Royal Baby Names: A Primer

Yes, I’m that person.

I have a longstanding fascination with the British Royal Family; I think it’s amazing that such an anachronistic institution like monarchy has managed to survive into the 21st century, and particularly after the Charles/Diana/Fergie scandals of the eighties and nineties. For what it’s worth, I really think the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are well-situated to carry the monarchy even further, and I’m always interested to see what they’re up to. Go ahead and judge me. (Go ahead, really, I don’t care).

So obviously any day now Kate’s going to pop out a right royal fetus, the future monarch of at least the U.K. if not Australia and Canada and the other dominions (who have to varying degrees expressed a desire to move to a fully republican government after QEII dies). I am very curious to see what they choose to name this child. One of the things I love about the monarchy, and one of the reasons I think it “works” (for Britain, I mean) is its relationship with history. The monarch is a living symbol, a sort of embodiment of the national history. As such, future monarchs don’t get named lightly, and they don’t get names like Blue Ivy, Harper, Seraphina, or North West. I would love to know if the Queen has made a suggestion or two, or if she’s been totally hands-off; I would guess that she probably trusts Will and Kate to make a good decision.

WIth all that in mind, what does one name a royal baby? It’s not like naming a regular baby. For one thing, this kid is going to have a lot of names – at least three, probably four. Elizabeth’s full name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. Prince Charles is Charles Phillip Arthur George. William’s is William Arthur Phillip Louis. 

So you want an appropriate mix of historical gravitas, family connection, and originality. You want to make some nods to former monarchs, you want to make some nods to important relatives, and you want the kid to have a name that won’t make it a laughingstock at the prestigious boarding school it will inevitably attend. 

The other thing to note is that a monarch does not have to go by his or her given name when he or she assumes the crown. British monarchs get to pick their reigning names. Elizabeth went with her own (and why not?) but her father Albert chose George for the sake of continuity (his father was George V). His older brother, the never-crowned Edward VIII, was known in the family as David. So if Will and Kate decide to name their child Henry after Prince Harry, that doesn’t mean that we’re looking at Henry IX.

So, here’s my list of guesses.

BOYS

George: I read that this is the top bet right now, and for good reason. Queen Elizabeth adored her father, who was King George VI. His given name was actually Albert, and he was known in the family as Bertie. But since “Prince Albert” has different connotations now than it did back then, I seriously doubt Albert will be in the running, at least not for the first name. George, on the other hand, would be a great tribute to the King who stood stalwart in World War II, would probably make Elizabeth very happy, and there’s no one in the current immediate family with that name. 

Phillip: Another likely choice, if not for the first name, than almost certainly one of the others. Prince Phillip is William’s grandfather, Phillip is in his name and Charles’ name, and since the guy is 92, he may not be around much longer. I think this would also make the Queen quite happy. The downside: if it’s a first name, there would be two Prince Phillips running around, perhaps both of them in diapers at the same time.

Peter: Kate’s grandfather, who passed away in November of 2011 and was an RAF fighter pilot during World War II. It wouldn’t be surprising if she chose to pay tribute to him by naming her child after him. On the other hand, Princess Anne’s son is also named Peter, so I’m thinking this is more likely to be used as a middle name.

Michael: Kate’s father, it’s a good name, but again, more likely to be used as a middle name, I think, because of Prince Michael of Kent (a cousin of the Queen’s).

Edward: This is a perennial royal name, but I would be very surprised indeed if they chose this one. For one thing, the last king named Edward abdicated, which is still a traumatic memory for the Queen and to some extent for the nation. Also, there’s currently another Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, who has been sort of the family laughingstock since the Charles/Diana drama died down. For similar reasons, I doubt we’ll see Andrew, the name of the current Duke of York.

James: I think this one is a strong possibility. It’s a nice male name, no one in the family is currently using it, and Kate’s brother is also named James. It also has a Scottish association, since James VI & I, who inherited the throne after Elizabeth I died childless, was a Scottish king; Will & Kate might choose a Scottish name, since they met in Scotland. However, I have read that there are negative connotations to “King James” in the collective British mind; still, I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to go with it.

