It was a brief ceremony for His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales—but then, it was only the first of thousands. The very first official pronouncements of the infant who is expected one day to be King of England were the three little squeaks he emitted in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace as Dr. Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, poured the baptismal water over his head. Although medieval Britons believed that such cries were a sign that the Devil had left the child’s body, Diana still blushed at each squeal, Prince Charles gallantly wiped dribbles from his son’s chin and Queen Elizabeth later joked that her grandson showed stage presence: “He’s a good speech-maker.” Dr. Runcie abandoned the sonorous old Book of Common Prayer service in favor of the modern baptismal rite and adjured William’s parents and godparents “to bring up this child to fight against evil and follow Christ.”
At his baptism, William acquired impressive godparents (see story on page 84), namesakes (page 87) and royal predecessors (page 89). But he had to share the limelight with two relatives, one noted by her presence, one by her absence. The Queen Mother marked her 82nd birthday on the christening day; just before the ceremony, thousands of fans gathered outside the Palace and sang along as the Coldstream Guards band played Happy Birthday. The prickly Princess Margaret, perhaps annoyed that her ex-husband, Lord Snowdon, snapped the baby’s official portraits, declined to interrupt a trip to Italy for the occasion. Said one of her aides: “The christening of your nephew’s child isn’t the most important occasion of the year.”
It was, however, a distinctly elegant affair. The Choristers of the Chapels Royal sang two hymns during the 25-minute ritual, for which William wore a voluminous 1841 christening robe of Honiton lace over Spitalfields silk, made for Queen Victoria’s son, the future Edward VII. The gown has aged gracefully over the years, from white to ivory to its current magnolia shade. The Queen was in a dress of periwinkle blue with white spots, Princess Diana in a floral summer print of pink and white and a wide-brimmed pink hat. The silver gilt lily font, from which the British monarchs have been christened since 1841, was brought to Buckingham Palace from the Tower of London for the occasion.
After the christening, the royals retreated for photographs and lunch as well as for champagne and christening cake (the top layer of Charles and Diana’s wedding cake). The young Prince got only a quick peek at the festivities before being whisked away by his nanny, Barbara Barnes. As one observer put it, “Royal babies adhere rigidly to nursery routines,” christening or no.
For Diana, the event was a second chance to show off her rapidly dwindling waistline. Except for an appearance at St. Paul’s in late July, Di is still keeping a low profile. The celebrations of her 21st birthday on July 1 (Prince Charles said he gave her “some flowers and a hug”) and of their first wedding anniversary on July 29 were kept private. While Diana stays in, breastfeeding and doing dance exercises, Charles is about his daily duties, during which “he can’t stop talking about the baby,” as one British paper put it. “He’s very well, but very noisy,” Charles let on at one appearance. And on an official visit to Marks and Spencer, a department store, Charles gave what was perhaps a sneak preview of things to come. Bestowing a quick cuddle on the 4-month-old daughter of an admirer, he remarked, “I wouldn’t mind a little girl like this myself.”
LOUISE LAGUE, with TERRY SMITH and MARGARET WRIGHT in London
The godparents: an ex-King, a favorite cousin, an old school chum, a billionaire, a backpacker and a mentor in manners
Ex-King Constantine of Greece, 42, known as Tino, a cousin of Prince Philip, reigned for only three years before fleeing his country’s military dictatorship, then lost his throne in a plebiscite when democracy returned. He and his wife, Anne-Marie, now live a quiet life in London with their three children. He spends his time skiing, sailing and studying history.
Princess Alexandra, 45, a cousin of Prince Charles, is one of the most beloved members of the extended royal family and a onetime regular on the international best-dressed list. Her Scottish husband, the Hon. Angus Ogilvy, a director of Sotheby Parke Bernet, is known for his extraordinary charm. The least wealthy members of the family, they have two teenaged children.
Lord Romsey, 34 (above with Diana at a ceremony at Broadlands, the Romsey estate), is a grandson of the late Lord Mountbatten and Charles’ friend since their Gordonstoun school days. Charles was best man at his 1979 wedding to art restorer Penelope Eastwood, then godfather to Romsey’s son, Nicholas. Charles and Di have often weekended at Broadlands, and when, early in her public life, Diana burst into tears after being harassed by the press, it was Lady Romsey who tactfully hustled her away. A film producer, Romsey learned his trade working with his father, Lord Brabourne, on Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. “It would be very boring and time-wasting to sit around and do nothing, even if I could afford it,” he once said.
