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British Royal Baby Names: Queen Victoria’s ultimate British sibset

September 12, 2014 Nook of Names

With speculation already swirling around British royal baby names and with Victoria surfacing once again as a possibility, we were inspired to take a look at what K. M Sheard of Nook of Names had to say about it the first time around.

It is a little ironic that Victoria would now be considered among the very traditional and conventional royal baby names.

That wasn’t true when Victoria was named; Victoria — Latin for “victory” — was a rare name in Britain at the time, although it had been in use since the sixteenth century, one of the names plucked from Classical Antiquity. For to the Romans, Victoria was the personification of victory, and worshipped as a Goddess.

Why did Victoria receive such a name? Because that’s what her mother was called. She was Marie Louise Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield.

It wasn’t actually Queen Victoria’s first name, either. That was Alexandrina, after Tsar Alexander I of Russia.

Something else that is mildly ironic is the fact that since Victoria died, only one member of the royal family has received a name that had not been previously borne by a prince or princess of England or the United Kingdom — and that is Andrew. Yet Victoria herself actually made quite a point of breaking with tradition in the naming of her own children.

And her family makes a most interesting sibset.

Oldest of Queen Vicky’s children, born in 1840, was the Princess RoyalVictoria Adelaide Mary Louisa. Victoria was not just in honor of the Queen, but also the Queen’s mother, who was one of the little princess’s godmothers — the others being Adelaide, the wife of Victoria’s uncle, King William IV, and Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, a daughter of King George III. Louisa was the name of Prince Albert’s mother. Princess Victoria married Kaiser Friedrich III in 1858, and was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Second was Albert Edward, who ruled as King Edward VII. In naming the heir to the throne such, Victoria caused quite a stir at the prospect of a future King Albert. That had, indeed, been Victoria’s wish; Edward himself chose to rule as Edward. He was named after his father, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Victoria’s father, Edward, Duke of Kent, who had died when she was a baby.

The third child was the tragic Princess Alice, whose full name was Alice Maud MaryAlice, like Albert, had never been borne by a member of the Royal Family before. Maud was also a break with tradition, demonstrating Victoria’s medieval tastes, though it was a nod to one of Princess Alice’s godparents, Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester (Maud being a medieval form of Matilda). She was born in 1843, and died in 1878, aged just 35, of diptheria, a month after her four-year-old daughter had also died of the disease. Her family was particularly ill-fated; her two-year-old son died after a fall from a window, while two of her daughters died in the Russian Revolution. Alix (later the Tsarina Alexandra) was famously shot with her family in a basement in 1917. Elizabeth, who married Grand Duke Sergei of Russia, was brutally murdered along with other members of the imperial family.

Fourth of Queen Victoria’s children was Alfred Ernest Albert. Known as Affie, he was the second British prince to be called Alfred since the time of King Alfred; the first was one of the younger sons of King George III who had died in infancy. Ernest was another new name in the British royal family — an import from Germany, the name of Prince Albert’s brother.

Queen Victoria’s fifth child was Princess Helena Augusta Victoria. Helena was another new name for the royal family; she was named after one of her godparents, Hélène, Duchess of Orleans. Augusta was likewise in honor of a godparent, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge.

Sixth of Queen Victoria’s progeny was Princess Louisa Caroline Alberta. Though baptised Louisa, she was always known as LouiseCaroline had been the name of King George IV’s estranged wife, and Alberta was, of course, in honor of her father. She lived to the ripe old age of 91, dying in Kensington Palace in 1939.

The seventh child was Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert. Arthur was very much a choice in line with Victorian fashion, and its love of all things Arthurian in British names. He wasn’t the first prince to bear the name — but it had been a long time since the last: Arthur, Prince of Wales, the oldest son of King Henry VII, who died aged 15 in 1502. One of the Duke of Connaught’s godparents, however, was the Duke of Wellington, whose name was, surprise surprise — Arthur. He also shared the prince’s birthday. The choice of William was in honor of both King William IV and another of Prince Arthur’s godparents, Wilhelm, later Kaiser Wilhelm I.  No British prince had ever been called Patrick before, and its choice was in homage to Ireland — it was no coincidence Prince Arthur was made Duke of Connaught.

Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert was the penultimate child. Leopold, another new name in the royal family tree, was in honor of the King of Belgium, whose first wife was Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter and heiress of King George IV, whose death in childbirth led to King George’s unmarried sons scrambling to marry and produce a new heir to the throne (which led to Queen Victoria’s birth). Leopold also happened to be the uncle of both Victoria and Albert; Victoria’s mother was his sister, and Albert’s father was his brother.  George was in honor of his godfather, King George V of Hanover, grandson of King George III. Leopold received the name Duncan in the same way Arthur acquired Patrick; the Dukedom of Albany had once been borne by heirs to the throne of Scotland. Leopold had the shortest life of all Victoria’s children; he was a haemophiliac and may also have epilepsy.

The youngest of Queen Victoria’s children was Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore. Beatrice was yet another name new to the royal family — as was Feodore. Mary was once more in honor of Mary, Duchess of Cambridge, and Feodore was after Victoria’s older half-sister, Anna Feodora of Leiningen. Feodore is one way in which the Russian form of Theodora is transliterated into the Latin alphabet from the Cyrillic. Beatrice was the last of Victoria’s children to die, passing on in 1944.

 

About the author

Nook of Names

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, K. M. Sheard is the author of the encyclopedic reference Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names, and writes Nook of Names, a blog on all things onomastic.

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