When I heard the name of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s newest addition to their family, like most White British people, I fell all the way out.
Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor.
I was giddy. In contrast, many White Britons were seething and considered it audacious of the duke and duchess of Sussex to name their daughter after Prince Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana, and his grandmother, Her Majesty the Queen.
This is in part based on British White supremacy and its byproduct of anti-Black racism. In the U.K., it manifests itself in the idea that baby Lilibet’s Black heritage delegitimizes her ancestral rights to claim to any part of her royal identity. This includes her bearing the names of her grandmother and great-grandmother.
This rebuke of Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor does not change the facts. She is the queen’s 11th great-grandchild and younger sister to Archie, the duke and duchess of Sussex’s first child, who is now two years old.
The name Lilibet is the queen’s nickname. It was how the then-Princess Elizabeth used to say her name when she was a toddler and couldn’t pronounce it properly. Lilibet became what her grandfather, King George V, would affectionately call her. “Lilibet is my pride. Margaret is my joy,” the king was quoted as saying.
The name came to be used by close relatives, including the queen’s late husband, the duke of Edinburgh, and she signed her name as Lilibet on the funeral wreath for one of her closest friends, Earl Mountbatten.
Baby Lilibet’s cousin Princess Charlotte, the daughter of Prince William (Prince Harry’s elder brother) also has Diana and Elizabeth as her middle names. There was no inimical furor when she was named after her grandmother, great-grandmother, and Queen Charlotte, the first Black/Biracial member of the royal family.
The only difference here is that Baby Lilibet is actually Black/biracial. This reality challenges British society’s social and political need to normalize White supremacy and therefore makes it impossible for many to accept.
In this tweet, Julie Burchill used the memory of George Floyd, a Black man, whose murder by a White police officer sparked a global outcry to mock baby Lilibet’s Black American heritage.
In referring to the newborn as “it,” Burchill also attempted to rob baby Lilibet of her humanity and personhood. This is the basis on which the enslavement of Africans was justified in Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas for almost 400 years.
This remark was also a racist backlash against comments Markle made a year ago declaring “George Floyd’s life mattered” in a speech to graduating students of her former school, Immaculate Heart.
It was followed by another racist tweet by a lawyer who has since been suspended from the law firm where she worked. Joanna Toch succeeded in trolling Doria (Markle’s mother), Lilibet’s grandmother, African American naming conventions, and the Black Lives Matter movement. She has since apologized, claiming her remarks were “a joke” and saying that she “has children of color.”
The anti-Black racism directed against the Sussex children is, sadly, not new. When Lilbet’s elder brother, Archie, was born, the BBC fired one of its journalists for likening him to a chimpanzee.
These formalized racist attacks against baby Lilibet and Archie are indicative of the sanctions all Black, mixed, and other people of color face when they challenge White supremacy, but there is another societal ill at play. Britain’s class system, which is so deeply ingrained in our psyche, is contributing to the irrational rage among some White people.
You see, our class system teaches us that people who are higher up the social strata are “our betters.” As such, these people are more important than us and are therefore deserving of more respect. Those people are usually White, not Black/biracial or American.
British sociologist Richard Hoggart wrote, “Class distinctions do not die; they merely learn new ways of expressing themselves.” Markle’s royal positioning and that of her children painfully challenge class hierarchies by forcing White people to accept that a Black/biracial American woman and her Black/Biracial royal children are their “betters.”
These angry White Brits are just going to have to suck it up. Baby Lilibet is in a class of her own. She carries the name and blood of the longest-reigning British monarch in history and the most beloved royal princess to have ever lived. Lilibet has a whole world of support ahead of her and the love of parents who have been forced to accept they do not need Britain or its approval.