LONDON (Reuters) - After arriving to a global media frenzy, Britain’s Prince George will make his second official appearance this week at a christening designed to be as low-key as possible for the world’s most-hyped baby.
Prince George, third-in-line to the British throne, will be christened on October 23 in a private, 45-minute ceremony in the Chapel Royal at St James’ Palace by the spiritual leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
George will become the formal head of the Church of England himself if he accedes to the throne.
Few were surprised by Prince William and his wife Kate’s decision to break with tradition and not hold the service in Buckingham Palace as is typical for royal christenings.
The royal couple, known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge since their 2011 wedding, have made it clear they are not sticklers for tradition and their informality has helped portray a more modern, relevant royal family in austerity-hit Britain.
So far the only official photographs of Prince George are family snapshots taken by Kate’s father Michael Middleton.
The christening will be the first time in over 100 years that four generations of royals are photographed together, with a picture of Queen Elizabeth, her son and heir Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George to be released after the event.
Although the christening will be held behind closed doors, tourists and well-wishers have already flocked to the 16th century St James’ Palace built by Henry VIII in central London.
“In the States, the royals fascinate people, especially William and Kate who are young and approachable,” said Sean Tyrrell, 44, a policeman from Manteca, California, outside the palace gate flanked by guards in red tunics and bearskin hats.
German students Julia Magrian and Anne Krause, both aged 17, said they would be following the christening closely, keen to see what Kate wears. The “Kate-effect” is well-known, with anything the duchess wears prompting a sales rush.
“We like Kate because she is a link between royalty and the common people and she has great style,” said Magrian.
Royal officials have released few details before the christening, allowing only one photographer and one TV crew inside the palace - unlike Prince George’s birth when an army of cameramen camped outside St. Mary’s Hospital for three weeks.
Millions of people around the world watched live coverage of the duke and duchess, both aged 31, leave the hospital with their sleeping son, the only public sighting of George to date.
His birth on July 22, along with a run of sporting success for Britain during an unusually good summer, was credited with boosting consumer spending in July and bolstering the popularity of Britain’s royal family at home and abroad.
William and his party-loving brother Harry have been at the forefront of the modernisation of the monarchy whose popularity suffered after the 1997 death of their mother Princess Diana.
British media have speculated on the guest list and whether Prince George will wear a replica of the gown used by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter in 1841 and worn by many royals since.
Bookmaker William Hill expected Prince William and Kate to opt for friends as the godparents for their first child and skip the royal tradition of choosing family or other royals.
Shopkeepers said the christening was unlikely to boost sales since little was available in terms of baby memorabilia.
“There’s always demand for anything royal but licensing rules mean we’re very limited in what we can provide,” said Younes Nokra of the Crest of London store in Leicester Square.
Despite the christening being held behind locked gates, royal fans were still planning to descend on St. James’ Palace to soak up the atmosphere and look out for Prince George.
“He will have a lovely christening dress on and I want to see him with his eyes open,” Margaret Tyler, a royal enthusiast and memorabilia collector, told Reuters.
Additional reporting by Hugo Hodge and Georgina Cooper, Editing by xxxxx