Category: royal babies
Traditionally, members of British royalty have not only been given a whole string of middle names, most have also been given an affectionate nickname. Queen Victoria’s children, for example, answered to Vicky (Victoria), Bertie (Albert), Alee (Alice), Affie (Alfred), Lenchen (Helena), Loosy (Louise), Leo (Leopold) and Baby (Beatrice).
Previously, these names were kept within the family. But more recently, Charles and Diana broke the mold by formally announcing after their sons’ births that they were going to call William “Wills” and that Henry was to be called “Harry”.
This then opens up a variety of options for William and Catherine. Let’s say they choose the name “Elizabeth Diana Catherine Charlotte” for a daughter. They could use a nickname for the first name – Bess, Betsy, Lily, Eliza? – or announce that they will call her by one of her middle names, or even a nickname from the middle name – Lottie, say, or Kitty.
My mother had a collection of hardback books, a mix of factual and fiction, which as a child I had a particular fondness for and would sit with for hours on a rainy day. The thing that drew me to them was the aesthetic pleasure of a dusty old classic with a plain cover, usually in faded red. They spoke to me of simpler times, when books were appreciated and valued. Among this collection was a particular favourite, a History of the Kings and Queens of Britain.
It wasn’t an extensive study by any means but still, I found my love of names coming to the fore and would pour over the family timelines whenever I got the chance. Sophia Dorothea was an early favourite.
Whilst honouring relatives or ancestors seemed to be the norm in the choice of royal names, there was some variety. Political allegiances were made easy to follow. French ties appeared, particularly in the Scottish royal family, with Marie and Louis showing up (Although is that any surprise with the number of King Louis’ who ended up on the French throne?) Francois and Ferdinand married in and names like Augustus and Octavius hinted at links with the German throne. And if Olga didn’t make it clear that Russia had a foot in the British royal family then I don’t know what would.
And what of these lesser known royal names? Those who weren’t born royal but married in. Those who came from foreign countries, bringing their own exotic monikers with them. Those who were popular hundreds of years ago but for some reason or other fell out of favour. Well, that’s what we’re about to find out.
This list dates back just over 1000 years, to 996 AD, and collects some of the most interesting, unusual and unexpected names in the British family tree. They run in rough chronological order of their first appearance and I even compiled a little section for the Scottish throne, that includes names which either showed up there first, most prominently or in some cases only.
You may be surprised by what you find (and the few history lessons sprinkled throughout). There areeven a few nameberry favourites lurking in here.
MATILDA – The Empress Matilda is the highest ranking example and after her the name seems to disappear until George III’s sister, Caroline Matilda, is born in the 18th century. That’s Matilda pictured.
There are a handful of appealing names that mean “prince.” Brendan is Irish, Mael is Breton, while Vladimir is Slavic for “renowned prince.” Armel, the name of a Welsh saint who founded abbeys in Brittany, means “stone prince” in French, while Adhit is an Indonesian name with that meaning.
Prince itself is of course also a name, chosen by Michael Jackson for his son — though if you choose it, you’d have to put up with an awful lot of “formerly known as” jokes. Better bets: King, Duke, or maybe even Earl.
Fictional princes who might prove inspirational include:
Moses – Biblical baby raised as a prince.
One of my embarrassing little obsessions is princess names. The whole idea of royalty, in these modern times, is kind of embarrassing. And then there’s the issue of encouraging your daughter to aspire to be a princess rather than, say, a doctor or an astronaut. For more on this, check out Peggy Orenstein’s great piece from the New York Times, “What’s Wrong With Cinderella?” and her bestselling book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter.
The fact, in our experience, is that most little girls go through a phase of wanting to be princesses whether you encourage them to or not. And there’s a lot of great name inspiration to be found in the world of royalty.
The most obvious place to start is with names that mean princess — for the most part limited to Sarah and her variations. Sara, Sera, Sarai, Sadie, Soraya, and Zadie are all possibilities. A British “glamour model” named her daughter Princess, though we don’t recommend this.
Aurora — One of the “real” names of Sleeping Beauty.
Fiona — The princess from Shrek, a great role model though a little girl might feel ambivalent about carrying her name.