As soon as news broke she was born, royal watchers on both side of the pond started to debate whether Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan‘s decision to name their daughter Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor was an olive branch to the Royal Family or a thoughtless gesture, given that Lilibet was Queen Elizabeth‘s childhood nickname used only by her recently deceased husband, Prince Philip. But now, a new controversy involving the name of the littlest royal, who was born on June 4, has emerged and quickly escalated.
On Wednesday, June 9, five days after Lilibet’s birth, BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond made the bombshell claim on the BBC’s Radio 4’s Today broadcast that he was told by an inside source (who the Daily Mail later identified as a senior aide at Buckingham Palace) that Harry and Meghan “never asked” for the Queen’s consent to use the name. The nickname Lilibet was given to her by her father, King George VI, and went on to become an affectionate moniker used only by Prince Philip. Just hours later, through their lawyers, Harry and Meghan accused the BBC of defamation.
Read on to find out the behind-the-scenes story of Harry and Meghan’s latest war with the media—and the Palace—and why this could ruin any possibility for a thaw in the chilly relationship between the Sussexes and the rest of the Royal Family.
On Sunday, June 6, after Harry and Meghan announced the birth of their daughter on their Archewell Foundation website, The Times of London reported that the Queen was informed by Harry that their baby daughter would be named Lilibet in her honor. Other news outlets, including the BBC, included quotes from unnamed sources connected to the couple in their reporting, supporting the idea the couple asked for Her Majesty’s permission to use the deeply personal name.
A royal insider told Best Life, “Despite several reports claiming the Queen gave her consent, longtime royal reporters in the U.K. noticed a small but important distinction in the quotes from Harry and Meghan sources. It raised a lot of eyebrows. Did they alert the Queen beforehand or inform her after the fact? It’s not quite clear.”
On June 7, the day after the official birth announcement, People reported that Harry and Meghan told the Queen of their name choice two days before they shared it with the world. The outlet later stated the couple introduced the Queen to her 11th great-grandchild on a video call, reporting that Harry and Meghan were “very excited and couldn’t wait to share that their daughter arrived.” Also on June 7, Page Six reported Harry called the Queen before the baby’s birth to ask permission to use the name Lilibet.
In Britain, royal watchers point out there is a difference between asking for Her Majesty’s consent and alerting her to an already set upon plan. Russell Myers of the Daily Mirror said on June 7: “I am told Harry had said to the Queen he may name a daughter after her and so he didn’t really ask for permission as such, but it was a nice surprise.”
On June 9, a detailed report for the BBC written by Dymond included a comment from a Palace source that Harry and Meghan didn’t ask the Queen’s permission prior to Lilibet’s birth. The royal correspondent claimed his “good palace source” was “absolutely adamant” the Queen had “never” been consulted. His report did also include that a “source close to the Sussexes” had told the BBC that Harry had spoken to the Queen “before the birth” and “would have mentioned the name.” BBC Radio 4’s Today quoted a Buckingham Palace source saying that Harry and Meghan didn’t ask permission from the Queen to use the name Lilibet.
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Omid Scobie, a favorite reporter of Harry and Meghan’s who co-authored Finding Freedom (a revised edition of which, detailing the events of the past year is due out in August), dismissed the report on June 9. He said the Sussexes would not have gone with the name had the Queen objected. But his comments did not clarify whether or not Her Majesty had been told prior to or after the birth. Scobie said: “A Sussex source says that the Queen was the first family member Harry called after Lilibet’s birth and during that conversation, he shared the couple’s hope of naming their daughter in her honor. Had she not been supportive, they would not have used the name.”
Scobie also took a shot at the Palace, saying that “those close to Prince Harry confirm that he spoke to close family before the announcement so perhaps this report highlights just how far removed aides within the institution now are from the Sussexes’ private matters.”
After Scobie’s comments, a source inside the Palace told ITV News they were not denying the BBC report on June 10. Just two hours later, Harry threatened the BBC with legal action. Schillings, the London-based law firm that represents the Sussexes, denied the BBC’s claims, calling the article “false and defamatory.” The BBC revised their report, but the article still states that the Queen was not asked about the name of the baby.
“It’s significant that the Palace would have a leak like that,” a source told Best Life. “This goes to the very heart of what the duke and duchess were angry about when they spoke to Oprah winfrey. If stories about them out there are false, they wanted the Palace’s support in correcting them. Instead, here, we have unnamed source doubling down on the reports.”
On June 9, a California-based spokesperson for the couple 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 honor. Had she not been supportive, they would not have used the name.”
A royal source told Best Life the situation “could pose another significant threat to any kind of reconciliation.” The insider added: “No one in the family is talking. … A royal birth should be a happy time, but this has got to have upset several members of the Royal Family who have grown weary of all this conflict.”