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With the announcement early this month that Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child, the baby name blogosphere went slightly gaga. A few people even had a go at predicting the name of the royal baby, with Lou at Mer de Noms and Elisabeth at You Can’t Call It “It”! doing a great job. Of course, Kay at Nook of Names got a jump on all of us, and did her excellent analysis more than a year ago.
I’m going to admit right now that I don’t know what the royal baby will be named, and I can’t guess. I haven’t even been able to guess the baby names chosen by family and close friends, and these are people I know well.
But what I can do is to look at the names of the ruling monarchs of Britain and England (back to William the Conqueror), see how they were named, and then see what the royal baby might be called if the same principles were applied this time. As this gives a wide selection of choice, I have eliminated those names which seem unlikely as they are still in use by other members of the royal family who have the title Prince or Princess, or which are too obviously “foreign”.
Although this doesn’t actually tell us what the baby will be called, as I studied the names of past monarchs, a few things stood out as to how they weren’t named.
- Monarchs could be named for someone from several generations back, but almost none were named after a ruler from long ago in history. This makes the idea that the royal baby might be named after someone from many hundreds of years ago, such as Edmund or Matilda, seem rather fanciful.
- Apart from being named after one of their parents, monarchs were almost never named after a relative who was still alive. For the baby princess to be named Elizabeth, for example, is by no means impossible, but would be historically unusual.
- The Duchess of Cambridge is not the only commoner to marry a British royal, as the mother of Queen Anne was one. Although royal babies could be named after their commoner mother, they were not named after her relatives. If the royal baby is named after one of the Middletons, it would be a genuine break with tradition, and a sign we have entered a new age.
- Only one female monarch was given a feminine form of a man’s name, with Queen Victoria named Alexandrina after her godfather, Alexander I of Russia (she didn’t keep the name after she became queen). The idea that the princess could be named Charlotte after Prince Charles, or Phillipa after Prince Phillip, would thus be a very unusual one.
- The most obvious: nearly all English and British monarchs are named after a relative. The only two I could find who weren’t were Edward I and John. Edward I was named after Saint Edward the Confessor, which was considered wildly eccentric at the time, although Edward is now a traditional royal name. John was named after St. John the Baptist. Very much a younger son, he was not expected to rule, and interestingly his name was shunned by subsequent royalty – there was never a John II.
- Apart from the occasional deceased uncle or foreign godparent, monarchs were nearly all named after a direct ancestor – a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent, for example. It’s fun looking through the royal family tree and wondering if the royal baby might be given the name of a great-great-great-aunt, or one of Queen Victoria’s sons, but this seems a very distant hope.
Now, with our expectations in check, let’s see what names are available, if we follow history.
This seems to be almost everyone’s #1 choice for a baby princess, who would be named after her great-great grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, the mother of Prince Philip. There have been four British princesses named Alice, but no queens – in fact, there are many more Queen Alices in fiction than in real life, giving this sweet name a distinct fairy-tale quality on a modern-day monarch.
Elizabeth is seen as a front-runner, presumably because it’s thought Queen Elizabeth would happily endorse a tiny namesake. Princess Elizabeth would be named after both her great-grandmother and great-great grandmother, and as a bonus, Elizabeth is the middle name of the Duchess of Cambridge. There have been five English queens named Elizabeth, two of them rulers in their own right, and one Scottish Queen Elizabeth. However, as Queen Elizabeth II is still alive, this would be a historically unusual choice.
The favourite choice of the gossip magazines, and the name of the baby’s grandmother. When the royal couple visited our region, they were asked in an interview if they would call their first daughter Diana, and William said it would be one of her middle names. I actually think it would be nice if Diana was left for Prince Harry to use for his daughter’s first name, since Prince William got his mother’s engagement ring.
A solid choice that many are tipping, with the princess to be named after her great-great-great-great grandmother, Mary of Teck. There have been six British princesses named Mary, and four queens, two of them rulers; it’s also been used amongst Scottish royalty. Historically speaking, Mary stacks up extremely well.
Another favourite choice for the baby princess, who would be named after her great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. There has only ever been one queen with this name, but eight British princesses called Victoria – in fact it’s the birth name of Alice of Battenberg. A Victoria II would probably go down well with the British populace, although the Crown Princess of Sweden (related to the royal family) will be one day be Queen Victoria as well.
