Royal naming patterns are conservative and predictable – but we can't rule out another Princess Diana
Kate Middleton is due to give birth soon, and I’m sure everyone in the country will wish her the best through what is still a very painful and difficult process. It won’t be easy for William either; as I wrote when the news was announced, being a new father at the birth feels like being kidnapped and forced to watch your wife being tortured for 10 hours, then released unharmed, and then told you’ve both won the lottery. The anxiety and joy are intense.
Meanwhile bets continue to roll in on the name of our possible future queen or king. There’s more money on a girl, perhaps because earlier this year the Duchess of Cambridge blurted out “my d…” when referring to the bump.
But even so, lots of people are placing bets on James, which seems to me unlikely. Royal baby naming patterns tend to be highly predictable, especially when it comes to boys. The elder sons and heirs are usually named after previous post-conquest kings, to emphasise continuity and legitimacy, and they rarely choose radical names.
The last kings of England to have had new names were all foreigners whose parents would not have known they would own day get the top job in London; George I was a German and way down the list of heirs to the English crown, while James VI/I and his son Charles I both came from Scotland. Charles was in any case the younger son, his elder brother having been called Henry, to emphasise their descent from England’s Henry VII. (By the time James had married it was obviously highly likely he would inherit the throne of England.)
George I’s grandson, the Prince of Wales, was name Frederick, but died before his hated father (he was possibly killed playing cricket, although it was never proven), joining that list of kings of England that never were, Alphonso, Arthur and Albert. Victoria’s eldest son Albert was named after her beloved husband the consort, but the old man was not so beloved of the son who chose instead the title Edward VII. When his grandson Bertie was forced onto the throne in 1936 he went for George to highlight continuity with his father.
So there are only a limited number of names to choose; Charles, Edward, William and Henry are already taken in the immediate royal family, and it is not the custom today to repeat names in this or any other family. Names associated with tarnished monarchs are rarely repeated, so that John and Richard, the last bearers of which both killed nephews (although John’s nephew was older and somewhat deserved it) are out for being too brutal, and Stephen for being too weak. James II is considered a tyrant and loser by everyone except Catholics, and papists are hardly at the cultural vanguard right now. So that leaves only George, which at 10/1 seems like very good odds to me, especially as George VI is fondly regarded (helped by the recent film, The King’s Speech).
As for girls, Alexandra and Charlotte are the favourites, both elegant and regal names (the wives of Edward VII and George IV respectively). Victoria seems like a good bet, as does Elizabeth, the Queen being aged and at the peak of her popularity. But who knows? Perhaps we’ll have Queen Diana. The more I read about the late princess the more I admire this kind and loving woman, and come to think that her reputation was rather tarnished by the morons who hung around outside Buckingham Palace, bullying the Queen into joining their collective hysteria in that strange week in 1997. Now with the royals soaring in popularity that seems like a very, very long time ago.