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Why 'Lilibet' is such an intimate nickname for the queen

The name that Harry and Meghan chose for their newborn daughter holds very special significance, according to royals experts.
/ Source: TODAY

The birth of Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle's second child, a daughter named Lilibet “Lili” Diana, is making headlines around the world, particularly in the way that the newborn's name honors two women close to the Duke of Sussex's heart.

Her middle name is of course a tribute to Harry's late mother, Princess Diana. The first name, Lilibet, however, may be less obvious to the average royal watcher; it pays homage to the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who has been called Lilibet by her closest family members since childhood.

“This is a very, very personal nickname,” NBC News royals commentator and journalist Daisy McAndrew said on TODAY Monday. “‘Lilibet’ became the queen's nickname when the queen was a toddler herself and couldn't pronounce Elizabeth. ... In a way, it’s not a real name at all, and it is totally synonymous with the queen.”

Roya Nikkhah, the royal editor at the UK's Sunday Times, agreed, telling the 3rd hour of TODAY hosts the name “is very significant.”

“Most of us royal watchers over here were expecting, once we knew it was a girl, that Elizabeth and Diana would be in there somewhere,” she said. “But ‘Lilibet’ has that particular resonance because it is the name the queen was given as a young princess. ... It's very personal. It's very intimate.”

McAndrews also pointed out that, when Elizabeth left a handwritten note on the casket of her late husband, Prince Philip, at his funeral in April, she appeared to sign it from “Lilibet.”

“Throughout her life, she was called Lilibet by her parents and grandparents, and of course by her late husband,” NBC News British historian Andrew Roberts also said during a discussion Monday with NBC's Molly Hunter. “She enshrined that, really, when she signed herself ‘Lilibet’ on the card that was placed on Prince Philip’s coffin.”

The queen left a note reportedly signed “Lilibet” on the coffin of her late husband, Prince Philip.

Though the moniker was mostly used privately, it occasionally trickled out into the public space. “The Crown,” the scripted Netflix series based the queen life's, has used it in dialogue. Author Sally Bedell Smith references the name several times in the 2012 biography “Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch,” as well.

Also, in 2016, the royal family’s official Twitter account shared a photo of a letter written by a young Princess Elizabeth to her grandmother, Queen Mary, which she signed “Lilibet.”

In naming their daughter after the sovereign, many wonder if Harry and Meghan are trying to make peace with the British royals. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spoke candidly about Harry's family during their televised interview with Oprah Winfrey in March, making claims of racism, jealousy and more.

Nikkhah addressed this on TODAY, saying that though she believes it's going to take more to “heal the rift,” the gesture is hopefully a start.

“A lot of people here are interpreting it as an olive branch from Harry and Meghan to the queen,” she said, “to show everyone that that bond is still very strong in spite of a very turbulent year we've had in the royal family.”