Now that the youngest generation of British Royals are expecting (yes, yes I know it’s really Princess Catherine, a.k.a. Kate, who is pregnant, but it is trendy today refer to both parents as being in the family way), there is speculation as to the new royal’s Christian name. In fact, London bookmakers have offered odds on various names, depending on whether the child will be male or female. Naming that heir is no light matter, after all, now that primogeniture has been abolished this child will be third in line to become the king or queen regnant of the United Kingdom and 16 other nations. Many names carry certain baggage, some good, some not so.
Many British children, particularly those higher up on the class ladder, are given three or four names at birth. When an heir takes the throne, many times he/she chooses the regal name by which they will be known. This is not always the name they used prior to their accession. For example, Edward VII was previously known as Prince Albert, George VI was also known by that same appellation, and called “Bertie” by the family. The short timer Edward VIII was David. When notified of her father’s death, Queen Elizabeth II was asked what name her Majesty would be known by, exclaimed “why, my own, of course” – short of breaking the tradition. There has been recent speculation concerning which name the current heir apparent Prince Charles would use. His full name is Charles Philip Arthur George, famously flubbed by the late Princess Diana at their wedding in front of a worldwide audience. Some think he might choose George in honor of his grandfather.
The best odds London presently gives appear to be 9 to 1 for Frances, if a girl, or John, if a boy. Frances was Diana’s middle name, but the closest anyone of that name made it to the throne was the mother of Queen Jane, who reigned all of nine days in 1553, and later lost her head, literally. No real baggage there. There has only been one John, and he is regarded as a villain and the worst king that England ever had by many historians. The next best odds are 10 to 1 for Charles, Elizabeth, Victoria, or George. The first Charles also lost his head, for which the English have since had a guilt complex, as he was not a tyrant or otherwise villainous, but was an unfortunate target for Oliver Cromwell’s religious fanaticism. On the other hand, the most recent two Georges are generally acknowledged as really good guys, George VI, the current Queen’s father, displayed considerable grit and courage during World War II. Victoria and Elizabeth II were and are much beloved, although each had a few rocky times. The first Elizabeth, who reigned from 1558 to 1603, was one of the most effective monarchs ever to wear the crown.
Other names with longer odds include Mary, Henry, Edward, Alice, Arthur, and Albert. The first Mary’s name is often prefixed with the word “Bloody” because of her brutal persecution of Protestants in the 16th century, the second, though officially a queen regnant, was for all practical purposes William III’s consort. The most recent two Edwards, both of the 20th century, qualified as drones, the latest reigned less than a year before abdicating to marry his paramour. Edwards I and III were distinguished and effective leaders, though because of I’s treatment of William Wallace in the 13th Century, that name might annoy the Scots. Alice, the name of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, doesn’t seem carry any baggage, and is a popular name in Britain. Arthur, of course, is the name of the legendary Camelot king. Henry VII gave that appellation to his firstborn in the hopes that he would reign over a peaceful England that had suffered through a century of internecine strife prior to his birth. Alas, that was not to be as Prince Arthur died at an early age leaving the throne to his brother Henry VIII, who proceeded to upended the political and religious order of England, and famously took six wives, two of whom he had beheaded. Albert does not regally ring for some reason, at least not for Britain.
It seems doubtful that the newborn will be named after either one of his parents, a practice that seems a bit narcissistic, common in the U.S. and ubiquitous in some cultures, especially that of our neighbors to the south. I have it on good authority that British parents seldom name their children after themselves, but reach back to prior generations for names previously used in the family.
Anyway, the name is the parents’ business. We can only wish them a healthy newborn who will grow up happy and responsible. Not all royals have.