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Will it will be a Princess Victoria or Elizabeth?

There are clear patterns to royal baby naming

By on Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The pregnancy was announced on Monday     Chris Radburn/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The pregnancy was announced on Monday Chris Radburn/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Just here you can see a photograph taken in 1894, showing Queen Victoria, her son, her grandson, and her great-grandson, the future monarchs Edward VII, George V and Edward VIII. In less than nine months we can all expect to see a picture of Queen Elizabeth II, with her son, her grandson and her great-grandchild, all, God willing, future monarchs: Charles III, William V, and a name yet to be revealed. The dynasty has never looked so stable, though it is worth bearing in mind that the child the great Queen Victoria held might have brought it to an end.

The child the Duchess of Cambridge will bear will be a dynastic first in that he or she is guaranteed to take his or her place in the succession regardless of sex. This opens up a fifty per cent chance of a Queen regnant to succeed William V.

So far British Queens regnant have had a mixed record. If you leave out two who were never crowned, the Empress Matilda and Lady Jane Grey, neither of whom won undisputed acceptance, you are left with a list of six: Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria and Elizabeth II. Only the last two produced heirs: the gynaecological histories of the first four were all a matter of national importance. The tragic history of Queen Anne, the mother of eighteen dead children, still evokes sympathy. If the new royal child is a girl destined to become Queen, one hopes that she will be named either Victoria or Elizabeth, not Anne or Mary. Certainly her naming will be of great importance; none of the previous Queens regnant was ever supposed to have reigned, as they were all born to monarchs who either had sons or hoped for sons. Queen Anne, for example, was named after her distinctly non-royal mother, Anne Hyde. Princess Charlotte, who was George IV’s heir but predeceased him, was named after her paternal grandmother, Queen Charlotte. But given that any daughter born to the Cambridges will become Queen in due course, we can expect her to be named with care.

It is not altogether true that the Royal families of Britain, or more specifically England, have stuck exclusively to certain tried and tested names. James II, as Duke of York, had numerous children who died young, including a Prince Edgar and a Lady Isabella, both one-off names for (post-1066) royalty. There have been several Prince Williams, and Edwards, but Prince Andrew is a first (named after his paternal grandfather, Prince Andrew of Greece), and so for that matter is Prince Philip the first Prince of the United Kingdom to bear that name. So it is quite possible that the new baby may have a “new” name.

George II and Queen Charlotte had fifteen children who were called George, Frederick, William, Charlotte, Edward, Augusta, Elizabeth, Ernest, Augustus, Adolphus, Mary, Sophia, Octavius, Alfred and Amelia. (The best source for this sort of information is the excellent book by Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families.) Quite a few of those names are one-offs, so we should not rule out something a little adventurous for the new prince or princess. If I were a betting man, I would put some money on a girl being called either Elizabeth or Victoria. If a boy, I would not be altogether surprised by a name like Arthur or Alfred, or even Philip. But we might perhaps brace ourselves for a complement to the maternal grandmother – Carol.

  • Chris McLaughlin

    Father, I understand you are from oversees, but please make some effort to distinguish between “British” and “English”. The Union of Crowns between Scotland and England did not take place until 1603, and the Union of Parliaments not until 1707, so there is no Queen Elizabeth II of Britain. She may be Queen Elizabeth II of England, but not in Scotland. Should William be crowned he will be William IV here, not William V.

    In any event there is precedent for monarchs taking a different regnal name at their coronation rather than use the name they were most known by up to that point. If the royals are half-way smart this will be the case with William, who would be well advised not to repeat the mistakes made at the accession of his grandmother, when Royal Mail pillar boxes erroneously bearing the monogram “ER II” were blown up by Scottish nationalists. It also resulted in a rather undignified court case in the Court of Session which decided the Queen may not be called “the second” in Scotland.

