What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...
I’ll concede Shakespeare’s point as far as the scent of that beautiful flower is concerned but, otherwise, I’m not entirely sure.
Names matter hugely. Most expectant parents spend much of the pregnancy considering names. “If it’s a boy, how about …?” Or: “If it’s a girl …” If they know the sex already, then there’s still the agony and the ecstasy of finding a name on which both parties can agree and that’s not always as easy as it sounds.
I once knew a couple who couldn’t agree on what to call their son. Every suggestion the mother came up with was vetoed by the father until finally they settled on the one name they both felt they could contemplate. Unsurprisingly, the marriage didn’t go to full term.
So now we come to Lilibet Diana, the newly arrived daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and sister of Archie.
Little Lilibet Diana is named in honour (spelt the American way in the arrival announcement) of her great grandmother, Her Majesty The Queen and her late grandmother, Diana, Princess of Wales. Both names come from her father Harry’s side of the family; the Duchess – Meghan – has not honoured her own mother, Doria, with such a name check.
On the face of it, what’s not to like? It’s seems like a beautiful thing to do and most people would be thrilled and flattered to imagine a new baby growing up and carrying on their name long after the original nominee has left this world behind.
That seems to be what the Sussexes and their supporters feel and it’s difficult to disagree. Princess Charlotte (given the female version of grandfather Charles) already has the names Elizabeth and Diana and no-one’s made a fuss about that. In fact, everyone seems to approve. So, what could be the problem here?
I fear it’s all about the diminutive. Not Elizabeth, not Lily but Lilibet. It is the pet name that was used by the Queen’s parents and her inner, inner circle and which came about from her own inability to say her name when she was a tiny girl.
Friends who grew up with her were allowed to use it until the then-princess grew into teenage years. One such friend remembered Queen Mary (Elizabeth’s grandmother) telling her she should no longer refer to the future Queen as Lilibet because it would not be respectful.
And so the circle of those who called her by that deeply personal name shrank. Her parents, sister and cousin, Margaret Rhodes, have all gone as has Prince Philip, the last person we know who called her by that name. It is suggested she signed herself Lilibet on the flowers which were placed on the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin. The name is loaded with meaning. It is the name she has carried with her and been special and exclusive to her for more than 90 years. The name belongs to her.
The Sussexes’ supporters might argue that is all the more reason for their daughter to have such a special name. As Sophie Wessex said at the weekend (before we the public knew the baby had been born at any rate), Meghan and Harry would always be part of the family so maybe those people who question the choice of name are wrong.
Maybe. Maybe not. If I could just run this by you.
Harry and Meghan have moved away from the Royal family because, as Harry explained, he feared his wife might kill herself if she was forced to remain within the confines of the House of Windsor. If that is what he truly believed, he did a very brave and loving thing. The couple now live quite some distance away from the family that caused her such pain and are thriving mentally, physically and financially within the new world order they have created.
In the original Oprah interview, the duke and duchess were quick to point out that the Queen herself was blameless and Meghan insisted she telephoned her grandmother-in-law regularly and they were on good terms.
Later, however, Harry did delve a little further into his upbringing and while perhaps reproaching his father for his parenting skills, seemed to shift some of the blame a little further back to Charles’ parents – the Queen and Prince Philip – because they might not have been so hot as parents either. (It seems sad to me that nobody ever said to Harry those were different times and while most people did their best, parents who moved in those circles were not exactly as a child might wish.)
It could be argued that the Sussexes’ naming of their daughter after the head of the household where the mother had suffered such emotional trauma might not be in the best interests of the new family. Those who work with trauma know how easy it is easy to retraumatise a person and how careful and aware a professional needs to be in order to avoid such an occurrence. A name as memorable and unique as this one could so easily be a trigger point.
Some critics have even talked of cultural appropriation in the sense that the Sussexes have left the British side of their family and moved over to the West Coast. If they’re looking for a new start, why not buy all-new luggage rather than laden themselves down with old suitcases?
Who knows? It might be that this is one way of healing the hurt that has certainly been caused by what the California branch of the family seems to have inferred. A new baby often has healing powers.
I do have a small concern, however, and that is what a heavy load the new baby may be forced to carry. The Queen, the original Lilibet, came upon her name by accident and it has evolved affectionately and lovingly with her. This baby’s naming brings with it the weight of expectations of all kinds, not just from the Queen but from grandmother Diana as well. The new Lilibet Diana will have a lot to live up to.
I wish the baby long life, happiness and the same strength and resolve her great-grandmother has always shown. And I hope she never needs it.