Princess Charlotte’s Christening: The Venue, the Spencer Connection and other details

ChurchWhen 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.

  © Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
© Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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.

© Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
 
This footage includes scenes from Princess Eugenie’s Christening and gives the “feel” of being at the post-Christening tea, such the families will enjoy after Princess Charlotte’s Christening. (This scene starts around minute 2:2). Eugenie wears the antique christening gown made for Queen Victoria’s children. Charlotte, like big brother George, will wear a replica of this gown. This footage is from the documentary Elizabeth R.
Prince George's christening. Copyright Jason Bell of Camera Press, found here http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-24662966
Prince George’s christening. Copyright Jason Bell of Camera Press, found here http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-24662966
Like her brother, George Alexander Louis, whose names are found both both families– for each of his father’s eldest male Spencer cousins, and for George VI (Prince Charles intends to reign as King George VII in tribute his Grandfather) and Lord Mountbatten, and “Alexander” is a common name in both the Royal family and in Prince Philip’s family. Charlotte’s names are also in both families.Charlotte is the feminine version of “Charles,” the name shared by her Grandfather and her Great-Uncle, Earl Spencer. Lord Spencer’s seventh child, born to his third wife, is named Charlotte Diana. Her Great Aunt Sarah is known by a middle name–she was Christened “Elizabeth” for the Queen Mother. I don’t think “Diana” needs an explanation!
In addition to Diana, several members of the British and Norwegian royal families have been Christened here including King George VI, his nephew King Olav of Norway,  Two of George V’s children, Mary and John, were Christened here as well. Most recently Princess Eugenie was Christened here–this was featured in the 1980’s documentary Elizabeth R. To see marvelous photos of Diana’s christening day visit the blog Princess Diana Remembered.
Funderal Program for Edward VII's son, Prince Alexander. Found at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/ 85990674107511372/
Funeral Program for Edward VII’s son, Prince Alexander. Found at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/ 85990674107511372/
Found at http://www.findagrave.com
Prince John’s Grave. Found at http://www.findagrave.com

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.

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