After Queen Victoria gave birth to the first child, the Princess Royal, she commissioned the Lily font and a lace christening gown which has been used to christen royal babies for generations.

The Lily Font

Most of the traditions used in British royal christenings today stem from Queen Victoria who commissioned special items for the baptism of her first child, Victoria, Princess Royal.

The Lily font was commissioned from Barnard & Co to replace the silver basin used to christen royal babies since the time of Charles II, mainly because it had been used to christen numerous illegitimate babies which Victoria found distasteful.

The Lily font was made from silver-gilt and was reportedly designed by Prince Albert himself who chose water lilies as they symbolise purity and new life. The font with a bowl is in the form of an expanded flower with a border of water-lilies and leaves; the stem is formed of leaves, and flanked at the base by three winged cherubs above the royal arms of Victoria, Prince Albert and the Princess Royal.

Holy Water

Royal christenings, especially for an heir, are generally private ceremonies within Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle and are usually conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury who anoints the baby’s head with water from the River Jordan where Christ is said to have been baptised.

The Lily font was removed from The Tower and taken to St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, in 2015 for the christening of Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is believed this is the first time the font has ever been taken out of London.

The image shows the Charles II font which Queen Victoria found distasteful. After the Princess Royal’s christening, the base of this font was used with the Lily font. The Lily font sits inside the main bowl after the lid is removed.

The Christening Gown

Queen Victoria also commissioned a beautiful Honiton lace and ivory satin christening gown for her baby daughter which was made by Janet Sutherland, a Scottish seamstress, who designed it to echo Victoria’s wedding gown. The Queen was so impressed by Miss Sutherland’s craftsmanship, she was awarded the title of Embroiderer to the Queen.

The gown has been worn by every royal baby since, however, after the christening of Lady Louise Windsor in 2004, the gown was deemed too fragile to wear again. A team of seamstresses, headed by the Queen’s dressmaker, Angela Kelly, made an exact copy of the original and then dipped it in tea to give it a vintage look. The new gown was first worn by Lady Louise Windsor’s baby brother, James, Viscount Severn, in 2008.