver ewer from the 1735 christening of George III were brought to the Sandringham church from the Tower of London for Princess Charlotte’s christening. Special cases had to be designed to transport the ewer and font because they had never left London before. It was one of the few firsts for the second-born princess. In fact, other than a selection of five non-royal godparents and a guest list pared down to a mere twenty-two attendees at the private ceremony, the kind of affront to royal etiquette the Cambridges have made the hallmark of their vision of a modern monarchy, the christening of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was otherwise frozen in time. The christening, intended to honor the late Princess Diana, also appeared to be an attempt to summon her ghost.
Replicating a moment from Princess Diana’s life, Prince George was dressed as the sartorial doppelgänger of his father, Prince William, when visiting his mother and brand new brother Harry at the hospital.
This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that Kate has dressed George in clothing identical to outfits the late Princess Diana selected for her own son. Even if this started off as Kate wanting to please William by paying homage to his late mother, Kate appears to have veered off course and taken up residency in Creepytown which she is probably already redecorating. Not only is the call coming from inside the house, it’s being made with a Ouija board.
While Kate has on many occasions referenced her late mother-in-law through fashion, the royal whose clothing she copied at Princess Charlotte’s christening was herself circa George’s christening. At George’s christening, Kate and her sister Pippa appeared to match their cream-colored outfits to George’s christening gown in an attempt to reinforce their status within the British Royal Family. At Charlotte’s christening, Kate once again went with a monochromatic christening combo of Alexander McQueen and a Jane Taylor hat, this time accessorizing with two matching Middletons. Dressed in haunting ivory, the Middleton women formed a ghostly trio, spectral incarnations of MacBeth’s Weird Sisters with clutch bag cauldrons, ready to call forth the apparition of Diana.
The Royal Mint coin commemorating Charlotte’s christening, the design for which William and Kate oversaw, included both her middle names and two of the flowers Diana loved most, roses and lilies.
From the hiring of Princess Diana’s favorite photographer, Mario Testino, who took the last portraits that Diana ever sat for as the christening’s official photographer, to the selection of Diana’s niece as one of Charlotte’s five godparents, the christening celebration felt more like it drew inspiration from Tobin’s Spirit Guide and the Handbook for the Recently Deceased than it did from little sister Pippa’s Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends. Even Nanny Maria in her Norland uniform had the unsettling appearance of an old sepia-toned photograph come to life using one of the spells in the arsenal of the Weird Sisters.
It’s natural to want to make a gesture that honors the memory of a loved one who has passed in an important milestone event, it’s a way of including them. It’s a delicate balance, though, paying homage to a lost loved one should always be done in a way that is also respectful to the living. We have memorial services and funerals for the dead, christenings are celebrations of new life. Lost loved ones are already a part of our joyous celebration because those who we love become a part of us, that bond can not be broken by death.
Many of those who believe in life after death have had moments where they feel as if someone they lost was with them somehow, often this happens around the holidays or other important times in their lives. Spirits are just people without earthly shells, they are drawn to milestone celebrations like marriages and christenings to spend tie with their families as they would have in life, no engraved invitation or breadcrumb trail of mementos required.
Two and a half years ago at a christening held at St Martin’s Church in Canterbury, Kent, an unexpected guest was spotted in one of the baptism photos the Sewell family posted on Facebook, a ghostly apparition who bore a striking resemblance to the baptized baby’s grandfather who had committed suicide seventeen years earlier. Terry Sewell’s widow, Heather, told the press, “It looks very much like Terry. I know there has been no photo trickery so it is all very spooky and perhaps not what you want to see at a Christening.”
While maybe not everyone is thrilled to have their departed loved ones show up in the christening photos, I kind of think that if Princess Diana appears in any of the pics taken by Mario Testino, the Middletons would be cool with it. In fact, I’m pretty sure Carole would make it her Christmas card.