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.