Usually it’s Fleet Street sounding alarms over the bratty behavior of Britain’s younger royals; this time it was a young royal herself raising the hue and cry. Princess Eugenie Victoria Helena, second daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, outwailed even the church organ during her 15-minute baptism, a Dec. 23 ceremony that was unusual in both its timing and its site.
Windsor babies are traditionally christened at about age 4 months in the privacy of Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. Eugenie was 9 months old, a delay attributed to meshing family schedules with that of dad Andrew, a naval flight commander. And the very public ceremony was held during regular Sunday morning services at tiny (130-seat) St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham.
Although the ceremony was untouched by the high furor that surrounded Prince Harry‘s—Princess Anne preferred to go rabbit hunting that day—it lacked not for intrigue. Fergie’s mother, Susan (who lost her husband, Hector Barrantes, to lymphatic cancer in August), did not attend. Her father, Maj. Ronald Ferguson, entered and exited the church through a back door. (Confides a source: “The Queen simply cannot stand the sight of him.”) And two of Fergie’s choices for godmother caused upper lips to stiffen. Former flatmate Louise “Lulu” Blacker is said by one tab to greet male chums by grabbing their crotches, and Julia Dodd-Noble was the prankster who coaxed Fergie and Di into trying to crash Andrew’s prewedding stag party.
Eugenie, dressed in the cream-colored Honiton lace robe worn by every royal baby since Queen Victoria’s firstborn son, Albert Edward, in 1841, was baptized at the same Florentine marble font where her great-grandfather King George VI and her aunt Princess Diana had been christened. The press had a predictably good time with the infant’s copious tears (EUGENIE HAS A BAWL cracked one headline). But it was, after all, Eugenie’s party; surely she could cry if she wanted to.