Richard: Works, I guess, but let’s be real, kind of blah, isn’t it? I would also put Louis, Albert, Frederick, Alfred, and John in this category. All of these names have a history within the royal family and are not currently in use, but I just don’t expect to see them. They’re either too old-fashioned, bring dick piercings to mind, or lack particular family resonance. I’d be surprised to see any of them. David would be a good name, but again, there’s an association with Edward VIII; as long as Elizabeth is still alive, it might be “too soon.”

Henry: Will and Kate might just do this. Will and his brother are very close, and “Prince Henry” has a nice ring to it. The last British king named Henry was of course the one that killed some of his wives and broke with the church and then got very very fat, but it’s been awhile. I think it would work. 

Charles: I think Charles will probably be one of the middle names, but I doubt the first name. Charles isn’t a real popular guy, for one, it might get confusing, for two, and lots of people were very surprised when Elizabeth chose to name her son Charles, since the last king named Charles before him was the one who got his head lopped off by the citizenry.

Wild Cards: Alexander, Nicholas, Mark, ?? The other option is that Will and Kate could totally break with tradition and name the baby something not within the family at all. It seems like the kind of thing Will would do. But not very many names carry the dignity of “Prince” well, so I think they probably have limited options. 

THE GIRLS

Diana: Let’s get this one right out of the way: I seriously, seriously doubt they would name their daughter Diana. I think they might use it as a middle name, but frankly, that name has so much public resonance that I doubt they would want their daughter to deal with it. It would be less a tribute and more of a burden for the kid.

Frances: Diana’s middle name, this is a possibility, but it’s kind of a fusty old name. Then again, the Duke of York’s daughters are Beatrice and Eugenie, so fustiness hasn’t stopped the family before.

Elizabeth: 100% certain that this name will be in the mix if they have a girl. Honors the current queen (who is awesome), honors the Queen Mother, who was a beloved national figure without the taint of scandal that surrounded Diana, and it’s the Kate’s middle name. Not much of a downside that I can see.

Victoria, Alexandra, Mary, Charlotte, Caroline, Adelaide: These are all contenders, I think; either Charlotte or Alexandra are top of the betting lists in England right now. All names of past Queens (though not all of sovereign monarchs), they have various pros and cons. Victoria carries certain associations with colonialism, and there’s also a Princess Victoria set to inherit the Swedish throne in the future. Mary was the current Queen’s grandmother, but the last sovereign Mary was Mary I, the ill-fated Tudor, or the Scottish Mary that Elizabeth I beheaded. Alexandra is one of Queen Elizabeth’s names. Charlotte is pretty, but the last Queen Charlotte was in a very unhappy marriage with a Hanoverian king, if I have my history correct. Adelaide is sort of neutral, but also old-fashioned. Caroline might invite comparisons to the current Princess Caroline of Monaco.

Anne: I would bet against it. There’s a Princess Anne in the family currently, and Anne is kind of a dull name, relatively speaking. I feel similarly about Louise, plus Edward & Sophie’s kid is already named Louise. 

Margaret: Too many associations with the sad life of the Queen’s sister. Rose, Princess Margaret’s middle name, might be a softer tribute for a middle name, though.

Amelia, Alice: Amelia was a popular Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family name, but no one’s used it in awhile, so it has that going for it. Never the name of a Queen, though. Alice is also an older family name, and the name of Prince Phillip’s mother. 

Catherine, Phillipa: Mmmmm…..I doubt it.

Wild Cards: Sophia,  Eleanor, Georgiana, Isobel, Julia, Johanna….the list of possible princess names is longer than prince names, I think. Wouldn’t be shocked if, again, Will and Kate decide to choose a name no one in the family holds or has held and then stocks up history in the middle names. 

Matilda: This would be my favorite jumpy-clap name because the first woman to rule in England was Queen Matilda, and I think it’s a great name. Not likely, though.

At any rate, for those of my readers who are not as familiar with the oddness of the monarchy, I hope this has been an interesting look into the politics of naming a future British monarch. I’m a geek for doing this, but what can I say? I can’t wait. 

 

 

 

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