As the first child of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is one of the most famous babies in the world. And when the young royal’s christening took place in July 2019, the press may have hoped that they’d finally get to know exactly who Archie’s godparents would be. But that didn’t actually turn out to be the case.
You see, an official Buckingham Palace statement at the time explained, “The godparents, in keeping with [Harry and Meghan’s] wishes, will remain private.” So – not for the first time and certainly not for the last – the Duke and Duchess of Sussex broke royal tradition with their hush-hush decision. But why exactly did the pair want to keep everything a secret?
Well, as future events would confirm, Harry and Meghan value their privacy. They are also keen to ensure that those in their inner circle aren’t hassled by the media. And as a consequence, the couple have displayed a considerable amount of caution when it comes to naming names.
It turns out, for example, that Harry and Meghan were first introduced to each other by a mutual friend. But while being interviewed at the time of their engagement, they refused to name the person responsible for setting them up. “We should protect her privacy and not reveal too much of that,” Meghan told reporters when asked about the individual in question.
And it wasn’t just the identity of the godparents that Harry and Meghan decided to keep secret from the world’s press on the big day. In fact, the royals seemingly wanted the whole ceremony to remain as clandestine as possible. And their choice of venue – Windsor Castle’s private chapel rather than the more traditional St. George’s Chapel – certainly helped in that regard.
What’s more, photographers were not allowed to capture images of the ceremony nor any of the guests entering or exiting the chapel. This demand was in stark contrast to the rules surrounding the christenings of William and Kate’s three children. On those occasions, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge gave members of the media permission to snap away outside the venue.
But there was one notable figure who wasn’t there to be photographed at all. Archie’s great-grandmother, better known as Queen Elizabeth II, reportedly had to miss the ceremony owing to a prior engagement. Yet this wasn’t as big a snub as it may have first appeared. That’s because the long-reigning monarch also failed to attend the baptism of Prince Louis, William and Kate’s third child, in 2018.
Nevertheless, those wanting to see the royal baby on his big day weren’t left entirely disappointed. You see, his parents did allow some pictures taken by celebrated photographer Chris Allerton to be unveiled shortly after the christening had finished. And there was also an official statement accompanying the images that read, “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to share the happiness of this day and would like to thank everyone around the world for their ongoing support.”
Adorably, Archie’s christening gown had also been worn by cousins Louis, Charlotte and George at their own ceremonies. This hand-me-down approach is actually a family tradition that began way back in the mid-19th century. And although Archie’s gown had only recently been made prior to the event, it’s actually a reproduction of the outfit requested by Queen Victoria for her first child.
When the big moment came, then, Archie was baptized by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Lily Font – the same silver bowl that has served every royal christening since 1841. And the water used certainly wasn’t from the faucet. Instead, Harry and Meghan’s first-born’s head was wetted with H20 from the River Jordan – the same source that John the Baptist apparently used to anoint Jesus.
So which of Harry and Meghan’s nearest and dearest got the chance to see Archie wearing the gown in person? Well, the prince’s father and stepmother, Charles and Camilla, were in attendance, as was Meghan’s mother, Doria. The approximately 25-strong guest list also included the sisters of Princess Diana and, of course, Archie’s godparents.
Those born into Britain’s royal family are usually blessed with more godparents than us civilians; Archie’s cousins Charlotte and George have five and seven, respectively. When it comes to Archie, however, the number of people to whom Harry and Meghan decided to give that honor on the big day is not yet known for sure. And, unsurprisingly, the press have speculated considerably on their identities.
Benita Litt was just one of the names in the frame, as her children, Rylan and Remi, had appeared as bridesmaids at Harry and Meghan’s wedding the year previously. Genevieve Hillis and Lindsay Roth, two of the former actress’ college buddies, were also seen as potentially among the chosen few, as were Harry’s longtime pal Jake Warren and Prince George’s godparent Julia Samuel.
And any monarchists determined to find out the godparents’ identities initially appeared to have a major lead. You see, the British Parochial Registers and Records Measure of 1978 states that information about all christenings should be made public. Unfortunately for those interested, however, the private chapel at Windsor Castle doesn’t have to adhere to that rule.
