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The birth of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana has many people wondering if Charlotte can get to #1 – it would be an easy feat in Australia, as its just been deposed by Olivia, and could regain its throne by going up just one spot in the rankings. It feels as if I am already seeing more Charlottes in birth notices, so who knows!
The princess’ name also invites the question of whether her middle name, Diana, may become more popular as either a first or a middle name. It is well known that the name Diana honours Princess Charlotte’s grandmother, Diana, Princess of Wales – Lady Diana Spencer before her marriage, and dubbed “Lady Di” by the press.
Famous for her beauty and charisma, Diana gained respect for her charity work, and sympathy for her unhappy marriage and divorce. Her life, lived under intense scrutiny, ended shockingly in a car crash, leading to an outpouring of public grief. Years later, her memory is still fresh, and she continues to be a subject of fascination for the media.
Diana’s name is a traditional one in the Spencer family, and she was named after a distant 18th century ancestor, who was also Lady Diana Spencer. Tall, fair, charismatic, and attractive, this earlier Lady Diana had been hoped to marry the Prince of Wales, Frederick, the son of King George II. These plans came to naught, and she married a future Duke of Bedford instead.
The parallels between these two namesakes are striking: both grew up at the stately home of Althorp, both socialised with the royal family, both were intended brides of a Prince of Wales, and both unexpectedly died young – the earlier Lady Diana of TB at 25.
Another Lady Diana Spencer born in the 18th century was known as Lady Di, and a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte. A talented artist, she was most famous for the unhappiness of her first marriage, which was marked by infidelity, and ended in divorce. Days later, she married again, to a celebrated wit who was a great-grandson of King Charles II. It was out of the frying pan and into the fire, as her second husband was evil-tempered, a drug fiend, and extremely filthy in his habits. He died begging her pardon for the life of misery he had given her.
While Princess Charlotte’s first two names connect her equally to her royal and commoner families, her third name is a link to her famous grandmother, not just a style icon and People’s Princess, but a beloved mother still deeply missed by her sons. It’s also a connection to her aristocratic Spencer line. Diana has already been used as a middle name twice to honour Diana, Princess of Wales – for Princess Charlotte, and for Diana’s niece, Charlotte Diana Spencer – and perhaps there will be more family namesakes in the future.
In Roman mythology, Diana is the goddess of the hunt, having power over wild animals. Associated with countryside and woodlands, oak groves are sacred to her. She is a goddess of the moon, the twin sister of the sun god Apollo. Diana is also a goddess of women, childbirth and midwifery, although a maiden goddess. She is the Roman equivalent of Artemis.
On the one hand, Diana is inaccessible like the chill light of the moon, ever virgin, dwelling far away on sacred mountains, deep in the woods. On the other, she bestowed divine authority onto kings, with her own priest taking the role of King of the Grove. Women worshipped her when they wished to become pregnant, and during pregnancy, as they prayed to her for an easy delivery. Thus this seemingly cold distant goddess helped the survival of humanity.
Diana was one of the most widely worshipped and ancient of the Roman gods, pre-dating the city, and originating amongst the Latin tribes of the Alban Hills. She was the especial patron of the lower classes, with slaves being able to claim asylum in her temples. Diana is portrayed as young and beautiful, often dressed for the hunt in a short tunic and boots, carrying her bows and arrows, and accompanied by a deer or hunting dogs.
The name Diana is believed to come from the Latin dius, meaning “sky”, from an ancient root meaning “bright sky, daylight”. Related to it are the Latin words deus, meaning “god”, die, meaning “day, daylight”, and diurnal, meaning “day time”. The name is usually translated as “divine, deity”.
The goddess Diana is mentioned in the New Testament, because of Ephesus in present-day Turkey, the location of The Temple of Diana. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the man who compiled the list considered the Temple of Diana to be the greatest of them all, outstripping the pyramids of Egypt and the hanging gardens of Babylon in its beauty and brilliance.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the Ephesian craftsmen who earned their living making shrines of the goddess felt their livelihoods threatened by St Paul’s preaching of Christianity, and organised a spirited protest march, shouting the catchy slogan, Great is Diana of the Ephesians! In the short term, the situation by was smoothed over by a city bureaucrat.
In the long term, Christianity didn’t do the worship of Diana any favours, although when the Temple of Diana was eventually destroyed, it was by pagan Goths, not Christians. However, worship of the goddess Diana is alive and well, and still practised in various strains of modern Wicca and witchcraft.
Diana has been a favourite in the arts for centuries, featured in many paintings and sculptures. Referenced numerous times in Shakespeare, she actually appears in both Pericles and All’s Well That Ends Well. Neither has her fame diminished. Her myth was the basis for Wonder Woman, and she is a character in the Sailor Moon series, as well as featuring in several video games.
Diana has been used as an English name since at least the 16th century. It has been something of a favourite amongst the English aristocracy, with a famous example being Lady Diana Cooper (nee Manners). Beautiful, witty, and glamorous, her parents hoped that she would one day marry the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) – what is it with Dianas being matched up with Princes of Wales? Instead she married a future ambassador to France. Lady Diana had a glittering career as a socialite, writer, and actress, and was often referenced in Jazz Age literature.
The name Diana first charted in the 1910s, debuting at #301; this was the decade when Lady Diana Cooper first came to prominence as a member a group of aristocrats and intellectuals, and coincides with the publication of Anne of Green Gables, where Diana Barry is Anne’s pretty and loyal best friend. It rose steadily, and joined the Top 100 in the 1930s, peaking the following decade at #59 – the time when Lady Diana Cooper became a celebrated hostess in postwar France.
The name remained stable through the 1950s and ’60s, under the influence of sexy British actresses, Diana Dors and Diana Rigg, but left the Top 100 in the 1970s, and continued falling – Diana, Princess of Wales, did not halt its downward progress. The name had a slight boost in 2009, the year after Diana’s inquest found there was no evidence of foul play in her death, but hasn’t charted since 2011.
Diana is still only #297 in the US, although falling, while in the UK it is #358, and rose in 2013. A popular name in Spain and Poland, it is most popular in Hungary, at #75.
Diana is a beautiful, elegant name, with a history that is divine, noble, and even royal. It seems to have become prematurely dated in Australia, as the name remains in use in other countries, and is popular in Europe. I wonder if the name has become too firmly attached to Diana, Princess of Wales, with her luminous fame and life tragically cut short. Will the baby princess help give Diana a boost, or will it merely underline it as a name reserved for Diana’s family?