The eyes of the world were on St James’ Palace yesterday, 23rd October, for the christening of Prince George of Cambridge, first son to William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Well-wishers lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the future King and his family, and the guests, protocol and outfits of the day all featured strongly in the global media’s coverage of the event. As did our very own Chief Engraver, Gordon Summers, who spoke to journalists and fans outside the gates of St James’ Palace, proudly displaying our gold kilo coin, the first of its kind to celebrate a royal christening
But behind all the media attention, public thronging, formal regalia and impressive gold coins lay a very traditional ceremony that is shared by thousands of babies every day in the United Kingdom.
Estimates indicate that roughly 12% of all babies born in the UK are christened these days, compared with nearly 70% back in the 1930s. So while the tradition may seem to be in decline, there are still roughly 10,000 christenings every year in the UK alone. The majority are obviously infant christenings, but there is no upper age limit; did you know that according to the Guinness Book of Records the oldest person ever christened was Clarence Raymond Kannheiser, who was 97 years of age when he was christened in 2009 at St. Patrick Church, Rochelle, Illinois, USA?
Of course, Prince George’s journey in life and with the church will be different to other babies (or adults!) christened in 2013.
He alone was christened in the Lily Font that so inspired John Bergdahl’s design for the 2013 UK Christening coin, and as our future head of state he is likely to one day assume a senior role in the church itself, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
But there is some shared ground to be found between Prince George and his fellow newborns.
Like all other babies christened this year, his parents have chosen godparents for him, specially selected from their family and circle of friends and given responsibility for his spiritual and ethical upbringing. And like all the other godparents, aunties, uncles, grandparents and family friends who attend a christening, they will surely have had one question in common; what to buy as the perfect gift?
Christening gifts range from the traditional to the modern, from those with a lasting legacy such as savings accounts or items made of silver, to the more temporarily useful such as nappies, blankets, clothing or toys.
Silver gifts have traditionally played a role in christenings based on the fact they have a lasting value and quality, and are seen to be part of setting up a ‘nest egg’ for the child’s future.
And of course here at The Royal Mint we are particularly keen on silver coins as the perfect gift, because they have the added benefit of being year-dated, creating an everlasting memento of the year of a baby’s birth.
You can read more about the christening coin gifts available from The Royal Mint in a blog post we wrote earlier this year.
There is another strong link between Prince George and babies born on the same date, 22nd July 2013. We recently offered to gift a 2013 Lucky Silver Penny to those babies born in the UK on the same day as Prince George. New parents had to apply via our facebook page and provide an image of the baby’s birth certificate to prove the child was born on the correct day.
There are approximately 2,000 babies born every day in the UK, and we received a staggering 1,762 successful applications. They have now all been sent their silver pennies, meaning they have an everlasting, 2013-dated keepsake of their birthdate and the unique story of that day. So, 90% of all the babies born in the UK that day will forever have something in common with Prince George; their very own coin presentation, specially created to mark their birth.
Proof indeed that a silver coin to a newborn is a traditional christening gift fit for every little prince or princess, the ideal year-dated and everlasting memento of a birth or christening.