Royal baby Archie had his christening on Saturday, July 6, and he wore a christening gown with a fascinating history.
The first son of Meghan, Duchess of Cambridge and Harry, Duke of Cambridge celebrated his christening in an elaborate white gown. Archie, who was born on May 6, was baptized into the Church of England in the traditional christening ceremony in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Archie wore the same gown that his cousin, Prince Louis of Cambridge, wore last summer on July 9 for his christening at the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace in London. Prince Louis’ older siblings, Prince George of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, also wore the article of clothing that carries the weight of history in their respective baptisms.
Here’s the story behind the christening gown royal baby Archie wore for his big day.
What did Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor wear to his christening?
Royal baby Archie wore the same gown in his christening as his cousins did, but it’s much more than just a casual hand-me-down: the gown, handcrafted in 2004 of lace and satin, is a replica of a historic garment that dates back to the Victorian era.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, presided over Archie’s christening on Saturday. The first two pictures from the event were shared later that day on the Sussex Royal Instagram page. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are so happy to share the joy of this day with members of the public who have been incredibly supportive since the birth of their son,” the caption said. “They thank you for your kindness in welcoming their first born and celebrating this special moment.”
What’s the history behind the gown that was used since 1841?
The tradition of this particular christening gown harkens back to Queen Victoria, who commissioned the garment for the royal baptism of her daughter Victoria in 1841; you can glimpse one of its earliest representations in a painting of the event from the era. White gowns, or “robes,” were christening fashion going back to the 1700s, according to the archives at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The elaborate gown commissioned by Queen Victoria — made of “a white Honiton point lace robe and mantle over white satin,” as she is said to have described it in her personal diary — was ultimately worn for more than 60 baptisms by children in the ensuing decades, including Princess Victoria’s little brother Edward, who would go on to become King Edward VII in 1901. As the palace further explains, “the original gown was subsequently worn for all Royal christenings, including The Queen, her children and her grandchildren.”
With both fabrics sourced from U.K. locations, and a local seamstress chosen to craft the piece, Queen Victoria supported local industries through her fashion choice. Meanwhile the design, although reminiscent of a lady’s flowing dress (and reportedly made to reflect Queen Victoria’s own wedding gown), was considered unisex and graced both male and female babies. It was carefully washed with spring water after use and stored in a dark room, the Telegraph reported, to keep it in its best condition. But ultimately time got the best of it.
So in 2004 one of Queen Elizabeth’s aides was tasked with coming up with a replica to match the original, which required working with a team of expert craftspeople to recreate the garment, hewing as closely as possible to the now-traditional fabrics and design. The first baby to wear the new version was James, Viscount Severn, at his christening in 2008, the palace noted; he is the youngest of the Queen’s eight grandchildren.
“It was made from scratch, from sketching it out, to embroidering the lace on a special silk-based tulle,” aide Angela Kelly told PEOPLE. On Monday just before the christening, the palace confirmed that the gown would be worn by Louis once more to continue the royal tradition.
What did Prince Louis wear?
In 2018, Prince Louis was decked out in that same iconic christening gown.
Like his brother George in 2013, Louis wore his wearing his finery to the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace; and like with George, Charlotte and Archie’s ceremonies, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby performed the christening honors. (Charlotte’s ceremony took place at St. Mary Magdalene Church, in Sandringham, instead.) Kate Middleton herself also received communion at the Chapel Royal just before her wedding to Prince William.
What did Princess Charlotte wear?
At her christening on July 5, 2015 at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, Princess Charlotte wore the very same christening gown. (This church has its own significance for the royal family: it was where Charlotte’s late grandmother, Princess Diana, was herself baptized.) Also at her christening, Charlotte’s five godparents were officially named, including some of her parents’ nearest friends and relative.
What did Prince George wear?
At his christening on Oct. 23, 2013 at the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace in London, Prince George was dressed up in the newly made replica of the classic Victorian christening gown. He was accompanied by his parents, of course. During the ceremony, his seven godparents were also named, including Prince William’s cousin Zara Tindall and many of their closest friends.