LONDON – Britain’s Prince George, the son of Prince William and his wife, Catherine, is to be christened on Wednesday in a private family ceremony far removed from the global media circus that surrounded his birth.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the head of the world’s Anglicans, will perform the christening at the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace in London, Kensington Palace said.
George — who as third in line to the British throne is a future Supreme Governor of the Church of England and “Defender of the Faith” — was born on July 22 to the royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Guests are expected to include Queen Elizabeth II, the young prince’s great-grandmother, and William’s father, Prince Charles, although royal officials have only said that “close members of both families” will attend the baptism.
The choice of the Chapel Royal reflects William and Kate’s attempts to keep a low profile, as most senior British royals in recent history have been christened at Buckingham Palace, the queen’s official residence.
Kensington Palace, the couple’s official residence, said it was a “personal decision” to use the chapel for the service.
Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, who have played a key role in supporting the young parents, and siblings Pippa and James are also expected to be there.
The royal family has said that photographs will be released after the service, which will reportedly show the queen with three future monarchs: Princes Charles, William and George.
The names of godparents will be released nearer the ceremony, although it is rumored that William’s brother, Prince Harry, and Pippa Middleton will be among them.
There has also been speculation that William’s close friends Hugh van Cutsem and Thomas van Straubenzee are in the running.
William, Kate and George have largely stayed out of the limelight since their only public appearance together, when they faced hundreds of reporters as they left a London hospital following the boy’s birth.
They spent two weeks with the Middletons at their home in a village west of London, and William and Kate have made only a handful of public appearances since then.
The only sighting of George has been in a picture of him with William, Kate and the couple’s dog, Lupo, that Michael Middleton took in the family’s back garden.
The choice of christening venue is in keeping with their desire to stay low-key.
William’s cousin Princess Beatrice was the last well-known royal baby to be christened at St. James’s Palace, in December 1988. William, Charles and the queen were all christened at Buckingham Palace.
The Chapel Royal was also where the coffin of William’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales, lay before the funeral following her death in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi.
George will be christened in a replica of the lace-and-satin christening gown made for Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria, the Princess Royal, in 1841.
The first royal baby to wear the replica was James, the son of the queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie, at his christening in 2008.
British photographer Jason Bell, who has previously taken portraits of celebrities including former Beatle Paul McCartney, actor Johnny Depp and footballer David Beckham, was set to take the picture of the christening, The Sunday Times newspaper reported.
A picture of the queen with Charles, William and George would echo the one taken in 1894 during the christening of the future Edward VIII, showing the royal baby with his father, later George V; grandfather, the future Edward VII; and great grandmother, Queen Victoria.
The christening is an essential ceremony for the young prince, as all British monarchs must be full confirmed members of the Church of England, the mother church of the world’s nearly 80 million Anglicans.
Christenings, or baptisms, are a Christian rite of admission to the religion.
A Christening in the Church of England involves a new baby having holy water poured on its head — the baby is not fully immersed. It is then signed with the cross, and godparents and parents make promises on behalf of the child.