LONDON (CNN) – Prince George, the infant son of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will be christened Wednesday in an untraditionally small ceremony at St. James’s Palace.
Only close friends and family will attend the event at the Chapel Royal. It’s a distinct break from the larger ceremonies that his father and grandfather enjoyed at Buckingham Palace.
Being baptized into the church is more significant for George than for most people. He is in line to become king, which would also make him the supreme governor of the Church of England.
Among the guests who will witness the occasion are his great-grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, as well as Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry.
Catherine’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, and siblings, James and Pippa Middleton, will also be present.
Guests gathered for the ceremony, to be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, from 2:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. CT).
The royal baby will have seven godparents, among them Prince William’s cousin Zara Tindall, daughter of Princess Anne, and close friends of the couple.
They include Oliver Baker, who got to know William and Catherine at St. Andrew’s University, Emilia Jardine-Paterson, who went to school with Catherine, and William van Cutsem, a childhood friend of William.
The other godparents are Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a former private secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry; Julia Samuel, who was a good friend of William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales; and Earl Grosvenor, son of the Duke of Westminster.
Prince George will wear a lace and white satin christening gown that is a replica of a gown made in 1841 for the christening of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, according to Kensington Palace.
The replica was brought into use in 2008 to help preserve the 170-year-old original, used until then for every royal christening, including those of Prince William and his father, Charles.
The venue for the christening also has a special significance for Prince William. The body of his mother, Diana, rested in the Chapel Royal for five days before her funeral in 1997.
After the service, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will give a private tea at Clarence House. The guests will be served slices of christening cake, which is a tier taken from William and Catherine’s 2011 wedding cake.
‘What a gift’
In a short video posted on his website, Welby spoke of the significance of the baby prince’s baptism, which will see him “join the family of the church,” numbering almost 2 billion people around the world.
Welby said any christening was a moment for the parents to celebrate the birth of their child, royal or not.
“All babies are unbelievably special, not only royal babies,” he said.
But Prince George’s christening does carry an extra significance, he said.
“As a nation we are celebrating the birth of someone who in due course will be the head of state. That’s extraordinary. It gives you this sense of forward looking, of the forwardness of history as well as the backwardness of history, and what a gift to have this new life and to look forward.”
As with any other infant’s baptism, Welby will mark the prince with the sign of the cross on his forehead and splash water on his head.
The silver font to be used for George’s baptism has been used for every royal christening since 1841 and will be filled with water from the River Jordan.
The 3-month-old boy has already made history. He’s the first royal baby to be honored with a christening coin from the Royal Mint.
The design of the coins, produced by the Royal Mint in a range of sizes and materials, has been approved by his parents and the Queen, the Royal Mint said.
The public can buy the keepsakes, which start at 13 pounds ($21) for the simplest type but rise to a whopping 50,000 pounds ($80,000) for a version containing a kilogram of gold.