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

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

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex welcomed their second child into the world back in 2021, they gave her a name that honors two women close to Prince Harry's heart — Lilibet Diana.

Her middle name is, of course, a tribute to Harry's late mother, Princess Diana. But the now 1-year-old’s first name pays homage to another beloved namesake in a less obvious way.

Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, 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 revealed during a visit to TODAY. “‘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.”

At least it was.

Harry and the former Meghan Markle’s daughter is also known by name now, and that isn’t the only thing she shares with the beloved monarch.

Lili, as the toddler is called by her parents, recently shared an occasion to celebrate with her great-grandmother, too. Last week, as the queen was honored with continued Platinum Jubilee festivities marking her 70 years on the throne, the young royal had her first birthday party (during her very first visit to Britain).

It was shortly after Lili's birth that Roya Nikkhah, the royal editor at the UK's Sunday Times, spoke to the 3rd hour of TODAY co-hosts about the significance of the name she'd been handed down.

“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 of 2021, 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 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.
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 on 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 wondered if Harry and Meghan are trying to make peace with the British royals. The duke and duchess spoke candidly about Harry's family during their televised interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, making claims of racism, jealousy and more.

Nikkhah addressed this on TODAY at the time, saying that though she believed it would take more to “heal the rift,” the gesture was 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.”