    This is not a matter of pedantics, but is actually fundamental to the lack of parity of esteem felt by many of the citizens of this country when they hear “British history” discussed by the citizens of their southern neighbour. I understand you would like to see Scotland vote to within the Union in the 2014 referendum. If that is the case I would encourage you to remember that the sort of historical disregard demonstrated in this article generates the precisely the antagonism which runs counter to that objective.

  • paulpriest

    I’m betting on Alexandra Elizabeth Diana

  • South Saxon

    This is incorrect. William will be William V. In 1952-3, some people in Scotland objected to the title Elizabeth II because Elizabeth I reigned only south of the Border. As a result, the government of Winston Churchill announced that future British monarchs would take their regnal number from sovereigns of both England and Scotland, whichever was the higher. Thus, if the expected baby is named Alexander he would be Alexander IV or if named Margaret she would be Margaret II. 

  • Chris McLaughlin

     Actually, you are incorrect. This was only a suggestion by Churchill and there was no law passed in statute.

    In one of the most constitutionally interesting cases in Scottish legal history and on precisely this issue (MacCormick v Lord Advocate see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacCormick_v_Lord_Advocate) the Court of Session ruled that although MacCormick lost on the narrow technicality that he had no place to bring action that nonetheless ““the principle of unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle and has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law” and that therefore the Westmiinster parliament has no authority to amend the 1707 Act of Union which was a freely entered treaty between sovereign states.

  • Chris McLaughlin
  • South Saxon

    There was no need for a law. Changes in royal title are governed by Letters Patent and the will of the sovereign.

  • mikethelionheart

    Yawn yawn yawn,

    Hopefully the new child, whatever its name or sex, will get a proper job.

  • Simon Davies

    Though you are quite right, Father, that Philip is the first Prince of the United Kingdom bearing that name, we should remember that King Philip of Spain, the spouse of Queen Mary I, was, constitutionally, King of England until Queen Mary’s death in 1558.

    There is no reason, of course, why the Prince or Princess should use his or her first Christian name upon his or his accession to the throne. It has been common recently to chose a middle-name: Victoria, Edward VII, and George VI didn’t use their first names as regnal names.

    I hope I get to live long enough to see the new baby crowned as my monarch, whatever its name. As Prince William is a little older than me, I might just be granted such a grace!

    That’s if King George VII – as he wants to be, and whose reign will, no doubt, be a short one – doesn’t abolish the coronation altogether!

  • Simon Davies

    Surely the King decides what number he wants to be. He is the King, after all.

    The numbering system is ridiculous anyway. Queen Elizabeth – gloriously reigning – is the first of that name of her kingdom. And what about all the King Edwards that came before the conquest: how could Edward I, of England, have been crowned with Edward III’s crown? Really, Edward VIII could have been Edward XI, Edward VII or Edward II according to this logic. 

    But we know that the last rightful king died in 1807, so it’s all academic anyway :P

  • Guest

    Couldn’t resist the snobbish jibe at the end, eh Fr..!?

  • Che

    Perhaps the child will be subject to the new stringent state benefit rules that so many of our vulnerable poor people are now facing. Due to be evicted under the Housing Benefit extra room cuts? I doubt they are rolling out the mattresses at Buckingham Palace. 

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    That was not snobbish. It would be nice if the child were named Carol. Why ever not?

  • Guest

    Erm actually the Royals are on the Civil List (i.e. state support) as part of a deal struck by the government, in exchange for signing over the assets and profits of the Crown Estate (which is *privately held property of the Windsors*) to the state, on a gratuitous basis. You can’t complain about the government supporting the Royal Family when the Royal Family are massively subsidising the government from their private funds.

  • mollysdad

    “If it’s a girl, they’re going to name it Cassandra, after Cassandra. And if it’s a boy they’re going to name it Rodney, after Dave.”

    (Trigger, Only Fools and Horses)

  • Veuster

    What about Catherine – after her mother, and as a compliment to Catherine of Aragon? “God save Queen Catherine!” would sound well.

  • MagisterSSIM

    Everyone is assuming Prince William of Wales will take the name William as sovereign. Why?

