If the royal commentators had just said that “in their opinion,” it was somehow, inexplicably rude that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex named their baby Lilibet, I don’t think there would have been a legal issue. It would have been contemptible, no doubt. It would have been bizarrely nasty to attack a couple who just welcomed their daughter into the world. But the Sussexes would not have gotten their lawyers involved if it was just Angela Levin breathing fire on British morning shows about how Harry “disrespected the Queen.” The Sussexes would have just continued to do what they were already doing: telling Omid Scobie and People Magazine that they spoke to the Queen about Lilibet Diana’s name, and that Harry video-conferenced with his granny when they brought the baby home. It would have been simple.
But that’s not what happened. People were really salty inside Buckingham Palace and, I would assume, Clarence House. My theory is still that the Queen did speak to Harry and that they speak quite often, and that the Queen rarely tells her aides and courtiers about it. And because everything about the British monarchy is a complete clownshow, courtiers decided to barge ahead and tell the BBC that Prince Harry obviously “did not consult” the Queen about Lilibet’s name. The Daily Beast points out that “palace sources” have been agitated and trying to make this into a story since Sunday, basically:
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have insisted that they did ask for the queen’s blessing to name their child Lilibet, the monarch’s childhood nickname, after palace sources briefed British journalists that they had made the announcement without getting permission from the queen.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the former royals issued a legal threat after the claim was published by the BBC. A British newspaper source told The Daily Beast that a rare legal warning had gone out to the papers advising them not to repeat the allegation that Harry and Meghan had named their second child after Queen Elizabeth without asking her first.
The Sussexes were prodded into making an official intervention after BBC Radio 4’s flagship breakfast news program said Wednesday on its 6:30 a.m. bulletin that the BBC had been told Harry and Meghan “did not consult the queen about using her childhood nickname Lilibet for their baby… a Buckingham Palace source says she was never asked about it.” The key briefing was apparently given to the BBC’s royal correspondent, Jonny Dymond. Dymond’s report tallied with a report over the weekend in The Times that said that the queen had merely been “informed” about the choice of the name rather than having had her permission explicitly sought.
Indeed, it appears from the couple’s own statement that they only sought the queen’s blessing after the child had been born—having already decided on the name they wanted to give her. The couple’s spokesperson said, “The Duke spoke with his family in advance of the announcement, in fact his grandmother was the first family member he called. During that conversation, he shared their hope of naming their daughter Lilibet in her honor. Had she not been supportive, they would not have used the name.”
Rumors about the queen’s supposed unhappiness with the name have circulated for several days along with stories that the palace was blindsided by the announcement of the birth, as it took more than an hour and a half for Buckingham Palace to issue an official statement of congratulation.
So now it’s a semantic argument about the difference between “consulting” versus “seeking permission” versus “asking.” The thing is, the BBC’s initial report was pretty black-and-white: The Sussexes “did not consult the queen about using her childhood nickname Lilibet for their baby… a Buckingham Palace source says she was never asked about it.” This is why Harry’s lawyers at Schillings have issued threats of libel against the BBC. As the Daily Mail noted:
The BBC report on the Palace’s position and Harry’s fiery reaction implies both parties believe they are telling the truth on the issue. It suggests that Harry and Meghan could have informed the Queen of Lilibet’s name before taking Her Majesty’s non-denial as consent. On the other hand, the Palace briefings appear to hint that the Queen felt she was presented with the couple’s decision and asked to rubber stamp it, rather than give permission.
Despite Harry’s strong condemnation of the BBC report about Lilibet today, Buckingham Palace refused to comment on whether the story was true when approached by MailOnline. The aide behind the Palace leak to the BBC is unknown, though it is thought to be a senior official. It’s also unclear if the Queen was aware of the comment, though it is considered almost unprecedented for the monarch not to sign off on quotes from senior officials, even if they are anonymous briefings.
“It is considered almost unprecedented for the monarch not to sign off on quotes from senior officials…” Oh. So those same aides are now comfortable throwing the Queen under the bus, huh? They’re saying she implicitly or explicitly signed off on their briefing against the Sussexes, not just this week, but everything in the past four years?
The thing is, I have zero doubt that there are senior palace aides who went to Jonny Dymond at the BBC and poured scorn on Prince Harry for “not asking the Queen.” I legitimately believe that so many of these awful, shady stories begin that way, with palace aides briefing reporters about internal family matters. I can totally understand why Dymond reported it the way he did. The issue isn’t his reporting, it’s the fact that the senior palace aides briefing against the Sussexes had no idea what Harry said or didn’t say to the Queen. Which puts the onus on the Queen to either back her grandson’s version or continue to say nothing and allow her courtiers to run roughshod over her grandson. Which… is very short-sighted by the palace aides. You never want to put your “primary” boss in this position. Anyway, a complete f–king clownshow, but we knew that.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.