When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first-born son Archie was christened in the Queen’s private chapel at Windsor Castle, the fanfare and celebration was felt across Britain.
Seated on a gold-embossed green satin Queen Anne sofa surrounded by the royal family in July 2019, a smiling Duke and Duchess of Sussex were photographed cradling their baby boy dressed in a full-length eggshell replica gown worn by all of the Queen’s great-grandchildren.
Fast forward 24 months and a vastly different welcome awaits the now-complete California-based family of four, as speculation mounts they will return to England for Lilibet ‘Lili’ Diana Mountbatten-Windsor’s christening.
During an unveiling of a statue of their mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales on July 1 by Harry, 36, and Prince William, 39, there were hopes the siblings were on track to repair a damaged relationship.
Royal sources said Harry, during that visit, had expressed a desire to return to the UK for his daughter’s christening, possibly in September.
“Harry told several people that they want to have Lili christened at Windsor, just like her brother,” a source told The Daily Mail.
“They are happy to wait until circumstances allow.”
Lilibet was born in Santa Barbara in California two months ago.
She is the Queen’s youngest great-granddaughter and Prince Charles’ second granddaughter after Princess Charlotte.
A statement from the couple’s press secretary said at the time: “It is with great joy that Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, welcome their daughter, Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, to the world.
“Lili was born on Friday, June 4 at 11.40am in the trusted care of the doctors and staff at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California.
“She weighed 7lbs 11oz [3.48kg]. Both mother and child are healthy and well, and settling in at home.
“Lili is named after her great-grandmother, Her Majesty The Queen, whose family nickname is Lilibet.”
An official photo of Lili has not yet been released while select images of Archie, 2, have been released to the public since he was born on May 6, 2019.
Harry and Meghan’s relationship with the royal family imploded earlier this year, after bombshell claims were made by them in an exclusive chat to US talkshow host Oprah Winfrey near the couple’s home in Montecito.
There was already a growing disquiet within royal ranks with the couple backing away from royal roles and moving to the US with Archie.
Harry told Winfrey that he felt trapped by royal life and that his family cut him off financially and took away his security.
But it was claims of racism from an unnamed royal about the potential colour of Archie’s skin that completely crushed William, who defended his family with a single line: “We are very much not a racist family.”
Royal historian Marlene Koenig suggested that while holding Lilibet’s christening in the UK showed “goodwill” on the part of the Sussexes to heal the rift with the royal family, it will take a lot more than a baptism to repair relationships.
Speaking to express.co.uk, Ms Koenig said: “It will take a lot more than a baptism to bring healing to everyone.
“[It will take] trust (from both sides), and talking about the issues, sitting down and talking together rather than drip-feed (both sides) to the press.
“That said, I think there would be a lot of goodwill by coming to England for a baptism, with Lilibet wearing the christening gown, with the immediate family (the Queen, Charles, Camilla, the Cambridges in attendance) and the release of a group photo.
“But a family photo cannot erase the pain and hurt on both sides, but what comes after that photo, time together, sitting down and talking.”
The Mirror‘s royal editor Russell Myers told Nine’s Today on Sunday: “It will be definitely awkward”.
“Meghan isn’t flavour of the month with the family. Certainly, the family have always said they will be much-loved members of the family,” Myers said.
“However, we’re still talking about the fallout of the Oprah Winfrey interview.”