15 June 2013

What Will Kate Name the Baby?

THE BABY has been named Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. Officially announced on Aug. 24.

Predicting royal baby names is more art than science. With unprecedented choices like Estelle in Sweden, Vincent and Athena in Denmark, and Ariane in The Netherlands, baby name forecasting is even less reliable than economic forecasting or the weather report. But, don’t expect the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to name their child Princess Poppy or Prince Dylan. Despite regular infusions of “fresh blood” like Diana, the Queen Mother, and Catherine herself, the British monarchy has remained the most traditional of Europe’s crowns.

For the last two centuries, British royal babies have been given names with historic significance and family ties. The heirs have often been given additional names that honor Wales, Scotland and/or [Northern] Ireland. For many generations after Victoria, she insisted that all of her descendants also have a name honoring either her or Prince Albert, but that tradition was broken with the naming of the current queen in 1926, who was not expected to be monarch. 

However, the first question is not what the names will be, but how many names the infant will receive. Queen Victoria gave each of her children three or four names each, with one exception. For some reason, she gave her heir only two, perhaps because she herself had only two, like the rest of us mere mortals. Edward VII gave all of his children four. George V gave his heir eight names (the same number as his wife Queen Mary) and his youngest son three, but the other kids received four. George VI gave one child three and the other two, while Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales chose four for each of their offspring. It’s unlikely that William and Kate will choose as few as two or as many as eight. Because they like to appear less pretentious, they could go with just three, but four would give them more flexibility to cover those family, historical and geographic interests while also including names they actually fancy.

The baby's 6th great-grandmother,
Queen Victoria as a child
Because this child will be a future monarch, it is highly likely that the first name will be one that has already been used as a regnal name in Britain. Limiting the choices to just the last millennium, the possible names for boys are William, Henry, Stephen, Edward, Richard, John, Charles, James and George. For girls, those names are Mary, Elizabeth, Anne and Victoria—if you include women who ruled for only a few days, you can add Matilda and Jane. If you add the names of Scottish rulers, the list includes Duncan, Donald, Alexander, David, Malcolm, Edgar, Robert and a couple of more ethnic choices (like Macbeth and Lulach) for a boy and Margaret for a girl. Digging deeper into history adds the possibilities of Edgar, Constantine and Harold. Since there have been so few reigning queens, the Cambridges might also look at the names of Queen Consorts. Since the Stewart union of the English and Scottish thrones, these add Henrietta, Maria, Catherine, Caroline, Charlotte, Adelaide, and the betting-parlor frontrunner Alexandra. Male consort names include Albert and Philip.

Looking at family names, it has been more common to remember royal connections than the non-royal bloodlines. Even Diana did not give her sons any Spencer names among the eight they share unless you count Prince Harry’s secondary name Charles, which could have been for her brother but was more likely in honor of her husband. Prince Philip’s parents, Prince Andrew and Princess Alice, were included among the 16 names of his children, but none of his sisters were. However, Philip’s uncle Louis Mountbatten was almost certainly honored in Princess Anne’s final name of Louise and Prince William’s names also include Louis. And, Queen Elizabeth may have been tipping her hat to her mother’s Scottish heritage by choosing the Stuart name of Charles for her firstborn, a name that had not been used in the royal family since the 17th century.

So, the new baby names could easily honor members of William’s immediate royal family and his royal grandparents. For boys, this means Charles, Henry, Philip, and of course William. For girls, it means Elizabeth and Diana. He might also remember his royal aunt Anne, aunt-in-law Sophie or his Spencer aunts Sarah and Jane. Unlike his mother, who ignored her parents when naming her children, he might choose Frances for a girl or John for a boy. Plus, they could signal the esteem they have for William’s stepmother by using Camilla.

