When the Royal Family and the Middletons troop into the Church for Princess Charlotte’s Christening they are entering a place steeped in tradition for both sides of William’s family. Not only is it the church the sight for the famous royal Christmas photo ops, it is also a venue for other happy and sad occasions. As we all know from the news reports, Princess Diana was Christened in this same Church. During her early childhood, while her father was Viscount Althorp, Diana lived at Park House one of several grand homes on the Queen’s sprawling estate, Sandringham. William and Catherine’s home, Amner Hall (previously the country home of the Duke of Kent), is also on the Sandringham estate.
The Church itself dates back to the 16th Century. It features a slew of memorials to members of the royal family. While it is a parish church it has long been almost a private chapel for the royals when they are in residence at Sandringham. These days few members of the royal family, beyond the Queen and Prince Philip are regular church-goers.
Diana’s maternal grandparents, Lord and Lady Fermoy, are burried in the church yard along with two tragic royal princes. Edward VII’s last child, Prince Alexander John, died within hours of his birth. George V’s last son, Prince John of The Lost Prince fame, lived most all of his life on the Sandringham estate and is buried in the church yard as well.
The Church yard is most famous as the royal Pet Cemetery–the Queen’s corgis are buried here as are other pets. The Daily Mail ran an interesting story on this little graveyard and you can read it here.
Diana was the only one of the four Spencer children not to have a royal Godparent. Her sister Jane is a goddaughter of the Duke of Kent (and was a bridesmaid at his wedding), Elizabeth Sara Lavinia Spencer, who dated Charles before Diana, is a goddaughter of the late Queen Mother. In Spencer family tradition, as in a selected other aristocratic families, the current Earl Spencer (Diana’s younger brother) is a godson of the Queen and was named for his future sovereign (and future brother-in-law). Sadly, this mufti-generation tradition ceased with the current Viscount Althrop who was born within Diana’s lifetime.
Personally, I find holding Charlotte’s christening at Sandringham to be a nice way to tie both of William’s family histories even closer together. I hope some of the flowers from the church will be placed on the family graves, too. Perhaps some day there will be another memorial in the church reminding people of Charlotte’s christening.