So, why did the couple opt for such a hush-hush approach? Well, in July 2019, an insider apparently told Vanity Fair, “Harry and Meghan don’t want Archie to be in the media spotlight; they want him to have an ordinary childhood. This is their way of making the point that Archie is a private citizen, and they are starting as they mean to go on.”
Yet Harry and Meghan’s attempt to shut out the world’s media was inevitably met with criticism. Patrick Jephson, a former private secretary to Harry’s mother, said to Vanity Fair, “A christening is also a public declaration of faith, and in the Church of England godparents are a matter of public record. So to make a point of denying the public even a respectful glimpse looks either naïve or manipulative – an odd way to protect the godparents, or indeed wee Archie.”
Elsewhere, a report in the The Daily Telegraph read, “Meghan can’t demand privacy for baby Archie while asking the public to fund her family’s lifestyle.” And Penny Junor, a biographer of the royal family, agreed with this sentiment, telling The Sunday Times, “[Harry and Meghan] can’t have it both ways. Either they are totally private, pay for their own house and disappear out of view, or [they] play the game the way it is played.”
Of course, Harry and Meghan soon revealed that they didn’t want to play the game any more. Yes, as many know, the beginning of 2020 saw the pair confirm that they would be withdrawing in part from their roles as senior members of the royal family. And their decision was allegedly motivated by the wave of media hostility that Meghan in particular had faced since she and Harry had gotten together.
In fact, after completing a tour of several South African nations at the end of 2019, Meghan reportedly launched a lawsuit against The Mail on Sunday for the publication of a private letter. The British newspaper had printed correspondence that the duchess had sent to her estranged father. Meghan was supported, too, by more than 70 female MPs in the U.K., who together slammed the press’ “outdated, colonial undertones” in their own letter to the royal.
During their shock announcement, Harry and Meghan revealed that they would spend part of their time living in North America. And in an even more surprising move, they also claimed that they wanted to be as fiscally independent as possible. Nevertheless, the pair were still keen to state that they would be continuing to help out the Queen when needed.
Yet the couple’s apparent anguish at being constantly scrutinized by the world’s media didn’t appear to deter everyone. Shortly after Harry and Meghan had disclosed their decision, it was revealed that lawyers representing the duo had been forced to send the press a warning. This in turn had come as a result of the publication of pictures of Meghan and Archie spending time in Canada – snaps that had been taken by paparazzi photographers.
And Prince Harry later spoke about the decision to take a back seat from the royal family at a fundraising effort for his Sentebale charity. He told the audience, “Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am.”
“You’ve looked out for me for so long,” Harry continued. “But the media is a powerful force, and my hope is [that] one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful – because this is so much bigger than just us. I will continue to be the same man who holds his country dear and dedicates his life to supporting the causes, charities and military communities that are so important to me.”
So, how will Harry and Meghan’s life-changing decision affect the rest of the royals, and in particular their relationship with Archie? Well, in January 2020, an insider allegedly told the Daily Express, “The overriding feeling among the family is certainly one of immense sadness. Sadness that Harry and Meghan felt they could no longer carry on inside the family and, of course, huge sadness that the family will not get to see Archie grow up as much as they would have.”
The anonymous source added, “[Archie] will miss growing up around his grandparents, his aunts, uncles and, of course, his young cousins. It is hoped [that] after a calming period of reflection, [Harry and Meghan] will want to spend more time in the U.K. This is Harry’s home, and he will always have the love and support of his family here.”
According to reports, though, the rest of the royal family have barely seen Archie since he was born. It’s said, in fact, that William, Kate and Charles have only been in the infant’s presence on a small number of occasions. And Charles in particular is said to be concerned that the relocation across the Atlantic will make it even harder to forge a strong bond with his young grandson.
So, what about Archie’s godparents? Would they also miss out on seeing the youngster they’d been chosen to watch over grow up? Well, of course, for the media, the more pressing question was, “Who are the godparents?” And after six months of secrecy, the cat finally appeared to be let out of the bag by The Sunday Times.
