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In 2012 I did an article on the historical naming of British monarchs, in preparation for the birth to the next heir to the throne, who turned out to be Prince George Alexander Louis – a slight score for me, as these were the first three boys’ names I suggested.

As Prince George is now expecting a brother or sister, I thought we’d take on what is a rather more difficult challenge – the naming of younger siblings of the future monarch: “spares” to the heir.

I haven’t gone back to the misty beginnings of English royalty, or to William the Conqueror, or even to the House of Hanover, or the reign of Queen Victoria. This will be a modern prince or princess born in the 21st century, and I thought that just looking at those close to the throne in the House of Windsor would be quite enough information.

I earlier looked at the “rules” of naming monarchs, and found that there are also “rules” to naming a monarch’s siblings. We can keep these guidelines in mind as we go, to ensure our expectations remain realistic.

  • All those who were the child of a monarch or an heir to the throne had a name earlier used by royalty – what we think of as traditional English royal names.
  • Nearly all of them had a name that had earlier been used for a British prince or princess. Those that didn’t had names of previous kings and queens. Not one was given an obscure royal name.
  • Perhaps surprisingly, very few of them seem to have been directly named after a relative or family member (although in some cases that information may have been kept private). Those that were, were named after royal grandparents or great-grandparents, usually deceased. Feminisations of male names for girls have not been been used so far (although female Windsors are less common than males, so there is less data to work from).
  • In my earlier article, I pointed out that monarchs were almost never given a name from royalty’s distant past, and that expecting a Queen Matilda or a King Edmund was therefore a forlorn hope. However, not so with a monarch’s siblings. Some were given a name from hundreds of years ago, and one or two even had names from the Middle Ages, so a wider variety of names can be considered.
  • Re-using royal and family names is common, even if there are other members of the royal family who are still alive with the same name – hardly surprising when they are drawing upon a relatively limited number of names. So we can’t rule out a name just because it’s already in use by a cousin or great-uncle. This applies to titles: it seems to be fine for there to be another Prince Soandso, as they can be told apart by their full title. For example, Prince Edward, Earl of Essex doesn’t get muddled with his mother’s cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. Again, this widens the pool slightly.
  • All those who were the child of a monarch or an heir to the throne were given a name that was relatively popular at the time of their birth. Nearly all of them had a name in the Top 100 for their era, while none had a name below the Top 200. This drastically shrinks the number of names on the table.

To find possible names for the siblings of Prince George, in theory all it takes is cross-referencing the UK Top 200 with a list of British royalty (kings, queens, princes, and princesses). Let’s see what the results are for a possible brother to Prince George, a future prince of the United Kingdom, once we remove Prince George’s own three names (slightly risky, as royals have been known to receive a sibling’s middle name as their first name).

Arthur #43
While the idea of a King Arthur would invite ridicule, a Prince Arthur seems suitable. In use by the English monarchy since the Middle Ages, it is a traditional royal name. Queen Victoria’s favourite son was Prince Arthur, while his son was the most recent Prince Arthur, born in the 19th century. The queen’s father had Arthur as one of his middle names, as do Prince Charles and Prince William, so this would link a prince with his father, grandfather, and great-great grandfather. I like the idea, and George and Arthur sound good as brothers. But do the royals consider this middle name material only?
My rating: seven and a half coronets

Frederick #82
There have been three Prince Fredericks, with the most recent the second son of King George III, born in the 18th century. The name is in use by the royal family; for example, Lord Frederick “Freddie” Windsor. Frederick is also a traditional name in the Spencer family, which makes this seem eminently suitable. George and Frederick sound great as brothers – maybe too much so, as this fraternal combination has already been used, by J.K. Rowling! Could the royals cope with the princes being dubbed The Weasley Twins by the press? I hope so.
My rating: seven coronets

Alfred #136
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex, a direct ancestor of the current royal family, so this name has some serious royal clout. There have been three Prince Alfreds, with the most recent a grandson of Queen Victoria who was born in the 19th century. He’s thought to have shot himself after going mad from syphilis, which doesn’t seem that auspicious (although his only crime was being born before the discovery of penicillin). I hope this isn’t a stumbling block, as George and Alfred sound perfect as brothers, while the popular nickname Alfie is very lovable.
My rating: seven coronets

James #9
James is a very royal name, because St James’s Palace is the official residence of the monarchy. As a prince’s name it could be problematic, because the only Prince James was the Scottish “Old Pretender”, who illegally claimed the British throne. Another slight issue is that Prince Edward’s young son is named James, Viscount Severn, and although he isn’t a prince, there is a legal question mark over his non-princely status that an actual Prince James may underline.

