Friday, Oct 28, 2016
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What’s in a royal name? Lots of tradition, gravitas

History has weight in dubbing heir to throne

LONDON — When it comes to Prince William and his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their new baby boy, choosing one name won’t do. You need about three or four.

Just ask the father, William Arthur Philip Louis. Or the grandfather, Charles Philip Arthur George. Or the great-grandmother, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.

“I think because the child is going to be the third in line to the throne, they have to maintain all this tradition,” said Pauline Maclaran, a professor of marketing and consumer research at Royal Holloway and the co-author of the upcoming book Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture. “They’ll go for three or four names and ... be able to make the right nod to the right people,” she said.

And it can’t just be any old moniker, either. It has to have some gravitas: Noble names are steeped in history, which explains why, as royal baby fervor mounted, thousands of bets rolled in to British bookmakers for James and Alexandra.

Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and an expert on names, firmly voted for James. It far outdistanced George in the popularity stakes. “Names make impressions, good and bad,” he said. “Among all the names I’ve studied, James rated the highest.”

The name also can take on cultural significance. Arthur, the middle names of both Prince Charles and Prince William, evokes the legendary King Arthur and tales of chivalry — a favorite theme ingrained in British literature.

Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936, was christened Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. The last four are patron saints of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

The public may have to wait. It is not uncommon for the palace to take its time to choose just the right name.

But is it possible that Prince William and Kate might break with tradition and call their child something trendy and unexpected? The grandchildren of Princess Anne, the queen’s only daughter, are called Savannah and Isla.

But those closer to the throne don’t have such freedom. “They’ll try and choose something that reflects tradition acceptable to their peer group,” Ms. Maclaran said. That probably excludes John Paul George Ringo.

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