Palace frustration over Lilibet name choice is part of wider annoyance over Sussexes’ departure

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Meghan - John Stillwell/Reuters
Meghan - John Stillwell/Reuters

Amid the briefing war that has broken out between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Buckingham Palace and the BBC, what the Queen actually thinks about Harry and Meghan naming their newborn daughter Lilibet has become rather a secondary issue.

The palace’s refusal to deny BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond’s report that Her Majesty was "never asked" her opinion on the couple’s decision to name the baby after her childhood nickname speaks volumes about the ongoing disconnect between the institution and the Sussexes’ stateside operation.

Royal aides have become increasingly vexed by Harry and Meghan’s representatives - both official and self-appointed - claiming to speak for the 95-year-old monarch when they are in no position to do so.

Claiming the couple would not have called their second child Lilibet without the Queen’s backing, their LA-based "global press secretary" Toya Holness told The Telegraph: "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."

Yet despite the Sussexes' lawyers, Schillings, accusing the BBC of defamation, the statement does not contradict the thrust of Mr Dymond’s report that the Queen was told, rather than asked, about the baby’s name.

The suggestion that she might have voiced disapproval when presented with the news of the arrival of her eleventh great-grandchild has understandably raised eyebrows behind palace gates.

Not only is the great-grandmother renowned for her tendency to avoid conflict, but there is also the small matter of her actively trying to bridge the gap between the monarchy and its former "much loved" members.

As such, the general consensus appears to be that while she probably would have felt "uncomfortable" about the royal couple appropriating her late husband’s pet name for her - after everything that has happened since Harry and Meghan dropped their Megxit bombshell in January 2020 - she would hardly have been minded to rock the boat.

Courtiers also appear to be increasingly concerned that the self-exiled royal couple keep attempting to draw a distinction between the Queen and the institution she represents.

Harry and Meghan have been noticeably careful to heap praise on the sovereign, as she prepares for her Platinum Jubilee next year, while voicing criticism of "The Firm" in general.

Yet as the head of the Royal family, not to mention the Commonwealth, insiders have long argued the Queen and the monarchy are one and the same thing.

Royal aides were similarly frustrated when Harry "blamed the staff" for blocking meetings with his grandmother and father in the run up to their departure, pointing out that "that is what courtiers are paid to do".

As one put it at the time: "It’s all very well blaming the staff when you haven’t got what you want. They are working for the boss, first and foremost."

Equally problematic are the couple’s frequent public references to "conversations" with the Queen, which would ordinarily remain private.

From confiding in James Corden that "granny" bought Archie, their two-year-old son, a waffle maker for Christmas, to the revelation they "spoke to the Queen to express their sympathies" in the wake of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death in April, there is a sense of cynicism around the couple repeatedly name-checking the monarch amid briefings that calls with other members of the Royal family have been "unproductive".

This perhaps explains why sources close to the Prince of Wales have been so keen to brief this week that he is in "regular contact" with his son - in the absence of such information emanating from across the pond.

Curiously, the Sussexes tend to shy away from discussing private exchanges - unless they involve HM. It is therefore understandable that the palace may be minded to intervene when, to coin a phrase, "recollections may differ".