Criticism over the pair’s decision to keep baby Archie out of the spotlight has been mounting for months. And recent revelations – that British taxpayers footed a £2.4 million (about $3 million) bill for home renovation, and plans to keep his christening private – have done little to silence critics.
It’s worth noting that royal baptisms have traditionally been private affairs. However in recent years cameras have been allowed to capture the arrivals of the family and their guests. That was certainly the case for all three Cambridge children – George, Charlotte and Louis – although they are higher in the line of succession.
This Saturday, Harry and Meghan have arranged a completely private ceremony for Archie led by the Archbishop of Canterbury at a chapel inside Windsor Castle.
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall along with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will attend the christening ceremony, Buckingham Palace announced. The palace won’t officially confirm who else is attending, though a royal source told CNN that fewer than 25 family and friends were invited.
Meet Archie, the new royal baby
And while the media is excluded, pictures taken by their personal photographer, Chris Allerton, will be released after the service. The official photographs will be taken in the Green Drawing Room, Buckingham Palace said.
Archie will be wearing a handmade replica of the royal christening robe, the palace added. The original gown was made in 1841 and used for all royal christenings, including that of the Queen herself, until 2008 when the replica was used for the first time for the christening of the youngest of the Queen’s eight grandchildren, James, Viscount Severn, and subsequently for all her great-grandchildren.
The Queen commissioned her dressmaker, Angela Kelly, to make the handmade replica of the gown in order to preserve the original. It is made of Honiton lace and lined with white satin.
A silver baptismal font commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert will also be used for the christening. The Lily Font, as it is known, was commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 and has been used in every royal christening since then.
Members of the St. George’s Chapel Choir will be singing at the ceremony, Buckingham Palace said.
Meghan and Harry’s decision to keep baby Archie’s christening private has nevertheless drawn criticism from the public and British media.
“Meghan can’t demand privacy for baby Archie while asking the public to fund her family’s lifestyle,” complained the Daily Telegraph. The Sunday Times quoted royal biographer Penny Junor as saying: “They can’t have it both ways. Either they are totally private, pay for their own house and disappear out of view, or play the game the way it is played.”
Even politicians have weighed into the row. Labour Member of Parliament Luke Pollard told CNN the royal couple’s recent behavior raises questions.
“When you’re still taking millions of pounds worth of public money – money that could be spent in schools and hospitals – to upgrade and refurbish what is, you know, luxury palaces, you’ve got to ask yourself: what are the public getting in return?”
Pollard said he saw no problem with critics questioning how public money was being spent, and expressed concern that Harry and Meghan were “trying to have their cake and eat it.”
He explained: “They’re trying to get the public money for their lifestyle but not do the public duties that go along with it and that’s a question that is rightly being asked and debated here.
“I don’t think the overall family will be overthrown here. I think this is a chance to look at: Is the behavior of the royal family the right way forward? And at a time when there’s not a lot of money for our public services, is every penny they’re spending being spent well?” Pollard said.
This type of critique infuriates the #SussexSquad – a vociferous army of online supporters, particularly of Meghan. On stories like the christening, those devoted to the duchess enlist the help of an unlikely defender: a US law professor.
Goldburn P. Maynard Jr at the University of Louisville describes himself as an “ally” of the squad who steps in online to “amplify” the voices of #SussexSquad and call out cases of what he calls “misogynoir.”
“I don’t see any kind of contradiction between there being taxpayer funding or public funding and the royals asking for some privacy,” he told CNN. “Here, in the United States, we very much have a lot of public servants but we very well know their children are off limits and are able to have a private life and we are OK with that.”
For Maynard, it’s interesting how the christening plays into a wider narrative about the duchess.
“The default when it comes to Meghan – because she is a foreigner and she’s not royal, from this society, etc. – is that when she does something, she is doing something that’s wrong. Women of color are actually really used to that narrative,” he explained. “What a lot of us are seeing is that she is being held to a higher standard despite the fact that, in many ways, she’s hit the ground running.”
He continued: “She put out the book and she’s made all of this money for charity and she’s brought all of this attention. And yet there are all of these critiques on these niggling things that shouldn’t matter very much.”
Maynard views criticism of Meghan through the prism of criticism of women of color generally.
“So, women of color are uncouth, women of color are undeserving, women of color are angry, etc. And so, what all this coverage has done is to reinforce all those kinds of narratives and biases when it comes to who is today the most prominent woman in the world. So, it is reinforcing those narratives on a worldwide scale, so that’s why I think it’s really harmful.”
But Pollard argues that publicly funded royal should be put under appropriate scrutiny: “It’s so important that actually in defending Meghan and Harry’s decisions, we need to be clear that when they get it wrong we can offer a criticism which is fair and justified without any loading of hate that some other folks are trying to use.”
For many royal fans, Archie’s christening is simply a chance to see how he’s grown. With just the one photocall shortly after his birth and a couple of carefully snapped Instagram posts, the world still has yet to see his little face properly.
For his parents, it’s simple too. They’ve clearly made the decision to bring him up as a private citizen, which also explains why they aren’t using a title for him and why they feel they have a right to refuse media access to an event that is primarily about him.