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

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

Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle welcomed their second child on June 4, 2021, and they gave her the name Lilibet Diana, which honors two women close to Prince Harry's heart. While her middle name is a clear nod to Harry's late mother, Princess Diana, the now 1-year-old’s first name pays homage to another beloved person in a more subtle way.

Queen Elizabeth II, who died Sept. 8, had been called Lilibet by her closest family members since childhood. And now, as the world mourns the monarch following the news of her death at age 96, her great-granddaughter will carry on the name that holds such sentimental value.

“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.”

That is, until the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's daughter was born.

Now, the 1-year-old carries on the name of the queen following her death. However, that's not the only similarity the child has with the beloved monarch.

Lili, which is what her parents call her, recently celebrated a special occasion at the same time as her great-grandmother. Earlier this year, as Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee festivities marked her 70 years on the throne, the young royal had her first birthday party (during her first trip 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.”

Since then, Prince Harry has made multiple trips to the U.K. for various reasons, and in April, Prince Harry made a surprise visit to see his the queen while he and the duchess passed through the sovereign state. At the time, he told the BCC that it was "great" to see his grandmother.

In June, the duke and duchess traveled with Lili and their 3-year-old son, Archie, to the U.K. for Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee. While there wasn't official confirmation that Lili got to meet her namesake during her first trip to the U.K., a royal source confirmed that Lili spent time with her grandfather, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in what was an "emotional meeting."