All parents have important decisions to make when choosing baby names, but for parents like Kate Middleton and Prince William, whose son will one day be the king of England, there’s far greater pressure to get it right. Young Prince George doesn’t have 15 minutes of fame to look forward to: instead, his whole life will be under the watchful eye of the press. Luckily, with the pressure there were also a limited number of acceptable choices for the young royal couple. The royal children of England often have between three and seven first names, but the list of names to choose from is relatively short, as the kings and queens of England reuse their names over and over again.
Traditional royal baby names
Since 1066, when William the Conqueror became the first Norman king of England, there have been 39 kings (leaving out disputed claims). Those kings have had only 21 names. Since at least one king (Edward VIII) used seven of those names on his own, there’s a clear pattern of repetition. Before the announcement of Prince George’s official name – George Alexander Louis – George was a clear frontrunner according to UK bookmakers, who’d given it 6/4 odds. What are some of the other most popular names of British monarchs?
- Henry. Although this name has been used as the title name by 8 kings, the last one was Henry VIII – so despite its being popular among historical kings, it has fallen out of favor. (It is, of course, the proper name for Prince William’s brother Prince Harry.)
- James. Bookmakers had given this name odds of 11/4, despite there only having been two British kings with the name.
- Edward. Like Henry, there have been 8 kings of England to bear the name. Also like Henry, Edward has fallen out of favor due to the scandalous abdication of Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, Edward VIII, so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
One name that bookmakers were betting against the couple choosing was John, with odds of 8/1 and only one king bearing the name. Considered one of the worst kings in British history, “King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta by his nobles in 1215; he was portrayed as the key villain in ‘Robin Hood,’” wrote Bryony Jones on July 5, 2013 in the CNN.com article “Royal baby: King Terry? What’s in a royal name?”
George Alexander Louis
So why George? James Harbeck of Yahoo! News explained in “A brief history of royal baby names”: “The patron saint of England is a popular one, having been used nine times, six of which were for actual kings (make that seven when the newest addition takes the throne).” The association with the famous dragon-slaying saint elevates what is otherwise quite a humble name: George, coming from the Greek “georgios,” means farmer, or earth worker. Alexander, also from the Greek and the name of the famous Greek ruler Alexander III of Macedon, or Alexander the Conqueror, is being used in a royal name for the first time in its masculine form. Prince George Alexander Louis may be the first boy to use it, but in its feminine form, Alexandra and Alexandrina have both made appearances among British royalty. Queen Elizabeth II is, in full, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, and Queen Victoria was Alexandrina Victoria. Louis is not only a nod to the first King George – who was George Louis – but also to Prince William’s great uncle Earl Mountbatten, a mentor to Prince Charles. According to the royal couple, however, reading too much into the name choices may be assuming too many motives. According to London Daily Mail contributor Rebecca English in her “By George! That’s a right royal name” on July 25, 2013, official word from palace representatives is that the choice “is simply ‘because they liked them, no more no less.’”
What about girls?
If George had been a girl, there would have been even fewer names to choose from. Along with Alexandra or Alexandrina, there are only four other women’s names born by England’s queens: Elizabeth, Mary, Anne, and Victoria. But other young members of the royal family have gone away from the traditional names. Prince Andrew and ex-wife Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson gave their daughters the off-list names Beatrice and Eugenie. Further away from the throne, the two toddler granddaughters of William’s aunt Princess Anne, born in 2010 and 2012, are Savannah and Isla respectively. What baby name would you have picked for the young royal? Tell us in the comments below. You can find out more about the Kings and Queens of Britain at Questia.