By Linda Rosenkrantz
Much to everyone’s amazement, from British naming experts to the betting public, Louis Arthur Charles is the name of the new British prince, Queen Elizabeth’s sixth great-grandchild and fifth in line to the throne.
After four days of nail-biting anticipation and speculation, the name of His Royal Highness Prince Louis (pronounced Lou-ee) of Cambridge was announced on Twitter by Kensington Palace. Louis was the distant tenth choice of prognosticators, who had put their money on Arthur, Albert, James or Alexander. The fact that Louis was already a middle name of older brother Prince George made it seem an even more unlikely choice.
Louis is a French name of German origin, meaning ‘famous in battle’, more associated with French royalty than British: there have been 17 King Louis of France. But although the name does not have a strong British royal pedigree, it does have a meaningful family association. Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was killed in 1979 when the IRA placed a bomb in his fishing boat, was the beloved great uncle and mentor of Prince Charles, whose death affected him deeply.
A Top 100 name in England, at #71, Louis is Number 289 in the US. It was far more popular in this country at the turn of the 20th century, when it was a Top 20 favorite for boys, remaining in the Top 100 for 80 straight years, finally falling out in 1960. It regained some currency when Sandra Bullock chose it for her son in 2010, inspired by jazzman Louis Armstrong. Another modern inspiration has been Louis Tomlinson of the British group One Direction.
Prince Louis shares his middle name Arthur with his father and grandfather. Arthur was a strong public favorite, conjuring up images of chivalrous King Arthur and Camelot—one of the great royal legends. (And seemingly a name that Prince Charles had favored for his sons, but was rejected by Princess Diana as ‘too old’.)
The baby’s second middle name Charles was obviously another tribute to William’s father, the Prince of Wales. A time-honored royal name meaning ‘man’ or ‘warrior’, Charles was also an influence on Princess Charlotte’s name.