Palace refuses to back Sussexes in row over baby Lilibet’s name

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The Telegraph understands the Queen (seen here with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Buckingham Palace) was 'told' about the name after the baby was born last Friday, rather than her permission being sought in advance - Matt Dunham/AP Photo
The Telegraph understands the Queen (seen here with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Buckingham Palace) was 'told' about the name after the baby was born last Friday, rather than her permission being sought in advance - Matt Dunham/AP Photo

Buckingham Palace has refused to back the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a row with the BBC over whether the couple sought the Queen’s permission to name their daughter Lilibet.

Lawyers instructed by Harry and Meghan said it was “false and defamatory” for the BBC to suggest the couple did not ask Her Majesty if they could use her highly personal pet name for their second child.

The Duke and Duchess claimed they would not have used the name if the Queen had not been “supportive” of their choice.

But rather than confirming the Duke and Duchess’s version of events, the Palace refused to deny suggestions that the Queen was “never asked”.

The Telegraph understands the Queen was “told” about the name after the baby was born last Friday, rather than her permission being sought in advance.

It suggests that if the Duke and Duchess chose the name to curry favour with the Queen and the wider Royal family, the tactic has backfired badly.

It also left the Queen, 95, in the unwelcome position of being at the centre of a row between her grandson on one side and the BBC and her own officials on the other.

Watch: Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, fire off legal warning to BBC bosses

Although there is little formal protocol around choosing baby names, particularly with great-grandchildren of the monarch, royal sources suggested there was a difference between the couple choosing to name their daughter Elizabeth, in tribute to the Queen, and using her pet name, which had only ever been used by her parents, Prince Philip and a handful of her closest friends and relatives.

Relations between the Sussexes and the Royal family have become strained in the wake of a series of interviews in which the couple have levelled accusations of racism, neglect and bad parenting against the House of Windsor.

And on a day of extraordinary claim and counter-claim, each side hardened its position rather than making any attempt to agree on a settled version of events.

The Duke and Duchess’s daughter was born in California on Friday morning, and it is understood that the couple told the Queen about their choice of name between the baby’s birth and the public announcement of it on Sunday.

On Monday reports in US publications including the New York Post claimed Prince Harry called the Queen and “sought permission before his baby’s birth” to use the name Lilibet.

On Wednesday morning, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme reported that the Queen “was not asked” about using her pet name.

Within 90 minutes of the report being aired, the author Omid Scobie, a high-profile cheerleader for the Sussexes, rebutted the BBC report after being briefed that the Queen had supported the decision to use the name Lilibet.

Then, shortly after 8am (or 1am in California, where the Sussexes live) the row escalated as the London law firm Schillings, acting on behalf of the Sussexes, issued a warning to media organisations not to repeat the BBC’s claims, which were “false and defamatory”.

Jenny Afia, one of two signatories to the letter from law firm Schillings, also acted for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their privacy case against the Mail on Sunday. - News Scans
Jenny Afia, one of two signatories to the letter from law firm Schillings, also acted for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their privacy case against the Mail on Sunday. - News Scans

Crucially, however, Buckingham Palace refused to deny the BBC’s version of events, meaning the Duke and Duchess’s libel claims were ignored by the media at large.

Some within palace walls are said to have taken offence at the claims made in the US and attributed to friends of the Sussexes that the monarch had been consulted about the use of her name.

It emerged on Wednesday night that the internet domain name lilidiana.com was registered on May 31, several days before the birth, raising questions about whether the couple had already settled on the baby name by that stage.

Even the couple’s spokeswoman stopped short of suggesting the Queen had been told about the Lilibet name, or asked for permission to use it, before the baby was born.

She 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 honour. Had she not been supportive, they would not have used the name.”

Toya Holness, Global Press Secretary, Archewell. PR for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Twitter profile picture, 9th June, 2021. - News Scans
Toya Holness, Global Press Secretary, Archewell. PR for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Twitter profile picture, 9th June, 2021. - News Scans

Royal sources drew a distinction between being told of the name and being asked. It suggests the Queen was put in a position where she had a choice of either giving her approval, tacitly or explicitly, or ordering the couple to change their daughter’s name.

Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, who will be known as Lili, was born at 11.40am on Friday June 4 at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California weighing 7lb 11oz.

The Queen was introduced to her latest great-granddaughter on a video call when the Duke and Duchess returned home from hospital. It is not known when the Queen or other members of the Royal family will meet her in person.

Watch: Princess Diana would have loved Prince Harry's baby name choice

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