Few seem enthusiastic about a baby Princess Catherine, but historically, it’s the most likely option. Eighteen monarchs have been named after a parent, and of the three queens who have ruled Britain, two of them were named after their mother – and the third one took her mother’s name, Victoria, as her regnal name. Queen Elizabeth II herself is named after her mother, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons. There have been five English queens named Catherine, and at least one of them, Catherine of Aragon, was deeply loved by her subjects.
Margaret is a name from Scottish royalty, and a medieval Queen Margaret is one of the patron saints of Scotland. There has been only one English Queen Margaret, and she came to a sad end. A Princess Margaret would be named after Queen Elizabeth’s sister, and I somehow feel that this namesake, who attracted much scandal (whether deserved or not), would not be a help. However, one of Prince Philip’s sisters was named Margarita, and this is the English form of her name too.
A Princess Charlotte would be named after her great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Princess Charlotte of Denmark, whose birth name was Louise. There have been two British princesses called Charlotte; one of them went on to become a queen, but not of Britain. Lady Diana’s brother Charles had a daughter named Charlotte last year, who will be the royal baby’s second-cousin.
Queen Victoria is the only ruling queen to be named after a man – her godfather. We don’t know who will be the royal baby’s godfather, but traditionally the best man from the wedding is chosen as one of them, which makes Prince Harry a shoo-in. Could the princess be given the feminine form of his name? Unlikely, although there has been both a Queen and Princess Henrietta of Britain.
A Princess Augusta would be named after her great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel (who was married to a Duke of Cambridge). There have been five British princesses named Augusta, and although a few of them were in line to one day become queen, by mischance none of them made it that far, giving this name an unlucky feeling for a monarch. This seems very unlikely as a possible royal baby name.
Everyone’s #1 choice for a prince, and you can see why. It’s not only a traditional royal name, held by six British kings and three princes, but also one of the patron saints of England. Prince George could be named in honour of his great-great grandfather, King George VI, although that monarch’s birth name was Albert. The name is also a traditional one in the Spencer family, and Prince William has a cousin named George on the Spencer side, as well as a relative called George on the royal side, the Earl of St Andrews.
This name was a traditional one in the monarchy of Scotland, but has never been used in England. The Prince could be named after his great-great-great-great grandfather, Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine, and his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Duke Alexander of Württemberg. There are two minor royals with this name, Alexander Windsor and Alexander Ogilvy, and a Spencer cousin, Alexander Fellowes, reportedly close friends with Princes William and Harry.
This is thought to have a reasonable chance of being selected, as Louis is one of Prince William’s middle names, and it’s a traditional one in the British royal family, although more often connected to the French monarchy. Prince Louis could be named after his great-great-great grandfather, Louis Mountbatten (formerly Prince Louis of Battenberg), and his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse. However, some royal-watchers think that Louis Lopes, the toddler grandson of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, may scupper Louis as a royal name.
This is sometimes mentioned as a possible baby name, because it is a traditional one in the royal family. Although there are three princes named Frederick in British history, there are no kings. Lord Frederick Windsor is the son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and there is a Spencer cousin named Frederick (the heir to the earldom); another family connection is that the Duchess of Cornwall has a baby grandson named Freddy. Prince Frederick could be named after his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Friedrich, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. Friedrich is an ancestor of both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
This would greatly appeal to fans of Lady Diana, as it is the masculine form of her middle name, Frances. As such, it may not meet with the approval of Queen Elizabeth. However, the prince could be named after his great-great-great-great grandfather, Francis, Duke of Teck – the duke’s son is the only Prince Francis the royal family have had.
Very much an outside chance, for there has never been an English king or prince named Nicholas. There is a minor royal named Nicholas Windsor, but he is not in line to the throne. Prince Nicholas could be named after his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Nicholas I of Russia.
I consider this a very unlikely choice for the royal baby, who would be named after his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Joseph, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg.
Queen Victoria longed to have a King Albert on the throne, but her dream was never realised, as even royals called Albert have preferred to take another regnal name. The prince could be named after his great-great grandfather, or after his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, and as a bonus to Lady Diana fans, Albert was the name of her grandfather. I fear the genital piercing of this name has ruined the chances of another Prince Albert for some time.
