Feud over the font! Why did Princess Anne skip Prince Harry’s Christening? And what did she do instead?
- Princess Anne was not asked to be Godmother to either William or Harry
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It’s been a minefield for families down the generations.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that selecting Godparents has been an explosive issue for members of the Royal Family, too.
One notoriously sour episode started happily enough, when in 1977, Princess Anne asked her brother Charles, then Prince of Wales, to do the honours for her first child, Peter Phillips.
Charles agreed, adding Peter to his long list of Godchildren that now totals more than 30.
Princess Anne, Prince Charles and Princess Diana appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with Princes William, centre) and baby Harry for Trooping the Colour in June 1985
Queen Elizabeth II with her daughter, Princess Anne, and her first grandson, Peter Phillips at the baby boy’s christening in 1977
Royal relatives and godparents gather on Prince Harry’s christening day at Windsor Castle on December 21, 1984. A young Prince William is attracting attention in the foreground. Princess Anne is nowhere to be seen
Members of the Royal Family along with godparents pictured following the christening of Peter Phillips in the White Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace in December 1977. Charles had agreed to be the Godfather on this occasion
Five years later, however, when Prince William was due to be Christened, Charles and Diana surprised Anne by looking elsewhere.
The Princess Royal was not asked to be Godmother to the future King of England.
‘The Prince did not return the compliment when it came to William – or, rather, according to rumour, he had very much wanted to invite his sister, only to be blocked by his wife,’ writes biographer Robert Lacey in his bestseller Battle of Brothers.
What reason might Diana have had for taking such a stance?
Lacey suggests that Anne’s notorious frostiness had tended to grow a couple of degrees colder whenever Diana’s name came up.
Was the Princess Royal irritated that, while she conducted 200 engagements a year, Diana was doing just 50 or so – and getting all the glory? A palace insider suggested as much, according to Lacey.
The author also suggests that Anne had also taken to referring to her sister-in-law as ‘The Dope’.
Things came to a head in the autumn of 1984, when it was Harry’s turn to be Christened and the general expectation was that Anne would be invited this time round.
But there would be disappointment once again.
Prince Andrew, yes. And Princess Margaret’s daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones, a flatmate of Diana, a wealthy polo player, a Gloucestershire neighbour and a painter.
But no Anne.
As Lacey records, ‘Anne made her feelings obvious on the day. As the three-month old Prince Henry, Charles, Albert, David, third in line to the British throne, was being baptised as Windsor in the presence of the Queen, the Queen Mother, Philip and the rest of the Royal Family, there were two conspicuous absentees.
‘His aunt Anne and her husband Captain Mark Phillips were out in the Gloucestershire countryside, 85 miles to the west, shooting rabbits.’
Princess Anne pictured with her son Peter Phillips at his 1977 baptism at Buckingham Palace
Princess Anne, her son Peter Phillips, Prince Harry, and King Charles leave St Mary Magdalene Church after attending the Christmas Day service at Sandringham in December 2000. Princess Anne is aunt to Harry and William but godmother to neither
They had sent their children Peter and Zara along to the ceremony along with apologies.
But, as Lacey, writes, ‘the shooting party took precedence – it was a long-established date.’
At the time, Captain Phillips’s mother Anne told Lacey: ‘The Princess and my son invited a party of 10 guns for shoot three months ago. They decided it would be unfair to let these people down.’
The matter of royal godparents arose again more recently when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided not to make public the names of Archie’s godparents following his christening in July 2019.
It was later revealed that Harry’s childhood friend Charlie van Straubenzee, his former nanny Tiggy Pettifer, and Mark Dyer, the former equerry to King Charles, had been chosen .
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