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Naming a baby is hard enough even when the whole world won’t have an opinion on it—and naming a royal baby kicks the difficulty level up yet another notch. As with many parts of royal life, there is protocol around naming of royal babies, which The Independent recently broke down into five parts for us.
First up, a very unique characteristic of royal baby names? Most don’t have a surname. Take, for example, the trio we like to call “the Cambridge kids”—Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—who technically have no ironclad last name. Because their parents are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, they go by George Cambridge, Charlotte Cambridge, and Louis Cambridge at school, just like Prince William and Prince Harry once went by William Wales and Harry Wales (their father, Prince Charles, is the Prince of Wales). Add into the confusion that royals can also go by the family name of Mountbatten-Windsor, and the waters become even murkier as to what a royal baby’s last name actually is. Mountbatten-Windsor is “the name used by members of the royal family when a surname is needed,” The Independent reports. For female royals that marry outside of the family, like Princess Eugenie (who married Jack Brooksbank in 2018) and Princess Beatrice (who married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in 2020), their children typically take on their husband’s surname (i.e., August Brooksbank and Sienna Mapelli Mozzi, both born in 2021).
Next up: royal babies, especially those at the top of the line of succession, typically have at least three names. The Queen’s full name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, Charles’ is Charles Philip Arthur George, William’s is William Arthur Philip Louis, and Harry’s is Henry Charles Albert David. This trend continues into the next generation with George Alexander Louis, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, and Louis Arthur Charles. “Babies born into the royal family are typically given multiple names at birth, many of which honor members of their family,” The Independent reports.
Towards the top of the line of succession, names are fairly traditional, but “unique names are allowed further down the line of succession,” The Independent reports. “The further down the line of succession, the more likely you are to have a more unique or untraditional name,” says Carolyn Harris, author of Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of Royal Parenting. Take, for example, Eugenie: at tenth in line, she’s likely never to become monarch, nor is her son August, who is eleventh in line. Therefore, unique names are okayed.
The fourth rule? The Queen doesn’t have to give her approval—but she is told beforehand what the parents plan to name their royal babies. “Per royal protocol, members of the royal family typically share the name they have chosen for their child with Queen Elizabeth II before announcing it,” The Independent reports. This doesn’t mean that the monarch has to approve the name; it’s more of an “informal conversation,” according to royal commentator Kate Williams. But, if the Queen disapproves, it’s likely the name will be changed. “Of course, they have such respect for the Queen that if she says, ‘I really don’t like that name,’ they’d definitely take that into account,” Williams says.
Finally, when it comes to adding a title to a royal baby’s name, those titles are bestowed by Her Majesty. “While the Queen does not decide the baby’s name, nor does the decision require her approval, it is up to the monarch to bestow a title on the child if she decides,” the outlet reports. Currently, royal grandchildren of the monarch carry titles (with the exception of Princess Anne's children, Peter Phillips and Zara Phillips Tindall, per Anne's request), but when it comes to the great-grandchildren of the monarch, only the children of the heir (i.e. William) receive titles.
And us mere mortals thought naming our babies was challenging!
Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the weekend editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.
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