How Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Lilibet Baby Name Led to Knife-Edge Legal Standoff

Prince Harry must decide whether to sue the BBC over a story from a "palace source" about the name of his baby daughter Lilibet.

The Duke of Sussex was dragged into a transatlantic briefing war yesterday over what he had told Queen Elizabeth II about his plan to borrow her childhood nickname for his second child.

Even as Harry and Meghan entered day six with their newborn daughter, the couple's lawyers were called on to send a letter to U.K. newspapers warning them not to repeat the BBC's allegations.

The Schillings warning letter described the BBC's coverage as "false and defamatory" but the broadcaster did not remove the references in its online story.

Jonny Dymond, the BBC's royal correspondent, quoted a palace source saying the couple had "never asked" the queen's permission to use her nickname.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Harry
Elizabeth II delivers the Queen's Speech during the state opening of parliament on May 11. Her grandson Prince Harry on stage during the taping of the "Vax Live" fundraising concert in Inglewood, California, on May 2. CHRIS JACKSON/GETTY IMAGES AND VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

The couple issued a strongly worded rebuttal, with their spokesperson saying Harry had told his grandmother they hoped to name their daughter Lilibet and would not have gone ahead if the queen had not been supportive.

However, if the couple now follow through by suing the BBC, they risk dragging Elizabeth and Buckingham Palace into the stand-off.

Amber Melville-Brown, of international law firm Withers, told Newsweek: "Harry and Meghan's complaint to the BBC is one of the shortest complaint letters I've seen.

"It might as well have read 'Dear Sirs, Re your article about the Lilibet name—no! Yours faithfully.'

"The two-sentence letter refers to the headline of the offending article and then asserts that the article is false and defamatory and the allegations within it should not be repeated.

"But in defamation matters, the devil is in the detail. It is usual when setting out the words about which one is complaining also to say what you allege those words actually mean to the reader, and why they are false and defamatory."

She added: "The article of complaint currently remains online. Whether yet another foray into the legal fray awaits for the new parents, and this newly litigious couple, or whether they feel they have done enough by making their point with the BBC, and with the rest of the world via the reports of the complaint, remains to be seen."

Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, who will be known as "Lili", was born at 11.40 a.m. on Friday in Santa Barbara. The duke and duchess had two quiet days with the baby and her older brother Archie before announcing her birth on Sunday.

Less than an hour later, Daily Telegraph columnist Julie Burchill was accused of racism for tweeting that the couple should have named the baby "Georgina Floydina." She later told her Facebook followers she had been fired for the comment, although the Telegraph disputes this.

On Monday, an article appeared in The Times of London that read: "It is understood that the Queen was informed by the duke that her 11th great-grandchild would be named after her."

The Times report was mentioned in the BBC's coverage as a possible trigger for the palace source's intervention.

The BBC article led Harry and Meghan's spokesperson to go on the record, telling Newsweek: "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."

The BBC subsequently added this statement to its story but did not remove the claims from the palace source.

Ingrid Seward, author of Prince Philip Revealed, said: "It seems to me it's a slight juxtaposition of words here. Obviously Harry rang the queen and obviously he told her, but whether or not he asked her I don't think we're ever going to know."

She added: "I think Harry just has to calm down now. I think he's involving his grandmother too much.

"I think he just has to say OK, fine, we've got the correction. I don't like the BBC anyway so anything they're going to do is going to be wrong.

"Let's just leave it at that because the more they fuss and fret the worse it's going to get. That would be fine if it was just them, but it involves the queen as well. The palace would have advised them not to pursue this one.

"I don't think they will sue. I think it must make their lives a complete misery to have all these litigations. It's really nasty to have a lot of litigations flying around.

"I don't think this would have been authorised by the queen."

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts