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I hope everyone had a very happy Mother’s Day! It’s expected that the new princess will increase the current trend for baby names inspired by royal traditions, so here are some names for girls from the House of Windsor. I’ve focused particularly on the names of some of the younger royals.
Alexandra is one of the most common girls’ names in the British royal family. It was introduced to it by Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII. A Danish royal, she was extremely popular with the British public, and much admired as a setter of fashion. After her, the name became a favourite to pass down, including to Queen Alexandra’s granddaughter, Lady Alexandra Duff, and her great-granddaughter, Princess Alexandra, the queen’s cousin; Alexandra is one of the queen’s middle names. Alexandra is the feminine form of Alexander, and unlike many other feminisations of masculine names, Alexandra seems to have come first. It was an epithet of the Greek goddess Hera in her role as protector, and can be understood as “she who saves warriors”. St Alexandra was a legendary martyr, and the name is traditional amongst European royalty. Alexandra was #239 in the 1900s, and dropped off the charts in the 1910s and ’20s. Returning in the 1930s, its popularity jumped in the 1950s, and it was Top 100 by the early 1970s. It peaked in 1995 at #14, and is currently #75. A dignified classic with a host of nickname options, including popular Lexi.
Lady Cosima Windsor is the daughter of the Earl of Ulster, and a great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 2010, she is 27th in line to the throne. Cosima is the feminine form of the Cosimo, the Italian form of Greek Cosmas, meaning “order” (related to the British name Cosmo). A famous musical namesake is Cosima Wagner, the daughter of Franz Liszt and wife of Richard Wagner. British socialite Countess Cosima von Bülow Pavoncelli has given the name a very fashionable air, and the name has been chosen for their daughters by celebrities Nigella Lawson, Sofia Coppola, and Claudia Schiffer. You may also remember young actress Cosima Littlewood, who played Adele in the mini-series Jane Eyre, while Australians will be reminded of Cosima De Vito, singer and Australian Idol contestant. Elegant and sophisticated, Cosima is an upper-class choice that works well multiculturally.
Eloise Taylor is the eldest daughter of Lady Helen Taylor, a granddaughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 2003, she is 39th in line to the throne. Eloise is the English form of Éloïse, from the Old French Héloïse. It’s thought to be from the Germanic Helewidis, from name elements meaning “healthy, whole”, and “wood, forest”. The name became famous because of Héloïse, a brilliant medieval scholar and feminist, famous for her scandalous affair and secret marriage to her distinguished teacher, Pierre Abélard, who was castrated in punishment. Their tragic romance has captured people’s imaginations for centuries, and it is a tradition for lovers and the lovelorn to leave letters on their reputed grave in Paris. Eloise entered the charts in the 1970s, making #498. It was the same decade that 8-year-old Eloise Worledge was abducted from her home in Melbourne, with the case still unsolved. Eloise rose steeply in the 1990s, when the song Eloise featured at Eurovision, and joined the Top 100 in 2011. One of the fastest risers of 2013, this pretty, stylish name is currently #71 and still rising. I picked this name to be in the Top 10 by 2028.
Imogen Lascelles is a daughter of Mark Lascelles, and a great-great-granddaughter of George V; born in 1998, she is not in line to the throne as her father was born out of wedlock. Imogen is a name created by William Shakespeare for his romance Cymbeline: in the play, Imogen is a princess of ancient Britain, and a virtuous wife who is falsely accused of infidelity. The name is a variation Innogen, which comes from the Old Irish Ingen, meaning “maiden, daughter”; Innogen was a legendary British queen. Modern scholars consider that the substitution of Imogen for Innogen was a misprint, especially as Shakespeare already used the name Innogen in Much Ado About Nothing, so this would be a rare example of a name created from a printing error. Imogen first entered the charts in the 1970s, debuting at #724 for the decade, perhaps inspired by sexy English pin-up and actress Imogen Hassall. The name Imogen rose steeply during the 1990s, and entered the Top 100 in 2001. Currently Imogen is #34 and stable, and was one of the fastest-rising names in New South Wales for 2013. Chic and British with a superior literary heritage – not too shabby for a “made up” name!
Isla Phillips is the daughter of Mark Phillips, a granddaughter of Princess Anne, and great-granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth; born in 2012, she is 15th in line to the throne. Isla is a Scottish name taken from an archaic spelling of the island of Islay in the Hebrides, which is said IE-luh, not IZ-lay. The island’s name is of unknown origin and meaning. Islay began as a male name in the 18th century, and Isla gradually became seen as a specifically feminine spelling of the name which overtook the male form in the 19th century (Islay is more commonly given to girls now too). Isla first entered in the charts in the 1990s, debuting at #891 for the decade – propelled there by actress Isla Fisher, who was then in popular soap opera Home and Away. The name zoomed up the charts during the 2000s when Fisher became a gossip mag staple as aspiring Hollywood actress and partner of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Isla entered the Top 100 in 2008 at #74 and is currently #13 and rising. I picked this name to be in the Top 5 by 2028.
Ophelia is one of the middle names of Lady Gabriella Windsor, a writer known professionally as Ella Windsor. She is the sister of Lord Frederick Windsor, who has been featured on the blog as a royal dad. Lady Gabriella is the daughter of Prince Michael of Kent, and a great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 1981, she is 45th in line to the throne. Ophelia is well known as the title character’s tragic love interest in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Shakespeare did not create the name, but took it from the Italian form Ofelia in Jacopo Sannazaro’s 1504 pastoral romance, Arcadia – Sannazaro was a huge influence on 16th century literature. The name Ophelia looks to be taken from the ancient Greek ophelus, meaning “help”, to suggest “assistant”. Sannazaro may have invented the name, but there are examples of men in ancient Greece with male forms of the name, such as Ophelion, so it seems plausible that the ancient Greeks could have used Ophelia as a female name. Beautiful and elaborate, Ophelia is rising in the UK, and this seems like a very hip alternative to popular Olivia.
Senna Lewis is the daughter of Lady Davina Lewis; she has received quite a bit of press in the Antipodes, because her father is a New Zealander, the first Maori to marry into the British royal family. Senna is a granddaughter of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and a great-great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 2010, she is 29th in line to the throne. Senna can be a variant of the Arabic name Sana, meaning “brilliance, radiance, splendour”; it is one of the five daily prayers in Islam. It can also be a nature name after the flowering senna plants, whose name has the same Arabic source and meaning. There are numerous varieties of senna, some of which are grown as ornamental trees and shrubs, but widely familiar as a herbal laxative. The name Senna was used for a minor character in the Twilight series, sparking recent interest in the name, but the name had been used several times previously in science-fiction and fantasy. It’s also associated with the Brazilian Formula 1 champion, Ayrton Senna, often considered the best of all time. Similar to popular Sienna, this unusual botanical name has potential.
Sophia is one of the middle names of Lady Amelia Windsor, a daughter of George Windsor, granddaughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and great-great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 1995, she is 36th in line to the throne. Sophia of Hanover was the heiress to the throne of Great Britain, and mother of King George I, and only her descendants can be in the line of succession. It was a very popular name amongst Hanoverian royalty. Sophia is from the Greek for “wisdom”, a cardinal virtue of Greek philosophy that was taken up by Christian theologians, who have seen Holy Wisdom as a divine energy, and in Orthodox Christianity especially, the second person in the Trinity. In Christian legend, St Sophia was a martyr who had daughters named Faith, Hope, and Love – personifications of the chief Christian virtues. Sophia was #181 in the 1900s, and dropped off the charts in the 1930s and ’40s. It came back in the 1950s, the same decade Sophia Loren became an international film star, at #414. It charged up the charts in the 1980s and joined the Top 100 in 1997. Currently it is #16 and rising; when combined with the variant Sofia (climbing faster than Sophia), it is in the Top Ten at #7. Lovely and gracious with a wonderful meaning and history, expect Sophia to keep climbing.
Tanit Lascelles is a daughter of James Lascelles, and a great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 1981, she is not in the line of succession because she was born out of wedlock. Tanit is the name of a Punic and Phoenician goddess who was the chief deity of ancient Carthage, the equivalent of the goddess Astarte. She was a goddess of the sun, moon and stars, a goddess of war and civic protector, a mother goddess, patron of sailors, good luck figure, and fertility symbol. The meaning of her name is disputed – one theory is that it comes from the word for lament, and should be translated as “she who weeps”, perhaps to indicate that she mourns for a dying god, such as Adonis. Others translate her name as “serpent lady”, linking her with Tannin, the dragon-like sea monster of Near Eastern mythology (sometimes called Leviathan), and believe her name is one of the titles of Asherah, from the Bible. Pronounced TAN-it, this is an exotic and unusual name that fits in with Australian name trends.
Zenouska Mowatt is the daughter of Marina Ogilvy, a granddaughter of Princess Alexandra, and great-great-granddaughter of King George V. Born in 1990, she works for a luxury gifts company, and is 52nd in line to the throne. Zenouska is a name her parents created from putting sounds together – she uses Zen as a nickname, and it seems plausible that the inspiration was the Buddhist school of Zen. However, it sounds like a genuine Russian nickname, in the style of Anouska, and seems very suitable for someone of Russian heritage. Zenouska Mowatt is a great-granddaughter of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, who was a granddaughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. It just shows that a “made up” name can sometimes work very well.
(Picture shows Lady Amelia Sophia Theodora Mary Margaret Windsor, who made her début into society in Paris, 2013; photo from Le Journal des Femmes)