The Duchess of Westminster, 23, is a childhood chum of Diana’s who is married to one of the richest men in England. “Tally” (for Natalia) and her husband own the land under Claridge’s Hotel and 33 embassies in London, and are said to be worth more than $1 billion. Her husband, Gerald, 30, said he married her because she was “serene and beautiful, and she wasn’t boring.” Di is godmother to Tally’s second daughter, Lady Edwina Louise. Now Tally returns the favor.
Sir Laurens Van der Post, 75, is a longtime friend of the Queen Mother’s family, the Bowes-Lyons. A South African-born soldier, adventurer and writer, Sir Laurens was considered the most surprising choice among the godparents, but his wife, Ingaret, 78, says she and Laurens get on as swimmingly with Charles and Diana “as if we were at school together.”
Lady Susan Hussey, 43, is Woman of the Bedchamber, a close aide to Queen Elizabeth. She taught Diana royal etiquette during her engagement, and they became close friends. Married to Marmaduke Hussey, ex-vice-chairman of the London Times, she has two grown children.
A conqueror, a cad, a Calvinist and a philanderer—that’s what’s in the name young Prince William has inherited
Hastings and hard love
The tradition of royal Williams in England begins with the country’s Norman Conqueror, who sets the present prince an example of valor, if not of good manners. The bastard son of the Duke of Normandy, William had united the province under him by age 20, and did the same in England after defeating King Harold at Hastings in 1066. Though a just king, William was not a pleasant person. It is said he wooed his wife, Matilda of Flanders, by dragging her around her room by the hair. Insulted by the inhabitants of one town he was besieging, he lopped off the hands and feet of 32 of its citizens and tossed them over its walls. Like Matilda, the town gave in.
William the Worst
He was William I’s favorite son, but William Rufus was a monarch only a father could love. A stammering, bull-necked blond with eyes of different colors, he engaged in what chroniclers of the day called “unnatural vices,” feuded with the church, and ravaged the lands and pocketbooks of his subjects. Killed by an arrow shot by one of his men, he was buried in the then new Winchester Cathedral, one of whose towers collapsed on his grave.
‘King Billy’ bests a monarch and bows to a mole
William III, born in 1650, was the grandson of England’s King Charles I and son of King William II of Holland’s House of Orange. In 1677 he married his English cousin, Mary, daughter of James II. The match was part of a strategy to unite Europe against France’s military ambitions. But 12 years later the Protestant William and Mary became England’s only joint monarchs—they overthrew her Catholic father in a bloodless coup. Although a Calvinist, William kept a mistress. Because “King Billy” sided with the Protestant Irish to defeat James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, Ulster Protestants took to calling themselves Orangemen—and Irish Catholics to toasting the mole whose hill tripped William’s horse, killing the king in 1702.
The royal retiree
In 1830, at 64, William IV was puttering in his garden when his brother George IV died, making him king. William gave up a 20-year love affair with an actress—which produced 10 children—to accede to the throne. “He trotted about the country for 64 years, and nobody turned to look at him,” the Duke of Wellington wrote. The popular but ineffectual king was known as “Silly Billy.” This may explain the Palace’s 1982 edict that the new prince’s name undergo “no foreshortening of any kind.”
Though Some Of Them Grew Up To Monarchize, Be Feared And Kill With Looks, Even The Greatest Royals, A New Book Shows, Started Small
Not all royal babies are cuddly. Queen Victoria once groused that her grandchildren were “such ill-bred, ill-trained children that I can’t fancy them at all.” Still, commoners retain an intense curiosity about the progeny of the purple. To satisfy it, Debrett’s Peerage, the chroniclers of British bluebloods, have compiled Debrett’s Book of Royal Children, a survey of the kids who have become monarchs from Victoria’s children on down. The book reports, for instance, that Prince William is related to George Washington—as well as to Humphrey Bogart, Nelson Rockefeller, Mrs. Rudolph Valentino and Artaxias I (ruler of Armenia, 188-161 B.C.). It also discloses that Queen Victoria was royally high on chloroform during the birth of her eighth child. The book, to be published this fall, contains 200 photographs, some of which appear on these pages.