When Princess Charlotte is christened later today, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will baptise her with water from the River Jordan. The same water was also used at the christening of Charlotte’s brother, George, two years ago.
The spiritual significance of the River stems from the fact that the tribes of Israel under Joshua crossed the river to enter the Promised Land after years of wandering in the desert.
This is also where Jesus was baptised by Saint John, a preacher who wore a cloak of camel hair, lived on locusts and honey, and developed the practice of immersing people in the river to show they had repented of their sins and turned to God for forgiveness.
Nowadays nearly half-a-million annual visitors, mostly Christian pilgrims, flock to rival baptism sites on opposite banks of the river a few miles north of the Dead Sea – one side is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the other in Jordan.
Kensington Palace would not say how water from the river was obtained for Princess Charlotte’s christening, but a Jordanian official told the BBC that it had been sent by his country’s royal court.
“We organise the process of bottling holy water from the River Jordan,” says Dia Madani, head of Jordan’s baptism site commission.
“We provide it to investors after cleaning it, sterilising it and giving it the blessings of religious men. Each bottle has a label from the commission.”