Anger was never Queen Elizabeth’s primary emotion—if you looked up stoic in the dictionary, her picture would be there. But in royal biographer Robert Hardman’s new book The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy, he quotes a Palace staffer as saying Her late Majesty was “as angry as I’d ever seen her” in 2021 after the Sussexes announced that she had given them her blessing to name their daughter Lilibet—her familial nickname so sacred that only a small number of people could ever dream of calling her by the moniker. (In the last decade, it was likely that her husband, Prince Philip—who died in April 2021 at 99 years old—was the only person able to call her that.)
Princess Lilibet Diana was born on June 4, 2021, and, according to The Daily Mail, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle publicly stated that they received approval to use the name “Lilibet” for their only daughter. Later, a Palace staffer told the BBC that the late Queen was “never asked” her opinion on Lilibet’s name before her birth, BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond tweeted at the time.
Page Six reported that Harry did call and speak to his grandmother after Meghan gave birth at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, but that “It will have likely been a call saying that she’s arrived, and we’d plan to name her after you—it’s not really something one can say no to. I doubt they asked—more likely informed.”
In June 2021, a spokesperson for the Sussexes said of the matter that “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.”
After her birth, Harry and Meghan announced Lilibet's arrival in a statement, writing “She is more than we could have ever imagined, and we remain grateful for the love and prayers we’ve felt from across the globe. Thank you for your continued kindness and support during this very special time for our family.” They added, “Lili is named after her great-grandmother, Her Majesty The Queen, whose family nickname is Lilibet. Her middle name, Diana, was chosen to honor her beloved grandmother, The Princess of Wales.”
Buckingham Palace celebrated Lili’s birth days later in a statement on behalf of the royal family: “The Queen, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge [everyone’s titles at the time] have been informed and are delighted with the news of the birth of a daughter for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” a spokesperson said. William and Kate added in a tweet, “We are all delighted by the happy news of the arrival of baby Lili. Congratulations to Harry, Meghan, and [Prince] Archie.”
Per Hardman’s book, after the BBC allegations, “The couple subsequently fired off warnings of legal action against anyone who dared to suggest otherwise, as the BBC had done,” he writes. “However, when the Sussexes tried to co-opt the Palace into propping up their version of events, they were rebuffed. Once again, it was a case of ‘recollections may vary’—the late Queen’s reaction to the Oprah Winfrey interview—as far as Her Majesty was concerned. Those noisy threats of legal action duly evaporated and the libel actions against the BBC never materialized.”
Royal expert Rebecca English wrote yesterday that “the Queen was so upset by the Sussexes’ decision that she told aides ‘I don’t own the palaces, I don’t own the paintings, the only thing I own is my name. And now they’ve taken that.’” English added her own analysis of the situation, writing that Harry and Meghan “would not have intended to cause her grief—over this, at any rate” but that it was clear to her that the Queen was upset over the issue. The name Lilibet, after all, was deeply, deeply personal, and was given to her by her grandfather, King George V, after he affectionately imitated her attempts as a little girl to say “Elizabeth,” Tatler reports.
The Making of a King is out January 18.
"The Making of a King" by Robert Hardman