William and Kate have finally settled on a name for their son: George Alexander Louis. George will be third in line to the throne and known as Prince of Cambridge. BBC News reports:
“George was the bookmakers’ favourite for the first name of the prince, who was born on Monday at 16:24 BST, weighing 8lbs 6oz.
Royal infants usually have historical names which are passed down through the generations. There have been six King George’s up to now, most recently the Queen’s father, although he was known to his family as Bertie.”
Picking a name for an heir to the British throne isn’t as easy as you might think. There are only so many options, and many of them are colored badly by history.
If the French royals ever come back, they would go with Louis: the next one would be Louis XIX. But the Windsors have trouble. Some names are ill-omened: there has never been a John II. And there’s a kind of curse on the two most popular names: after Henry VIII, no royal baby named Henry ever made it to the throne. (James I’s eldest son was named Henry and died of typhoid at the age of 18. There never was a Henry IX and in any case, the Anthony Weiner of monarchical marriage might not be the best role model to pick.)
The old safety pick in royal names was Edward, but here too the curse bit. Edward VIII, a weak willed Hitler sympathizer and general no-count, abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, so it will be awhile before the Windsors go back to Edward.
There was talk of James and some punters, noting Queen Elizabeth’s fondness for Stuart royal names (her oldest two children, Charles and Anne are named after reigning Stuarts), bet on James. That was a mistake; James II was the worst English king of modern times and fled the country after his subjects revolted against his plans to subvert English liberty. They still celebrate his overthrow; it is called the Glorious Revolution and in many ways was the birth of real freedom in English (and American) history.
That left three real choices (unless you want to go back to Anglo-Saxon times and go for Ethelred or Egbert): Charles, William or George. Charles is the current heir, but is not so overwhelmingly popular that a dynasty wanting to perpetuate itself would want to wrap itself in his mantle. William was an option, but it’s been a long time since the British royal family deliberately gave the same Christian name to two reigning monarchs in a row.
That left George. It’s a bit controversial. Americans don’t love a name that reminds of all the things we disliked about George III, and choosing the patron saint of England for a future British monarch won’t win the Windsors many new friends among the restive Scots. The first four Georges were pretty bad (George III was easily the best man and the best king of the bunch), but that was a long time ago.
But as George VII, the new prince, won’t face any historical jinxes, and his great-great grandfather, George VI, is remembered fondly as a wartime king who picked up the pieces after Edward’s abdication. As the king in the recent movie The King’s Speech George VI has been on a roll lately.
It’s a cautious choice—some would say boring. But monarchy is conservative by nature; the Windsors want to stay where they are. They’ve picked a name for the baby that increases the chances that years from now his kids and grandkids will be living in palaces, inheriting thrones.
George Alexander Louis won’t have the powers of his ancestors, and he’s likely to wait almost as long as his grandfather Charles for a chance at the big chair, but Via Meadia wishes him and the whole family well. We don’t want or need royals here in the US, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a good show.