Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince George, and Princess Charlotte arrive at the christening ceremony. (Photo: Chris Jackson/AP Photo)
It’s a big day for Princess Charlotte. On Sunday, the 9-week-old royal was christened at St. Mary Magdalene Church on Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham Estate.
The ceremony, scheduled for 4:30 BT, was an intimate event with guests limited to grandparents Charles, the Prince of Wales and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and Michael and Carole Middleton. Also present were aunt and uncle Pippa and James Middleton and the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Harry was absent because he's in Africa working with rhino and elephant conservation charities. Charlotte's five chosen godparents, a mix of Prince William and Kate Middleton's closest confidants, also attended: Sophie Carter (Kate's friend), James Meade (William's friend), Adam Middleton (Kate's first cousin), The Hon. Laura Fellowes (Princess Diana's niece), and Thomas van Straubenzee (an old classmate of William's).
Princess Charlotte in her stroller arriving at her christening ceremony. (Photo: Getty Images/Chris Jackson)
The royals walked to the ceremony in style. Kate was dressed in a white Alexander McQueen coat and a Jane Taylor hat. She pushed Charlotte in a stroller with Prince William and toddler Prince George (adorable in red shorts and a white shirt) by their side. Charlotte was dressed in a replica of a 172-year-old christening gown first worn by Queen Victoria’s oldest daughter in 1841. Angela Kelly, the Queen’s personal assistant and senior dresser created the new version in 2004 after Her Majesty deemed the original too delicate. The replica, made of Honiton lace and white satin, has only been worn by Prince George for his 2013 baptism and in 2008 by James, Viscount Severn, son of Prince Edward and Sophie, Earl and Countess of Wessex.
Photo: Chris Jackson/AP Photo
The baptism was led by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Charlotte was christened with the Lily Font (originally commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 for Victoria’s christening) and water from the River Jordan. After the ceremony, famed photographer Mario Testino will shoot official portraits of the royal family. Testino is the perfect choice — he was one of Princess Diana's favorite photographers and he also snapped official shots of Kate and William for their engagement. And post-ceremony, William and Kate will host a tea party at Sandringham House where christening cake will be served, which is a tier from the couple’s 2011 wedding cake. The original confection had eight tiers and was adorned with 900 iced flowers such as white roses and lavender.
Prince George holds his father Prince William's hand before the baptism of Princess Charlotte. (Photo: Chris Jackson/AP Photo)
There are some notable differences between the baptisms of Charlotte and George. For starters, the princess was only given five godparents.
Kate Middleton, Prince William, Princess Charlotte, and Prince George outside the church after Charlotte’s baptism ceremony. Also pictured are Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Duke of Cambridge and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. (Photo: Getty Images/Chris Jackson)
“There’s no set rule for how many godparents a royal child is given, although it’s certainly more than the average child,” CNN royal expert Victoria Arbiter, tells Yahoo Parenting. “William and Harry each have six godparents and George has seven.”
Adds Arbiter, “However, royal godparents won’t serve as legal guardians of Charlotte in the unfortunate event of her parents’ death — the title is a symbolic gesture.” The chosen provide spiritual guidance, further teachings of the Bible, and are alternative adults Charlotte can confide in, aside from her parents.
Kate Middleton wore a cream-colored Alexander McQueen dress with ruffles and a matching fascinator to attend the 2013 baptism of Prince George. (Photo: Getty Images)
Following George’s 45-minute ceremony, all 22 guests attended a private champagne party hosted by Prince Charles and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House. But this time, the reception will be given by William and Kate. In both cases, a tier of cake from William and Kate's wedding plays a role. “This is an English tradition among upper-class families,” explains Arbiter. “During these weddings, the top tier of the cake is usually whisked away to be preserved for the baby’s baptism.”
Charlotte’s day is also a bit more inclusive than George’s. According to Kensington Palace, fans gathered around the church, an official viewing area, were allowed to snap selfies and candids of the royal family. “The Duke and Duchess have received good wishes from people across the country and they wanted to open the paddock to those who want to see their family,” said a Kensington Palace spokesman. “If people want to get pictures for themselves to enjoy then they are welcome to do so.”
In 2013, the public was also treated to a historical photo featuring Queen Elizabeth with three future monarchs: Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William, and Prince George. “It was the first time since 1894 that a reigning British monarch was photographed with three future heirs,” says Arbiter.
Next up: Official photos, which, according to Arbiter will likely be released Sunday evening or Monday. “It takes time to upload them,” she says, “and Kate and Will have to choose the best photos.”