In January 2020 the British newspaper claimed that it had finally discovered the identities of two of Archie’s godparents. And both had quite a history with Harry in particular. The first to be revealed was Tiggy Pettifer. She had been the prince’s nanny when he was younger, and she is credited with helping the royal come to terms with the tragic death of his mother.
Previously known as Tiggy Legge-Bourke, the former employee first met Harry in 1993 when she was appointed by Prince Charles to watch over his two sons. And she soon made waves for her no-nonsense attitude – most notably when she compared her childcare methods to Diana’s. In 1999 The Guardian reported Pettifer as having said, “I give [Harry and William] what they need at this stage: fresh air, a rifle and a horse. [Diana] gives them a tennis racket and a bucket of popcorn at the movies.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Diana also took a few potshots of her own; she reportedly blasted Pettifer for constantly smoking in proximity to her two children, for instance. But in 1996 both the Prince and Princess of Wales were apparently stunned when William decided against inviting either of them to his school’s Fourth of June celebratory event. Instead, he had asked his nanny.
Pettifer reportedly proved to be a huge source of solace to the boys, too, following Diana’s passing in August 1997. A year later, however, she found herself in trouble once again when she allowed both William and Harry to abseil at a Welsh reservoir without the use of any safety helmets or lines. The press reported that only the princes’ intervention saved the nanny from getting fired.
Then, after a whole host of rumors about sackings and resignations, Pettifer finally walked away from her royal duties when she tied the knot with husband Charles at the end of 1999. Both William and Harry were invited to the ceremony, too. But the erstwhile member of the royal household is said to have decided against asking Camilla Parker-Bowles to attend; Prince Charles also failed to show owing to a prior commitment.
And the second person to be named as Archie’s godparent is also said to have been a tower of strength for Harry in the wake of his mother’s death. Ex-Welsh Guards officer Mark Dyer was once employed as a royal equerry for Prince Charles. And even after he left his post in the mid-’90s, he continued to maintain a close relationship with Harry and William.
Harry was present at Dyer’s 2010 wedding to Amanda Kline, for instance, and was also asked to be a godparent to the couple’s son Jasper. In 2018, then, the prince returned the favor by requesting that Dyer be an usher at his wedding to Meghan; Jasper, meanwhile, was tasked with being a page boy. And the former royal worker also serves as a trustee of Sentebale – the charitable organization that Harry established in 2006 with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho.
Dyer also once managed The Sand’s End – the pub at which Harry and Meghan reportedly used to enjoy secret romantic meetings. And sources believe that he’s been a positive influence on the prince. Biographer Junor once claimed, for instance, that Dyer is “one of the few people who talks some sense into [Harry].”
Furthermore, The Sunday Times has since reported the identity of a third godparent to Archie – and it’s yet another acquaintance of Harry’s. Charlie Van Straubenzee became buddies with both the prince and his brother when they attended Ludgrove School. The investment executive was also later asked to be an usher at Harry’s wedding to Meghan.
Suitably, Harry is said to have played a vital part at Van Straubenzee’s own wedding later that same year. The royal apparently took on the role of best man when his friend tied the knot with Daisy Jenks in the English village of Frensham. And since 2011, Van Straubenzee has worked in a senior position at British investment company Brown Advisory.
Ultimately, then, some believe that Harry and Meghan’s choices of godparents will help to bolster Archie’s connections with his homeland. Referring to Dyer and Pettifer, an anonymous insider reportedly told E! News, “They were both constants in Harry’s childhood and beyond. They are fascinating choices of figures in Harry’s life that he will hope may keep Archie rooted somehow in the U.K. as they relocate to North America.”
Of course, if Harry and Meghan have stuck with royal tradition by selecting at least five godparents, then there are still at least a couple of names to be unveiled. Yet neither William nor his wife Kate are likely to appear on the list. You see, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge haven’t asked Harry to be godfather to any of their three kids.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s any kind of rift between the two brothers. Indeed, by all accounts, William and Kate simply believe that Harry’s status as an uncle is already special enough. So instead they decided to give various other family members and close friends the honor of being more involved in the lives of George, Charlotte and Louis.