Prince Adolphus was the great-great-great-great-great grandfather of the royal baby to be. Let’s face it – this name would go down like a lead balloon. It’s not happening.
Count John Hauke was another great-great-great-great-great grandfather. The British royal family avoid the name John, as it is supposedly an unlucky one for them. King John is a storybook villain, thanks to Robin Hood, and two Prince Johns died young. Diana wanted to call her eldest son John, after her father, but she was not allowed to because of this royal tradition.
What would you like the prince or princess to be named? And do you want the royal family to continue their naming traditions, or start creating new ones?
NOTE: Thank you to Elea from British Baby Names for explaining where King John got his name from.
Just looking at your first three predictions for boys names…you predicted them very accurately!!
Well I think it must be a fluke … they weren’t really meant to be predictions, just what the name might be if the baby was named like other monarchs in history.
My jaw did drop though when I checked back here to see what I’d actually written! It was funny they turned up in the exact order, because I’d ordered them mathematically by percentage of chance.
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Queen Victoria wrote some fascinating letters about names. In one of them she mentions that she felt that Bertie and Alix (later King Edward VII) should have named their first child after the (British) grandparents, as was tradition: http://mypage.uniserve.ca/~canyon/names.htm#Appendix 1
King John was born on the feast day of Saint John…hence why he got the name. He was the last baby (at the time when his parents had pretty much run out of family names) and was very much born under a black cloud, as his mother Eleanor was furious with her husband for flaunting his mistress around court while she was pregnant with John.
Thanks for the heads up on King John; I have edited, and credited you, in case people don’t read all the comments.
Poor old John – he seems to have been doomed from the start.
Thanks for the fascinating link about Queen Victoria – she doesn’t seem to have had much control over the names her children chose, and appears to have disliked nearly all of them!
It’s interesting how ideas about names have changed – we think of George and Sophia as nice classic English names, but to her they were ugly lumpy German ones.
Although I would love a little Princess Alice, I’m not completely sure it will happen, simply because of the life Prince Phillip’s mother had… her name may be a bit too scandalous for a future monarch of England. I think a lovely name would be Marguerite, one of the Queen Mother’s middle names. If the Sweden’s future queen is named Estelle, Britain could have a queen Marguerite.
Louis would continue with tradition, since it is one of Prince William’s middle names, but it has been claimed by many a French king already. I would love to see them use Spencer, which is very preppy, but that would honour Princess Diana. I very much doubt they would use it, but it would be a nice choice.
I never thought of Princess Alice as scandalous, just eccentric – and she was a war hero, which must count for something. I do agree that Alice would be a slightly unusual choice for a future queen, so I’m not completely sure either.
Sweden is obviously creating its own new royal names, so it will be interesting to see if Britain is ready for that yet!
Nook of Names said:
I wouldn’t be surprised if the baby had a “regal” formal first name (probably George for a boy and Mary/Elizabeth/Victoria for a girl), which would be intended as his/her throne name, and a second name by which the child would be known while Prince/Princess. Not without precedent — George V’s wife Queen Mary was actually baptised Victoria Mary (and a lot of other names). Not only that, but within the royal family itself, she was always known as May. Edward VIII, meanwhile, was always called David (the last of his many given names), by the royals. Another precedent is for a male heir to the throne to be called Albert, and then rule as king by one of the other given names — King Edward VII was Albert Edward, and George VI Albert blah-de-blah George. Wouldn’t actually be at all surprised if they went for Albert George, nn Bertie, naming him after the Queen’s much loved father, with the intention he’d one day be George VII… The genital piercing associations doesn’t seem to be putting off many other British toffs from using Albert/Bertie, and the royals/aristocracy aren’t a bunch who tend to pay attention to such things! 😀
I know they did in the past (I did take that into account when deciding who’d been named after whom), but for the past three generations the royals mostly just use their first name, or a nickname variant of it, like Prince Harry. So it would be quite a retro move if they did that. Which doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course.
There’s nothing wrong with the name Albert, and there’s already a little Albert Windsor in the royal family, but that’s different from your name actually being Prince Albert! No matter if they called him Bertie or something else, everyone would know his “proper name” was Prince Albert.
And even if the royal family are too naive to know about such things (if that’s true), the headlines around the world would soon let them know! 🙂