The big surprise of the list of godparents for Prince George is that the seven names did not include his parents’ siblings, Pippa Middleton and Prince Harry. But it’s not a snub, says a royal expert.
Speculation for months before the christening ceremony today included the assumption that Pippa, 30, and Harry, 29, were at least in the running for the honor of being godparent to a future king.
The role of a godparent in the Church of England is to watch over the child’s spiritual development should anything happen to the parents, Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge.
But when the palace released the list of seven names about six hours before the ceremony today in the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace, neither Pippa nor Harry were named as godparents, although they were on the selective (only 22 people and only five royals) guest list for the service in the chapel.
And the only royal relative selected to be a godparent was William’s cousin, Zara Phillips Tindall, 32, the queen’s eldest granddaughter and the daughter of Princess Anne the Princess Royal. Tindall, an Olympic equestrian champion, married an ex-rugby star, Mike Tindall, in 2011 a few months after Will and Kate wed, and she’s now pregnant with her first child.
But it’s no snub, says Robert Jobson, longtime royal correspondent for various British publications, including the Evening Standard, who was covering the christening.
They are aunts and uncle so “(they) will have a role in George’s life anyway,” Jobson says.
John Loughrey, 58, of London, a self-proclaimed “Diana super-fan,” wasn’t bothered by the choice of godparents.
“Pippa and Harry were already honored by the couple at their wedding,” he said. “It was time to welcome others close to the family to share in their joy.”
In fact, Harry, who’s known to be good with children, has already joked in public he planned to keep a close eye on his nephew. And Pippa is known to be very close to her sister.
Besides Tindall, the godparents included old friends of both Will and Kate from childhood, high school and college, their former private secretary, and an old friend of William’s late mother, Princess Diana. It was a list of names that departed from the usual custom of naming foreign royals and other grandees as godparents to British royal babies, as happened with both William and his father, Prince Charles.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby baptized 3-month-old George Alexander Louis of Cambridge with water from the River Jordan over the antique Lily Font used for christening royal babies. He told the small group of royal relatives and godparents assembled for the service what the godparents would be expected to do.
“The godparents were told their job was to help Prince George to ‘grow … into the person God has created and has called him to be,’ ” tweeted the BBC’s royal correspondent Peter Hunt.
In public remarks in the days before the ceremony, Welby said he hoped Prince George’s christening and the attention it attracted would be good for recruiting for the Anglican church, and that it would inspire other parents to do the same with their newborns. Baptisms have plunged in recent years, according to the Religion News Service; statistics show that only about one in six babies are baptized in the U.K. these days.
But Prince George’s christening has been the most talked about royal baptism in 31 years — since William himself was christened in 1982 — and almost everything the Cambridges do is followed closely by millions and not just in Britain.
Contributing: Stephanie Haven in London