A traditional name in the Scottish monarchy, two of Scotland’s King Jameses have been kings of England, ruling as James I and II. With Scotland voting to remain part of the union, the royal family may be eager to choose a Scottish name.

My main objection is that I don’t much like George and James as royal brothers: to me they are too alike and could be confused in public announcements. I feel the heir to the throne needs a distinctive name, and would prefer James in the middle. However, the royals may think differently.
My rating: five and a half coronets

Charles #61
Prince Charles will be the hypothetical prince’s grandfather, and Charles is a traditional British royal name. There have been two kings named Charles, and several princes with the name, controversially including Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender of the Jacobite cause. Charles is a name which comes from the Stuarts, and you could see this as another pro-union Scottish choice. It’s also traditional in the Spencer family, and presumably wouldn’t even be shared for that long, as Prince Charles is due to become king. There is nothing concrete against it, but my gut says no to this, except in the middle. (My gut is often wrong though).
My rating: five coronets

Henry #18
Wonderfully royal, the name Henry has been borne by eight kings and several princes, and is already in use by Prince William’s brother, known as Harry. A non-ruling prince hasn’t been given the name of an uncle before, and while this could happen, I don’t think it shows much imagination for a second son to be given the same name as the previous second son. Besides, what nickname could they give him, because Harry’s taken?
My rating: two and a half coronets

William #8
A suitable royal name, borne by four kings, and multiple princes going back to the Middle Ages. One of those princes is the Duke of Cambridge himself. Although it’s not impossible that a son could be named after him, it’s never been done before in the House of Windsor. Even in non-royal families, it’s not considered traditional for a second son to be named for his father, so this would be a surprise.
My Rating: two coronets

Edward #33
While Edward VIII ruined this name for a future king by his abdication, it’s still fine for a prince, and there have been several Prince Edwards. In fact, there are already two Prince Edwards – the son of Queen Elizabeth, and her cousin. Adding a third seems going a bit far to me.
My Rating: two coronets

David #50
This is a name from Scotland’s royalty. David I was a medieval King of Scotland, who had a strong relationship with the English monarchy, and married an English bride. This is another Scottish choice to celebrate the union, but the royal family have only used this as a middle name (it’s one of Prince Harry’s middle names).
My rating: one coronet

Michael #53
There is already a prince with this name in the royal family, the queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent. He was named after his ancestor, Grand Duke Michael of Russia, and this is not a traditional British royal name. I don’t consider this name likely at all, although not impossible as a middle name.
My rating: half a coronet

Robert #98
A name from Scottish royalty, with the best known example Robert I, or Robert the Bruce, one of Scotland’s national heroes. He fought against England in the Wars of Independence, and because of him, the English crown was forced to recognise Scotland as an independent country. Not only does this name seem anti-union, there is a horrible ballad called Prince Robert, about a man who is poisoned by his mother. Despite being a traditional name in the Spencer family, I can’t feel happy about this.
My rating: half a coronet

Albert #99
Prince Albert was consort to Queen Victoria, and his name became traditional in the royal family as either a first or middle name. The last Prince Albert became King George VI, the queen’s father, and using this name would be a nice gesture were it not for the genital piercing called the Prince Albert. This is a non-starter in my book, although very likely as a middle name.
My rating: zero coronets

John #107
As mentioned in the earlier article, this name has been forbidden in the royal family.
My rating: zero coronets

Andrew #154
Prince Andrew is the second son of Queen Elizabeth, and he is named after his paternal grandfather, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. Because his name is not from English royalty, and because the prince is currently embroiled in an international paedophile scandal, his name is unlikely to be used.
My rating: zero coronets

So judging by history, my picks for the prince’s name would be Arthur, Frederick, or Alfred, with an outside chance of James or Charles. There is no overwhelming contender, as there was with Prince George’s name, so I wonder if a surprise choice is on the way, or if a new trend in royal names will make itself felt. Perhaps a royal name from further down the popularity charts is on its way?

UPDATE: The royal baby was a princess named Charlotte, so none of the names for a prince were necessary after all.

People’s favourite choices for a possible prince were Arthur, Frederick, and Alfred, while the names William and Andrew received no votes at all. The 4% of people who thought the royal couple would start their own trend in baby names were obviously off base.

(Picture is of Queen Victoria with her son Prince Arthur, a painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter)