In honor of the new royal baby, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, we’re looking into royal baby names. Anyone who has studied European history knows how many times the names George, Victoria, and Henry have passed down through the Royal Family. Why these names?
Learn the meaning behind popular royal names and their historical legacy within the British royal family. Names like George, which translates to “farmer,” rose up to kings. The current Queen’s name, Elizabeth, has a meaning that few people know. If you’re searching for future baby names, or enjoy discovering the history behind language, you’ll want to read these popular British royal names.
William: Both Conqueror And Protector
Most people recognize this royal as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, who married Kate Middleton. But the name has been in the royal family ever since William the Conqueror ruled in the eleventh century. The name belongs to three other English kings and rulers of Scotland.
The name emerged from the German name Willahelm. Wil means “will” or “desire,” and helm means “helmet” or “protection,” so the name translates to “the will to protect.” It’s quite a fitting name for royal kings and princes.
George, From Farmer To King
If your history teacher ever joked about how many King Georges you’d have to study, he or she had a point. Ever since King George I ruled the British throne in the eighteenth century, five subsequent British kings were given the same name.
This name comes from the Greek georgos, which means “farmer” or “earthworker.” It increased in esteem after the story of Saint George rose in the third century. He became a martyr under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and later legends depicted him combating a dragon.
Victoria, The Name Of Queens
By far, Victoria has become the most common name for Queens in the British royal family. The name stems from the feminine form of the Latin word victorius and the Roman goddess of victory.
Although the name has popped up throughout Germany, it didn’t appear in the royal family until Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in the early nineteenth century. She was named after her mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield of Germany. Since then, nine royals have been born with that name.
Mary Mother Of Kings
Three queens have been named Mary throughout British royal history. Modern usage comes from the Latin version of the Greek name Mariam, which in turn emerged from Hebrew (Miryam). The meaning isn’t known, but it likely originated from Egyptian myr meaning “beloved” or “my love.”
The name relates to the Virgin Mary, making it a popular girl name in England since the twelfth century. Royal Marys include Mary of Tek, wife to King George V; and Mary I of England, otherwise known as Mary Tudor. Queen Mary of Teck is Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother.
Charles The Warrior
The name Charles arose in Europe as far back as the eighth century with the reign of Charles the Great, aka Charlemagne. However, it didn’t surface in British royalty until the Stuart King Charles I ruled in the seventeenth century.
The name’s origin isn’t entirely known. It either came from Germanic Karl, meaning “man,” or from hari, meaning “army, warrior.” Should Prince Charles ascend to the throne, he would become the third King Charles. It has remained popular throughout the royal family, making eight appearances in the royal line.
Elizabeth, The Current Queen
The name of Britain’s current Queen stretches its roots far back in history. Elizabeth developed from the Hebrew name Elisheva, meaning “my God is an oath.” It spread around Europe after Saint Elizabeth of Hungary used her wealth to help the poor.
In 1558, Queen Elizabeth I began her rule over Britain. Her influence as The Virgin Queen revolutionized the Royal Family’s traditions, even inspiring the name for the current Queen Elizabeth II. At least five royal babies have received this name.
Edward, From A Long Line Of British Kings
Deriving from Old English ead (“wealth, fortune) and weard (“guard”), the name Edward translates to “rich guard.” Ever since Edward the Confessor ruled England in the eleventh century, seven kings of England have been named Edward.
So far, the House of Windsor has included Edward VI, Edward Duke of Kent, and Prince Edward of Sussex. Unlike other names on the list, Edward allows some flexibility with nicknames such as Ed and Eddie.
Alexandra Defends The People
The name Alexandra has occurred throughout the Royal Family at least six times, including Princess Alexandra of Kent. In Greek mythology, Alexandra was the name of a Mycenaean epithet of the goddess Hera. Several early Christian saints also bore the name.
The name derives from the Greek name Alexandros, aner meaning “men” and alexo meaning “to defend, to help.” Both the feminine and masculine versions of the name translates to “defending men,” although Alexandra is more prevalent within the Royal Family.
Henry The Home Ruler
You probably recognize at least a couple British kings by this name. Henry has also named seven German kings, four French kings, and eight English kings. Although it has declined in popularity after the infamous Henry VIII, it has survived to the House of Windsor through Henry, Duke of Gloucester, as well as the current Prince Henry of Sussex.
Henry stems from Germanic Himirich, composed of heim “home” and ric “power, ruler.” So Henry appropriately denotes “home-ruler.” In the Middle Ages, many people pronounced the name as Harry, resulting in a different name with the same meaning.
Diana The Goddess Princess
Although this name has only appeared a couple of times within the royal family, it has skyrocketed in popularity because of the beautiful Princess Diana of Wales. In Roman mythology, Diana is the goddess of the moon, girlhood, hunting, and childbirth, a reflection of the Greek goddess Artemis.
Historians suspect that Diana stems from the Indo-European root dyeus meaning “heavenly” or “divine” (similar to Zeus). Since the Renaissance, the name remained popular in Britain.
Frederick The Peaceful Ruler
The name Frederick has been in royal families since the Holy Roman Empire. In the British royal family, the name became popular in the House of Hanover when they inherited the British throne in the eighteenth century. The English name’s meaning links to the Germanic name translating to “peaceful ruler.”
Notable British rulers with this name include Frederick, Prince of Wales and Prince Frederick of Great Britain. Since the eighteenth century, though, the name has appeared less and less frequently within the royal family. However, Lord Frederick Windsor, son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, is in line for the throne.
Beatrice The Happy Traveler
In recent generations, the name Beatrice has popped up within the royal family. Currently, Princess Beatrice of York rules, and the previous Saxe-Coburg house had a Duchess Beatrice as well. Originally an Italian name, Beatrice likely caught the eye of English-speakers from Dante’s Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Early Christians also used the name frequently, and Saint Beatrice was martyred in the fourth century. It may come from Latin viatrix, defining as “traveler” or “voyager.” The initial spelling was altered by the Latin word for “blessed” or “happy,” beatus. Hence, the name denotes “happy traveler.”
Arthur The Legendary King
When people think of royal Arthurs, most picture the king of the Britons from the sixth-century legend. Although historians debate over whether this king existed, the myth inspired many British royals afterward. The House of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha featured Arthur, Duke of Connaught, Queen Elizabeth II’s great uncle.
Although the name’s meaning is unknown, some suspect that it stems from the Celtic word artos meaning “bear.” It could either combine with viros “man” or rigos “king,” so the name can be interpreted as “bear king” or “bear man.”
Margaret, The Name Of Royal Saints
Margaret arose as a popular name in the Middle Ages after Saint Margaret became the patron of expectant mothers in the fourth century. Later legends depicted her as a warrior escaping from a dragon. The name has popped up several times in the royal family, most recently with Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II.
Other saints by this name include Princess Margaret of Hungary and Queen Margaret of Scotland. The name derives from Greek margarites, likely borrowing from the Sanskrit manyari, meaning “pearl.”
Albert, Noble And Bright
The name Albert originally came from Germany, built of the words adal, meaning “noble,” and beraht, translating to “bright.” Alberts appeared throughout German royalty until the Normans introduced the name to England. It became famous when Prince Albert of Consort married Queen Victoria in 1819.
Since then, the name has appeared at least 12 times in the British royal line. The Prince of Consort is still praised today for his endeavors to reform education and abolish slavery.
Louise, The Famous Warrior
Louise is the French form of Latin Ludwig, meaning “famous war” or “famous battle.” The male version of the name descended through 18 French kings, although it didn’t arrive in England until the Normans brought it over.
Currently, Lady Louise of Windsor passes on the historic name. Throughout the English royal line, the name has lowered in popularity, although it has belonged to six other royal women. That makes it more common in the British royal family than its male counterpart, Louis.
Anne, The Mother Of Rulers
This French name arrived in England in the thirteenth century, where people commonly spelled it “Ann.” Since then, several queens of the royal family had the name Anne. The second wife of Henry VIII, Queen Anne of Great Britain, ruled in the seventeenth century. Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, also governed for a time.
The name Anne stems from Anna, which in turn resulted from Hannah. In later New Testament translations, Saint Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary. Most recently, Anne, Princess Royal ruled until her death in 1992.
Peter –The Name Of Many Saints
In various spellings, Peter has populated the Christian world for centuries. The name likely derives from Greek petros, denoting “stone.” In the New Testament, Jesus gave the apostle Simon the name Peter. He is widely regarded as the first pope.
Besides the apostle, several saints carry the name Peter, such as Saint Peter Damian and Saint Peter Martyr. Rulers of Aragon, Portugal, and Russia feature Peter throughout the family, although the name has only dotted the British Royal Family. Peter Phillips is one of the few examples.
Helena And/Or Helene
Both Helena and Helene have roots in the same name, Helen, and both speckle the royal family’s line. In Greek mythology, Helen was the daughter of Leda and Zeus, and was kidnapped by Paris, sparking the Trojan War. The name Helene also originates from the Greek helene, translating to “torch” or “corposant.”
In the early Christian world, the name referenced saints rather than the classic character. Saint Helena of the fourth century popularized the name. Recently, the name seems to have disappeared with the royals, although Queen Elizabeth II’s great aunt was named Helena.
Philip, King And Friend Of Horses
Royal Philips date back to Macedonian kings, including Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. In the New Testament, two Philips are saints, one of which is one of the twelve apostles. Six kings of France and five kings of Spain have been named Philip.
In England, the name revived in popularity during the nineteenth century. The Queen’s husband, Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, comes to mind. The Greek name Philippos began the trend, meaning “friend of horses.”