The Cambridges are close with Kate’s family, so it is unlikely that the Middletons will be completely ignored as the Spencers were. The names in the last three generations of her family are James, Michael, Peter and Ronald for boys and Catherine, Philippa, Carole, Dorothy and Valerie for girls.
If the couple wishes to include names to recognize Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they could choose the names of the patron saints. Edward VII’s eight names included David, Andrew and Patrick as well as England’s Saint George. William was given the name of the legendary (and possibly Welsh) King Arthur while Harry got David, which is both the national saint’s name and the name of Welsh Princes of Wales. National hero choices include William Wallace and Rob Roy (Scotland); Llewellyn and Owain (Wales); Robin Hood and Boudica (England); and Brian Boru (Ireland).
Since their royal duchy is Cambridge, William and Kate might also consider names from the last royal Cambridges, who were family of the Queen’s grandmother, Queen Mary. The boys’ names in the family were Adolphus, George, Francis and Alexander while the female names were Augusta, Mary and Adelaide.

Now to my predictions, which have not been terribly accurate in recent years (although I did get it right with suggesting Icelandic secondary names for the Danish twins and Marie and Francoise for the secondary names of their cousin). I think the Cambridges will follow the traditions of selecting a regal first name and will honor their families. I also suspect that they will include a nod to Scotland, as the place where they met.

Queen Elizabeth II as a girl with her little
sister Princess Margaret and their
Cambridge granny Queen Mary
Although I am hoping for a girl (I do write about princesses, after all), the latest paparazzi snoopers are predicting a boy based on Kate’s shopping expeditions. So, let’s start with a name for a potential prince. 

For the first name, I think they will choose a regal name, but maybe not one that is from the strictly English tradition. This could mean the British king’s name James (although this is the name of the Queen’s youngest grandson and may be too connected to the Middletons as it is Kate’s brother’s name) or the purely Scottish one of Robert. I also like the idea of David as the name of both Scottish kings and Welsh princes. (Remember that they live in Wales AND will one day be the Prince and Princess of Wales). The medieval names of Richard, John and Stephen could also be resurrected, although kings with those names have tended to have terrible reputations. Another possibility is Arthur as a less expected choice with mystical/mythical connections. A stronger likelihood is George, the regnal name of the Queen’s beloved father.

For secondary names, I predict a tribute to William’s beloved grandfather Prince Philip, who is ailing, and a potential tribute to Kate’s dad, Michael.

For a daughter, much of the world is salivating over the possibility of a new Princess Diana, but I tend to agree with those who think that name would be more of a burden than an honor. However, they could use it as a secondary name. If they really want to shake folks up, they could use both Diana and Camilla and perhaps finally put to rest the nasty people who allege that William hates his father’s second wife.

As I mentioned, the bookies are giving fairly even odds on Alexandra as a first name, but I really think they will honor the Queen by calling the baby Elizabeth (which also is Kate’s middle name). They could also select Victoria, which is rumored to have been Charles’ choice if he and Diana had had a daughter. A nod to Scotland would be to use either Margaret or Mary, both of which are fairly safe guesses for secondary names. Other secondary name candidates are Carole or Caroline and Anne.

So, Catherine, if you are reading this, here are my final suggestions for you: (drum roll please)
Boy: Robert Philip Michael David or George Andrew Michael Charles
Girl: Elizabeth Carole Anne Louise or Victoria Margaret Diana Carole

The baby, a boy, was born at 4.24pm London time and weighed 8lb 6oz, according to the announcement from Kensington Palace at 8.30pm on Monday, July 22, 2013. He was ultimately named George Alexander Louis (all names that were in my pool of guesses!)


  1. I think the Danish princess is Josephine. I'm also of the opinion that Diana will NOT be a name that is used by William and Catherine. To be honest, Queen Diana doesn't sound good to my ear. I like Alexandra very much and HM The Queen was named for her mother so it's possible that this baby, if a girl, may vary well be named for her grandmother. Although I do personally prefer the spelling Elisabeth.

  2. Thanks for your comment. The Danish twin princess is Josephine, but that name is not unprecedented for Scandinavian royals. Her cousin, the daughter of Prince Joachim, Is Athena.

  3. What will Kate name the baby????

    What a headline! I am pretty sure Kate AND WILLIAM will both have a say.

  4. I write headlines to grab attention. More people scan for Kate than for William.

  5. I'm officially adding David to my top three for boys names and expanding girls to four choices with Eleanor and Matilda.