Prince Harry and Meghan’s daughter Lilibet (Lili) Diana has a name reflecting tradition and emerging trend
With the arrival of Lilibet (Lili) Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, the newest member of the Royal Family has a name that reflects both tradition and an emerging trend.
The daughter of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who was born this month in California, has names with deep family ties — something that is a regular occurrence in the Royal Family.
Diana recalls her grandmother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. But in the case of Lilibet — a nickname for her great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth — there’s also a reflection of a newer trend among the monarch’s great-grandchildren.
“What we’re seeing with the current generation is some instances where the nickname is the formal first name,” said Toronto-based royal historian Carolyn Harris.
Nicknames have always been popular in the Royal Family, in part because so many royal children have had the same name. Queen Victoria, for example, let it be known she wanted her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have her name or that of her husband, Albert, in their monikers.
“Going back to Queen Victoria’s descendants, she had so many granddaughters who were named Victoria that we see nicknames such as Vicky, Toria, Moretta, Ducky,” said Harris.
Harry and Meghan’s daughter is the Queen’s 11th great-grandchild, and the third born in the past few months. A 12th is expected this fall with the arrival of the first child for Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
Among the 11 great-grandchildren, those higher in the line of succession — Prince William and Kate’s children George (third in line), Charlotte (fourth) and Louis (fifth) — have more traditional royal names.
But further down the line, things change, with great-grandchildren named Savannah, Isla and Lucas appearing on the family tree. The eldest daughter of Zara (Princess Anne’s daughter) and Mike Tindall has the first name Mia.
“Now, that is an accepted name on its own, but in the 18th century, Mia might have been seen as a nickname for Amelia,” said Harris, author of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting. “That certainly was a royal name in Georgian times; George the Third’s favourite daughter was named Amelia.”
For Lilibet (Lili) Diana, the announcement of her name two days after her birth sparked considerable reaction on social media. There was much chatter over whether the choice of the nickname was a touching tribute to the Queen or an insensitive decision, particularly given Harry and Meghan’s recent criticisms of the House of Windsor.
“There are those who feel that this is a really sweet gesture and it’s Prince Harry honouring his grandma, who he maintained a personal relationship with even as he and Meghan stepped back from their duties as senior members of the Royal Family,” said Harris.
“But there are others who feel that this is a nickname that is unique to the Queen and that perhaps [Lily or] Elizabeth might have been a better choice.”
Confusion has ensued over to what degree Harry and Meghan consulted the Queen about the use of the family nickname.
“What seems clear is that the Queen and the Royal Family knew about the name before the rest of the world were told, but it is much less clear whether permission to use Lilibet was sought in advance,” wrote ITV royal editor Chris Ship on the network’s website.
Such scrutiny for a royal baby’s name is unusual, although speculation of just what name might be chosen ahead of any royal birth is rampant. Sometimes it’s also names that aren’t chosen that spark considerable interest.
Before Diana and Charles named their first son William in 1982, Oliver was one of the monikers that Diana liked.
“Diana favoured some of the trendier names of her time,” said Harris.
But a name like Oliver would not have been considered suitable for a future British monarch, Harris said, because there would inevitably be the comments about Oliver Cromwell, a controversial figure in 17th-century English history, and the time period of the interregnum, “whereas Charles was looking to royal history, and both William and Harry have these timeless royal names.”
In the case of Lilibet (Lili) Diana, the scrutiny is ramped up because of the intense focus on her parents, particularly following their decision to step back from official royal duties.
Even if Harry and Meghan hadn’t chosen a nickname so closely connected to the Queen, it seems likely the name would have attracted attention.
“I think there would have been scrutiny, there would be a conversation about names, whatever the names would have been,” said British PR expert Mark Borkowski.
And it’s a scrutiny that will likely continue on the child as she grows up.
“That’s the sort of nature of celebrity, the nature of having two of the most famous people in the world as your mother and father,” said Borkowski…