Nameberry guest blogger Andrea, whom many of you may know for her intelligent and thoughtful advice on our message boards, is both a newspaper reporter and a royal watcher. Here, her rundown of the names of the littlest princes and princesses of Europe.
The British royal family is traditional enough that it’s fairly easy to make an educated guess about its naming habits. Other European royals are far more creative in their naming, sometimes reflecting the current styles in their countries or setting styles themselves. The Crown Prince and Princess of the Netherlands gave all three of their daughters “A” names: Princesses Catharina-Amalia (called Amalia), Alexia, and Ariane. (That’s them with their parents on the right.)
Belgian Crown Prince Prince Philippe, the Duke of Brabant, and his wife Princess Mathilde, reportedly have a subtler theme in the naming of their children and have included the element “el” in each name. The children are Princess Élisabeth, born in 2001, and her younger siblings Prince Gabriel, Prince Emmanuel, and Princess Eléonore.
Young Princess Eléonore is one of several young European royals with variants of the name Eleanor. Spain has the Infanta Leonor, born in 2005, whose parents pored over the family tree to find the name, which honors a medieval queen. Royal watchers also tried to guess what name the new Spanish infanta would receive; none I saw got it right. The following year another royal baby was given the name in the Netherlands: the Countess Leonore, daughter of Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien. Will all the Leonors set off a naming trend in other countries? Well, according to at least one newspaper article, Leonor is currently among the five most common names given to baby girls in Portugal.
Other royal names seem to reflect current trends. I wonder if Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, put her foot down when it came to naming her daughter. She had little choice in the naming of her firstborn, Prince Christian, since the Danes use only two names for rulers and crown princes. Since her husband is named Frederik, his firstborn son had to be named Christian. That’s the way the Danish royals have done it for hundreds of years. Her son Christian‘s own firstborn son, if he has one, will be named Frederik.
But when her second child, born less than two years later, was a girl, her name was not the expected Ingrid or Dagmar or Margarethe or Thorhildur or Thyra or Alexandrine. No, it was Isabella, a name that some royal watchers grumbled was not at all traditional. Her parents saved face by announcing that Isabella was named in honor of a 16th century queen somewhere on the family tree. My guess is that Princess Mary didn’t want to name her daughter Thorhildur (or something equally stodgy) and they looked for the namesake after they already picked a popular name.
Princess Isabella will share her first name with little girls all over the world, including in her mother’s native Australia and in Denmark, where it was the 21st most popular name given to girls in 2006, the year before she was born. Isabella shot up the Danish charts to ninth place by 2009, probably thanks to the “Twilight” movies and books but also to pictures of the adorable Isabella and the rest of the royal family.
Other royals fall back on tradition. The little Spanish Infanta Leonor‘s little sister was named Sofía after her grandmother the queen, because the queen had been such a help to her daughter-in-law while she was adjusting to her new role as a royal. Likewise, little Princess Isabella‘s new cousin is named Prince Henrik after his grandfather the prince consort.
In France, Jean Charles Pierre Marie, Duc de Vendôme, a member of one of two branches of a family that both claim the throne of France, and his wife Philomena, recently named their son and heir Gaston, a name that produced guffaws on the royal watchers message boards. I gather Gaston Lagaffe is a ridiculous comic strip character in France and Belgium. The effect would be a little like an American naming his son Urkel. But Gaston is also a traditional French royal name and it seems the parents cared more about tradition than looking ridiculous.
The names chosen for other recently-born children throughout Europe are an interesting sampling of the traditional and the unique. Some of the royal cousins of the children already mentioned are named, in order of their ages:
Andrea is an education reporter for a daily newspaper who has had a lifelong fascination with names. She also enjoys history, including that of royal families in Europe. She has no children but does have two very well-named cats, Archie and Agatha, and enjoys spending time with her young nephews.
Related links, for you royal watchers:
The Royal Forums, a forum devoted to discussions of historical and present-day royal families.
An Online Gotha, a site with family trees for different branches of present-day royalty and descendants of past royalty.
Alexander Palace, a site devoted to the discussion of the Romanov family but also to other European royals.