  • Rizzo The Bear

    One blogger on here, not so long ago, said that Prince Charles would take his last name – George – as his regnant name should he ascend the throne, thus making him King George VII. He doesn’t want to be known as Charles because of Charles II’s penchant for women – LOL!

    Carol is another female equivalent of Charles and, in Poland, it’s a male name and was the original name of Blessed John Paul II i.e. Karol Wojtyla. 

    In the Netherlands, there was Queen Emma who became regent to Queen Wilhelmina – the grandmother of the current Dutch monarch, Queen Beatrix.

    Currently, Sarah Duchess of York  and Prince Andrew are the only present-day royal couple to have given the name Victoria to one of her daughters as an additional name to either Beatrice or Eugenie.

    When Queen Victoria ascended the throne, the name Victoria was not regarded as a robust, normal name – it was the equivalent then of, say, Kylie or Madison. Still, Victoria was the roman equivalent of the greek goddess Nike, goddess of victory and represented on each Olympic medal. The name Nicholas comes from Nike! 

    One of Queen Elizabeth II’s names is Alexandra. Of course, there was Edward VII’s popular queen consort, Queen Alexandra. No harm to choose that name for a queen regnant!

    There will be a Queen Victoria of Sweden one day, as that is the name of the present Swedish Crown Princess. Imagine the confusion of having two Queen Victorias in Europe at the same time!

    Should the Duchess of Cambridge give birth to a boy, well! Avoid the name John (unlucky name) at all costs (in spite of the fact that there are Johns in the Spencer family) and Richard (the only senior member of the Royal Family so named is the Duke of Gloucester) – even though King Richard III was not as bad as he was painted by those terrible Tudors.

    There is a James and a Michael in the Middleton family… hmmmmm!

  • Lee Leyton

    If the Royal Family, having not embraced “pragmatism”, as their thumb of rule as such, I think this birth would be better. What I am getting at is the fact that our current monarchy not only being the real deal but also behave like it in being tools of the libertarian elite who alongside other commonwealth governments are amending the rules of the Act of Succession. This has deeper more allegorical and to an extent, spiritual ramifications with the first being that the cementing of the “constitutional republic” that is Britain is well and truly in place and that Parliament, with its typically totalitarian, oligarchical , and usurping ways has messed around with some very fundamental rules, akin to trying to place different organs of the body in the wrong place. So, if this baby is a girl, I will not be interested really and if a boy, likewise because so long as this Monarchy behaves the way it actually is (usurper’s monarchy of the Burgher’s), then it undermines the Monarchy itself through and through.

  • nytor

    “Isabella, both one-off names for (post-1066) royalty”

    That surely isn’t right, is it?

  • nytor

    Let’s just hope it’s a boy. I don’t approve of these pointless changes to venerable traditions and a boy will be one in the eye for the PC liberals, which can only be a good thing.

  • Patrick_Heren


  • Mike Ryan

    Well done, Chris. English insensitivity towards Scotland is notorious. They could have given William all sorts of non-contentious names but it never crossed their mind that ‘William’ might be a tad controversial. The English seem to regard Scotland (if they ever even actually think about it) as part of Greater England and I speak as someone born and brought up in England. But as the SNP Government is promoting the redefinition of marriage I will be voting against independence.

  • Anon

    ‘private funds’ and ‘privately held property’ from stolen Catholic lands,estates and churches?

  • U.S.

    Isn’t “Carol” feminine for “Charles” ?

    “So far British Queens regnant have had a mixed record” — as opposed to an unblemished line of male Kings ?

  • U.S.

    P.S. Why do I care ?  The English seem not to like female monarchs for some reason.  Some of my ancestors came to America from England in the mid-nineteenth century.  One of the stated reasons (I have seen it written in a set of “remembrances” of the move) — they (males) didn’t want to live under a “petticoat government.”   I assume they meant Queen Victoria.  For the record I am a female.